I understand that the site is now discouraging single-word requests, but I'm not clear if this is a sweeping guideline (as in, all of them should be closed) or something to be considered on a case-by-case basis. If it's the latter, how are we to judge a question's suitability?

Here's a recent query; what's the recommended course of action for such a question?

2 Answers 2


It is not a sweeping guideline, or the FAQ would report that single-word requests are questions that should not be asked.

It must be decided on a case-by-case basis, making some considerations, such as:

  • Does the question describe exactly in which context the OP wants to use a single word?
  • Does the question report exactly the criteria for which the suggested word will be accepted?
  • Does the question report which words the OP didn't like?
  • Does the question shows the OP searched for a suiting word, before asking the question?

Grammatically, there is nothing wrong in using two or more words instead of a single word; if the OP needs to really use a single word, then the OP should exactly describe in which context the word is being used, otherwise the answer is going to be too generic to be useful, to who asks the question, and for the future readers, who could wrongly understand that the word suggested in the accepted answer is always the better word to use.

The reason to know which words the OP possibly thought of, but didn't like, is avoiding that who answers gets "I have thought of this, but I didn't like it" as answer. If who answer know which words the OP already thought of, they will avoid suggesting those words.

It is quite annoying suggesting a word, and being said the OP doesn't like it. That is the reason the OP should report the exact criteria that will be used to accept the suggested word. Listing those criteria is useful, IMO, otherwise it seems the OP is accepting the word he likes more, which is a rather subjective method to accept an answer, which makes the question itself not useful for future readers, and rather subjective.

Showing to have searched for a word before to ask the question is useful for this kind of questions, as they could seem to be asked because the OP could not be bothered to search himself.

  • Thanks for your input. That's quite helpful.
    – user13141
    Dec 21, 2011 at 17:04

I think the linked question is precisely the sort of single-word-request we should be encouraging, and I think it is... unfortunate that a super-mod has unilaterally closed it.

  • Yes, I'd asked this question before that occurred. It seemed reasonable to me, but having seen all the recently closed questions I had a hunch it would be closed, too - hence my confusion about what qualifies as a "good" single-word request.
    – user13141
    Dec 21, 2011 at 17:06
  • +1 : cf. english.stackexchange.com/users/28/robert-cartaino?tab=activity. You may wish to vote to reopen some of these - I know I did!
    – cindi
    Dec 21, 2011 at 18:31
  • 2
    @cindi: actually, looking through the last month or so of questions he's closed, I have to agree with all of them except this one. When the body of the question merely restates the title, it's a sign that the poster couldn't be bothered to look in a thesaurus.
    – Marthaª
    Dec 21, 2011 at 21:25
  • given the sorts of "here's a hodgepodge of possible words that might work!" answers this question got, I do not agree. Dec 30, 2011 at 11:29

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