Here's a simple example of the problem:

"What is a word that describes someone who covers the ground quickly"

What's wrong with that? Well we don't know what part of speech is required. We could give a noun "runner" or we could give an adjective "speedy". Both of these "describe" the person.

Given that people almost never say whether they want a noun or an adjective, or some other part of speech, is there some way we can tie them down?

I offer an obvious possibility. It is to get rid of the single-word tag and instead have noun, adjective, and verb tags.

What do people think?

  • 3
    Why do you not comment asking for clarification and vote to close? There's even a custom close reason just for this situation. (You could even flag, but moderators can't do everything and — shock! horror! — do have a life outside Stack Exchange.)
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Nov 15, 2020 at 18:23
  • 7
    In the SWR tag, it does ask the OP to supply a sentence showing how the word is supposed to be used. If every single-word-request supplied that kind of information, it would help both sides tremendously. please be specific about the intended use of the word. INCLUDE A SAMPLE SENTENCE demonstrating how the word would be used. Click on "Info" or "View Tag" and "Learn more ..." for more information.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 15, 2020 at 18:45
  • 2
    Of related interest: “What’s wrong with single word requests?” and linked questions.
    – choster
    Nov 16, 2020 at 15:06
  • 1
    I'd be perfectly happy sending single-word requests to ELL or a dictionary. It's a waste. Nov 16, 2020 at 22:40
  • Sure. I'll stake my reputation onit. Logistically, I think an "anomic aphasia" site would go over great guns. All that's needed is to develop an algorithm to move all single-word requests and their associated reputation points to the new double-a site. Of course, with two more or less obvious exceptions, all comments thus far and this question come from participants whose main claim to...reputation...is the swr.
    – JEL
    Nov 17, 2020 at 20:03
  • 1
    @JEL - Evidence or it's not true. P.S. Even if it were true, I'm not sure why that's of relevance. Nov 17, 2020 at 22:00
  • Evidence of what? I admit my comment is somewhat facetious, but the evidence for the source-of-reputation claim is prominent on the users' pages. Click a display name, click the ELU 'Community', then look at the "Top tags" section. What tag is biggest, etc. About the evidence for "stake my reputation", you have my word for it; about the evidence for how well an "anomic aphasia" site would go over, that's just an opinion. The point, of course, is any changes to swr are going to be difficult and fraught with complaints amounting to "no fair; you shouldn't change the rules mid-game".
    – JEL
    Nov 17, 2020 at 22:20
  • A thought, unlikely to meet acceptance here or more-broadly at the level of implementation (SE), is that filters for review queues and question lists would enable swr to be pre-filtered out of the queues and lists. As it stands, I can't say for sure no such mechanism is currently implemented. Even if adopted, though, other guessing-game questions would remain to be dealt with, as would be the problem of what, exactly, is a guessing-game and what is a matter of expert opinion.
    – JEL
    Nov 17, 2020 at 22:42
  • A quick look verified a custom filtering mechanism for at least the question list. Not sure if it works to filter review queues, but I suspect not. Such a filter would obviate the "waste" complaint about swr. Maybe this and the previous comment should be (made into) an answer for you. The earlier ones from me are 'just comments', that is, guff.
    – JEL
    Nov 17, 2020 at 22:53
  • I recently heard a word (shackles, referring to food) that I found only in the OED. This was in the movie Mr. Turner. So it doesn't do to get too sniffy about single word related requests.
    – ab2
    Dec 15, 2020 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


We have a conjunction of the following:

  1. Tags are manually entered.
  2. The problem suggests that the posters in question aren’t inclined to read instructions.
  3. Said instructions can be a little out of the way.
  4. Quite a number of posters don’t have sufficient facility with the language or the site - or just can’t be bothered - to look up things like instructions.

As such, replacing one tag with several compounds the problem. Posters would need to chance upon the right tag or tags. Even with the tag-suggestion mechanism we already have, I don’t think we’d solve the problem by offering greater choice. It would be better to stick with a default tag-suggestions list that includes the dreaded SWR.

Here are some things to try instead:

  • comment to ask for clarification, as Andrew Leach suggests in comments to your question;
  • if none appears within a reasonable period, edit the question to add a sample of your own that is in keeping with the spirit of the question, and add a comment to invite the OP to review your sample; and
  • if it’s unclear which way the question leans, vote to close the question.
  • 1
    I think this threads the needle well. Outside of modifying the UI to require a sample sentence when entering a question (which I'm guessing isn't possible), a quick close if the question remains vague seems the best way to handle the SWR clutter. Dec 12, 2020 at 20:59
  • I suppose my complaint extends to answerers as well as questioners. Some people appear to be so desperate to be first to answer that they jump in with whatever occurs to them. By the time someone asks for clarification there can be screeds of guesswork that may become obsolete given further context. Dec 15, 2020 at 22:12

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