I believe there is a misconception that all list questions are bad or off-topic. However, they are not all bad or off-topic. It is possible to ask good list questions. In fact, there are good and useful list questions asked before and kept open, so the community is accepting good list questions. Here are some examples:

And recently:

Some historical questions are locked with the reason:

Locked. This question and its answers are locked because the question is off-topic but has historical significance. It is not currently accepting new answers or interactions.

For example: Hardest tongue twister seen

It is clear that the question above is a subjective, forum-like question so it is blatantly off-topic.

It is nowhere stated that list-questions are off-topic.

One of the lines says:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

I understand that a list question can be interpreted as broad but it is not explicit that all list questions are broad enough to fill up an entire book. Good list questions have a reasonable scope and they are usually narrowed down with certain criteria. (See the example questions listed at the top).

Examples of broad/useless list questions which should be closed as off-topic are:

What are examples of adjectives?
What are the words starting with dis-?
What words have Latin origin?

Subjective, forum-like list questions are blatantly off-topic and it is clearly stated in the "Don't Ask" page but it is not about list questions; it is about all bad subjective questions.

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: “What’s your favorite ______?”


Examples of bad subjective questions (list question or not) which should be closed as off-topic are:

What words sound best?
What is your favorite word?
What word is hardest to pronounce?

Good list questions are not subjective, they are reasonably scoped (or not too broad) and they are useful. Here reminding one of them again:
Words with "bi-" prefix that no longer mean "two"

Summary, possible solutions and expectations:

  • Not all list questions are bad or off-topic; and they can be very useful and teach something. Good list questions are not subjective also.
  • The community should have a way to keep good list questions, possibly by dedicating a tag with clear info. Or just keep the good list questions open.
  • In my previous tag solution question, I've suggested that tag can be used for good list questions; possibly by re-naming it, as "vocabulary" is an ambiguous term, but the final decision was removing it. There is also tag which reads in the info that "This tag exists solely to indicate that these questions are [off-topic]"; however, the info can be updated in a way to accept only good list questions.

A related question asked before on Meta
Are list questions always bad?

It is a bit different and it doesn't address all the points; and it was asked long time ago.


2 Answers 2


The answer today is the same as it was ten years ago on MSE when it was written:

Questions that ask for a list are considered not constructive, as every answer is equally valid.

Generally, those questions are infinite, as a new answer could always be added; they also tend to be subjective. As such, those questions should not be asked, basing on what written in the FAQ.

You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face. Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page.

To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where …

  • every answer is equally valid: "What's your favorite ______?"
  • your answer is provided along with the question, and you expect more answers: "I use ______ for ______, what do you use?"
  • there is no actual problem to be solved: "I'm curious if other people feel like I do."
  • we are being asked an open-ended, hypothetical question: "What if ______ happened?"
  • it is a rant disguised as a question: "______ sucks, am I right?"

People will never stop asking those sorts of questions. That doesn't mean we should not close them. We very much should do so, for to allow them diminishes our site.

Why questions whose answers are all equally valid are not ours to answer

While it’s perfectly fine to consider whether time’s passage may have brought changes to the original conditions that once held when some question was answered, answers never spontaneously cease to apply simply because their question happens to have been “asked a long time ago”.

When it comes to building websites, just like constructing stone arches or mathematical proofs, there can exist certain timeless foundational principles which age cannot wither nor custom stale, lest an edifice built upon such keystones fall into irrelevance.

Too often before Stack Exchange’s foundation could it be difficult if not altogether impossible to find discrete answers to concrete problems in a timely manner. That’s because even when a helpful answer did exist somewhere, it lay hidden deep in some online discussion forums’s neverending threads of meaningless chatter.

This then was the problem that Stack Exchange set out to solve. We dare not risk allowing some parochialism of time to cloud our clarity of vision nor weaken our resolve of purpose.

Not only is it not our place to answer all possible requests that come our way, our continued existence depends upon this keystone principle remaining firmly in place.

  • Thank you. I didn't know about this page. It is from 10 years ago; and as I understand, as the list questions tend to be "bad" (and possibly in the past, it was a bigger problem); the answer just says "no" to any list question to cut the problem at its roots. However, things have changed and we also have "good" list questions which are open. The page is also referring to the FAQ which is not explicit about list Qs. Should we just decide to keep good list questions open on a case-by-case basis? I understand that it also uncommon to get a good list question, but I've listed some examples.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 14:33
  • 1
    Which is the proper forum to ask "questions that ask for a list"?
    – banuyayi
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 14:33
  • 2
    @banuyayi Somewhere that is not Stack Exchange.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 14:36
  • Thank you. Surely there is a need for "List Stock Exchange".?(half statement, half question)
    – banuyayi
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 14:49
  • 3
    @ermanen I directed you to the help page. It's the "every answer is equally valid" in the help which will always scupper list questions.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 16:34
  • 2
    @AndrewLeach Yes, but it still is not explicitly about list questions and the example given is "“What’s your favorite ______?”. It is a generic wording to avoid bad subjective questions and I've addressed them already. My question has details about good list questions too. There are good list questions that were not closed and have equally valid answers as well. Also, there is a workaround which is converting answers into wiki; but doesn't have to be done for "good" list questions. The point is that they can be useful and we can learn the finer details of the language from them.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 17:06
  • 1
    I see the update with the title "Why questions whose answers are all equally valid are not ours to answer". I don't believe good list questions are against the principle; and as I've mentioned before, there are good list questions that were kept open. The bulletpoint "every answer is equally valid" is given for subjective questions per "To prevent your question from being flagged and possibly removed, avoid asking subjective questions where..." and it is a generic wording to prevent bad subjective questions. Good list questions (per the examples I've provided) are not subjective.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 25, 2022 at 8:29

With reference to the question linked in the OP's post, Words with "bi-" prefix that no longer mean "two", I'll note that the answers posted, with the exception of two, are not made up of lists. Each answer has one example of a word beginning with the Latin prefix bi-, accompanied by a brief definition and its justification, which makes the whole thing:

  1. easier and faster to read
  2. easier for users to cast their votes.

If it needs to be reminded, members are allowed to cast votes for more than one answer.

The answer with the most downvotes, in fact, provides a list of eight different words. Not content with that, the user also included a link that claims there are 4,615 words beginning with bi-. It's hard to fault the downvoters in this case. An answer about words devoid of definitions with a denial of etymology, is a bad answer, even if such a list did contain a few decent candidates.

In this instance, an answer that lists “biology”, “bitter”, “bitch”, among its suggestions when the question specifically said:

To clarify, I am specifically looking for the prefix of Latin origin meaning "two"

must be downvoted. Bad answers show why the website values expertise or just the ability to do basic research.

By allowing questions that are asking for lists of words, we are in fact encouraging answers that may contain up to 4,000 different words. OK, perhaps I'm exaggerating. But answers that list 7, 10, 13 or as many as 34 suggestions (the OP was closed four years later) are virtually impossible for the community to vote on. Whenever an OP accepts an answer that is a laundry list, I am often left asking which "word" or "expression" nailed it for them.

  • You are mentioning "list answers" also which is a different topic than "list questions", but they are related. Good list questions usually don't have list answers but an answer might have multiple examples. Voting decision is up to the voter. The important point is good list questions can be very useful, and can teach much more in one question compared to many. The examples I've provided are in that vein.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 9:31
  • @ermanen My point being is questions blatantly asking for lists will encourage users to create list answers. Personally, I'd draw the line at three solutions/examples but we would see answers with 10 or more examples. How is that helpful? I'm all for saving questions that are on topic, but this one? Would you be equally enthusiastic if a question asked: "What are rare/uncommon or unusual words for bad”?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:27
  • @ermanen here's another example of an answer with a staggering list of 42 terms. The 2011 question was asking for Words for different types of leatherworking. It was closed three years ago, I can guess why.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:36
  • It depends on the question, and possibly answers too. Just the question title might not be enough to decide also. The community can decide to keep good list questions open, which happened before. If it is teaching something and if it is a useful reference with good answers (and not a bad subjective or broad/useless list question), I would keep it open. The examples I've provided makes it clear. Isn't learning about English language useful? StackExchange is about knowledge and one of the core values is "learn, share, grow".
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:41
  • @ermanen when I see twenty or more answers, and fifteen of them are contained in a single post, the question is too broad. I don't find answers with a laundry list to be particularly interesting but YMMV. I admire your persistence, and your defence but the question and its answers leave me indifferent. If a question cannot attract three users to reopen it that has to tell you something.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:42
  • The leatherworking terminology question has 5 answers and only one answer has a list. Possibly not too broad as it is very specific terminology but it was closed already, and it was asked 11 years ago. Terminology laundrylist might be too broad yes, at least for many fields where there can be a comprehensive glossary of terms. It depends on the question as I said. It is uncommon to get good list questions and the community can decide to keep them open.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:52
  • and the community can decide to keep them open which is what happened here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 10:59
  • This meta is not just about this question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/595565/… This meta is about keeping good list questions but this question triggered the discussion. The question was closed and re-opened, and then closed again ( where I never voted to close or re-open). In my opinion, it is unfair to close it per other open good list questions and per my point here, but I'm not going to dwell on it. The community can decide.
    – ermanen
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 11:00
  • @ermanen why don't you vote to reopen it? I thought you had already used up your vote. That way just two more votes are needed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 11:02
  • You have one mod who posted an answer disagreeing, and one mod who closed the question twice (not sure how ethical that is). Two more mods to go :P As for being alone, where's the fun if everyone agreed on everything?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Sep 26, 2022 at 11:34

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