Update: Yeah, so I sort of went on a brief EL&U vacation about a week after I started this topic, and forgot about it when I came back. Any last feedback before we push this live? I've changed Names to Naming as per @nohat's answer to this question, and dropped the reference to Literature.SE, which closed a few weeks ago.
If you visit the EL&U faq, at the very top, there's a list of what on-topic and off-topic on our site.
However, this list is getting a bit awkward (at least in my opinion), and two items especially (Problems encountered by people learning English and How to improve my English) can seem contradictory to those who are not familiar with our site. I therefore propose a revision that is meant to not change the actual site scope, but instead one that is merely meant to clarify:
- Word usage and choice
- Etymology (history of words' development)
- Dialect differences
- Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
- Spelling and punctuation
- Proofreading ("are there any mistakes?"), unless the source of concern is clearly specified
- Writing advice or critique requests (see Writers.SE instead—note critique requests must meet their criteria)
- Translation and non-English languages
- Naming, including naming programming variables/classes
- English literature
- Jokes that do not rely on the English language
[English language resources?]
Changes to the on-topic list
The on-topic scope is mostly the same; I separated grammar only because I felt it deserved its own bullet point. The only real change I made on that list was dropping Problems encountered by people learning English, since basic questions are generally welcome on any SE site (if we want to establish minimum requirements for ESL questions, that's not within the scope of this question).
Changes to the off-topic list
The off-topic question list, on the other hand, did not escape as unscathed as the other list.
Proofreading has been clarified. Foreign language questions that are posted tend to deal with translation, so that has been given more emphasis.
I've also dropped How to improve my English, since that's extremely vague—most of those questions are not constructive or not a real question anyway, so little is lost there. The only exception that generally isn't covered is English language resources, which I'll discuss later.
Naming of programming variables/classes has been expanded to cover all naming, since it's not on-topic anyway, and I've also cleaned up the jokes entry. Grammar peeving has also been cut from the list since that's also not constructive.
The only uncertain entry that I extracted is the one concerning English language resources, and there has been no consensus (and little opinion) on whether those questions are on-topic or off-topic. For example, a meta answer asserting that they're off-topic received 0 votes in either direction.
Including deleted questions, 61% of questions tagged resources have been closed, but some of these, while closed as off-topic, should probably have been closed as not a real question, not constructive, or too localized. Those that remain on the site range in quality, from those which just barely survive to the exceptional1. I am not sufficiently persuaded that the community has made up its mind on resources yet, so if we do make these changes to the FAQ, I intend to leave the item off of both lists for the time being.
One last thing that is bold because I feel like having text in bold
My goal here is to attempt to clarify the FAQ. Have I done that? I'd like to make sure that I haven't made it worse before entering the change into the system, so please let me know.
1If you're wondering why this question hasn't been closed for being not constructive, there are several factors, including its age, the fact that we link to it in our faq, and the fact that we refer new users to it when they get questions closed as general reference, that keep it alive.