There has been a recent increase in activity on Meta.

I find this encouraging, because my sense is while a quiet Meta can indicate a site running smoothly, lacking drama, in my experience on SE more broadly it tends to indicate a site which undergoing user attrition. And I was worried that was happening to EL&U; but recent months have indicated to me that there is still an active, engaged community here.

On the flip side of that, the last few Qs on Meta, ranging from Catja's solicitation of feedback on VTCx3, re-open requests, generalized feedback (positive and negative) from new and existing users, has indicated to me that there is still a range of opinions on "what we want to be" as a site.

Of course we've discussed this any number of times on Meta, but times and audiences change, so, and the mentioned Meta activity indicates now might be a ripe time for a fresh airing of our thoughts.


So: What elements do you like to see in questions, and what elements do you not like to see?

Put another way, what makes you upvote (or even star) a question, and what makes you downvote (or even closevote)?

purpose and advice

This isn't a scientific study. It's more of a town hall: an open-ended topic meant to allow you to express yourselves, and what you want to see in the site (either more or less of).

I'm going to recommend that everyone ignore votes (real or projected) on your answers. Votes are not going to be used to set policy or justify changes. Just express what you think.

Of course, precisely because there is a range of opinions here, I expect answers may engender commentary. That's fine; just open minded, civil, and cordial.

7 Answers 7


I don’t like to see questions without any context, especially single word requests that read like crossword puzzle clues. What’s a word that starts with “t” that means easily irritated?

I am not an answerer on ELU, so when I read the questions, they’re more interesting to me if they explain why they can’t be answered with a thesaurus or by searching the usual sources most people know about. Here’s a couple examples of questions I thought were very interesting. They don’t need paragraphs of excerpted research to have enough context.

Did English ever have a formal version of "you"?

What was “Herbal Tea” called before ‘tea’ was introduced in Europe?


I like questions that are about the English language, and are not derived from popular superstitions about it. I get tired of telling people about them, and who wants to learn they're wrong, after all? So I usually avoid them, and single-word requests, except for comments in egregious cases.

I never downvote, and often upvote even questions I vote to close.
I will, however, vote to close any question of the following form:

Which of the following is correct?

  • .....
  • .....

without looking further. Similarly for advice on advertising or names, and opinionated rants.

Mostly I use comments instead of Answering, because most questions don't warrant a full answer (which takes some work, after all), and almost always what I put in a comment is what I've already put elsewhere. If nobody finds the answers, I don't worry much about the diff between answers and comments. Nobody finds those, either, but they're easier and arguably seen by more people.

I am usually unconcerned about the actual answer the OQ thought they should get, since almost always the question is phrased in a way that contains several wrong assumptions. In an answer, I try to find some aspect of the question that can be talked about in a more factual way, often ignoring the principal question as it's phrased.

Nevertheless, I offer a money-back guarantee -- subject, of course, to The Usual Disclaimers.

  • 1
    Another for the usual disclaimers: Will not warp if properly applied
    – Xanne
    Commented Jul 15, 2021 at 9:28

What I want in a question:

  • It's about the English language, now or in the past, within the rules we have set out in the help section and here on meta.
  • It demonstrates that the asker has already looked into getting an answer.
    For example "I have found [definition] in [dictionary], but this usage does not seem to match", or "[This sentence] has a structure I don't understand, specifically [this bit], because I would expect [it to follow some rule]. [Preferably with an explanation as to where they found the rule.]"
  • It's formatted readably.

I want people to get the help that they need, that we have offered to provide, but I don't want to spoon feed people.

  • 2
    The 2nd point hits the nail in the head for me - many questions popping up lately could be answered by looking at a dictionary, thesaurus or even Wikipedia... Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 11:50

I like questions that teach me something new, or that provoke answers that teach me something new, even if they seem simple or even dumb. I upvote for the same reason. I will also upvote a question or answer very well written, with wit (or astuce as the French like to say) and humour, but I will not upvote arrogance, even if it is "bewildering". The fact that you know better does not give you the right to despise anyone still learning. I will upvote if a truth I know or a query I have finds a better expression on the site.

I rarely downvote, and I like to leave a comment before I do that, especially to beginners who have no idea what the site is about. Same with voting to close. I try to prompt the users to edit their question so that it can be salvaged, and after a while, if they don't, then I vote to close.

Which questions do I think should be closed? Of course duplicates, and then irrelevant questions. As for opinion-based, sometimes I must say I regret some very interesting questions with much potential get closed as opinion-based. Sometimes, even if the question may seem that way, some good answers may come on perfectly justifiable linguistic grounds.

I never rush to close a question, because I know that once you vote to close, two other votes will be quick to follow, even if the other two users would not have thought to close it if my vote had not prompted them.

I do hope more senior users will express themselves here, I always learn from them new ways of appreciating or protecting the site .


In truth I like the discussion (the comments) on questions that evoke different approaches or reveal some peculiarities on what at first appear to be obvious constructions.

Historical information on how something has been used over time interests me, whether in comments or a long answer.

I find the questions themselves often include incorrect assumptions and thus cannot be directly answered.

Because there’s no curating of the many answers that may be relevant to a particular topic, it’s difficult to put together from the site an idea of the major trends, unresolved issues,and the like.

I am always disappointed when comments are moved to chat or a question is frozen.


I like questions I have never considered. Those are the ones I upvote. Of course it helps when they are articulately worded and well-researched going in. Questions that I want to know the answer to, questions that I would be willing to research myself—those are the ones I enjoy the most.


I like to see questions — any questions. But they are few and far between here.

When virtually every question is closed or migrated, the powers-that-be might want to ask themselves whom or what they are serving.

  • 3
    The "powers that be" are simply users like yourself. Three votes and a question can be closed in less than 30 minutes. Three votes and the same question can remain closed in the reopen queue within minutes upon entering. In the eight years I've been a member, I have never seen so many Qs closed in such a short space of time. I don't remember seeing the vote to close review queue ever being empty. When I visit the queue is nearly always been cleared.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 9:13
  • 5
    There are currently 9,111 questions with no upvoted or accepted answers. There are many more that are open. I don’t understand your complaint.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 11, 2021 at 19:17
  • @ColleenV: How many of those questions do you think were already answered in comments, or were abandoned by the OP before acceptance? Commented Jul 13, 2021 at 23:34
  • 3
    I still don’t understand your complaint. You said first you don’t get to see any questions, now you’re talking about whether the author is still engaged with them. Maybe you mean “I like questions that are new and where I can interact with the author”?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 13:49

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