Many questions, that are good in some sense, get closed; some are appropriate for other SE sites, some are better for discussion, some are for lists of words, etc.

To answer these questions would be wrong for here at SE (not just ELU but any SE site), but it seems churlish to just close and be done with them. I feel like -some- kind of pointer would help.

Recently while searching for possible alternatives to an ELU question, I found a number of QA sites that had informal answers to a similar question. Since those sites were discussive (?) in nature, it seemed a reasonable alternative (not a competitor) to ELU.

There are a number of different situations (the following is not exclusive):

  • the question is not appropriate for ELU, is appropriate for SE but there is no existing SE site for it. Say, a question about Anglo-Saxon, or a translation from some language to English.
  • the question is for an English language reference work (this may actually be on-topic, but it seems to me that it was off-topic at some point).
  • the question is for basic EFL help (refer to some EFL site?).
  • the question is prompting a discussion (dict.leo.de is excellent quality for this kind of back and forth discussion of translation issues).
  • the question is for lyric interpretation (not the thing I'd want to attract here at ELU, but to be honest, I have those questions sometimes, and it'd be nice to know the appropriate outlet for them).
  • the question is about language etiquette or social situations involving language. These are often deemed off-topic, but are still legitimate.

Some questions are just plain dumb. Others are not , they just don't fit well with ELU or SE. The direction of this is that we want to shut down inappropriate questions, but not alienate the questioner.

Would it be reasonable (for closeable but not crap questions) to give them a pointer to another site where they can ask their question and be more likely to get a helpful answer? Or would this simply allow/encourage questions we'd prefer not to have here?

1 Answer 1


You mean to a whole different site? It might happen but when I close I don't point to other sites usually. By other sites I mean external sites, out of the SE network. And I haven't seen others do the same. Let's say it's not common practice.

Usually if the question is not fit for the site but is still valuable or it has potential, I invite the OP or high-rep users to fix it and improve it before I close it and then to reopen it when I finally close it.

If it's also off topic (other than not fitting), then I usually let the OP know (if and when this is possible) that the question can be migrated to another site where it can receive a more appropriate question (because probably that question asks for a different kind of expertise). So in summary:

  • If it's on topic but badly worded -> I ask to reword/fix/improve it and give it some time. After a while, if there is no response from the OP or other users, I close it (or vote to close).
  • If it's off topic and badly worded -> I ask the OP to improve it so it has better chances to have success in another site where it can be migrated to.
  • If it's just a bad question -> close it or vote to close.

Edit: If you are talking about questions that are Not constructive, then it depends. Usually they can be "matched" with any of those three cases above, and my behavior is more or less the same.

But note that the distinction on SE is not black vs white, as in "one possible answer" vs "thousands of answers". If the questions asks for something that might reasonably get a small amount of answers, it's still a good one. What matters is that it's reasonably scoped so it doesn't ask for too many and it's not too scoped so it doesn't become too localized.

Sometimes what matters in a question is the wording. I've seen on EL&U questions that would have been down-voted and voted to close but the wording made a difference and they received instead great appreciation. So if you see a Not constructive but potentially good question, try to re-word it or ask to re-word it so that it asks for something more definite. It doesn't need to be "ONE possible answer only", but if you manage to make it reasonably scoped so that it asks for a small handful of possible answers, then why not? This is not the only parameter, and for this, try having a look at the 6 guidelines that make a difference in Good Subjective/Bad Subjective.

Let me know if I addressed your question.

  • Sorry, I wasn't clear. I'm looking for where to send questions that aren't appropriate for SE. Questions that aren't good as single, definitively answerable questions. Edited.
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 12:23
  • Oh, you mean not constructive. Well, that depends. They can be all of those cases, and I act the same way. I'll add a new paragraph about this issue. :)
    – Alenanno
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 12:31
  • added vague examples to my question. I wasn't going in the direction of 'subjective' questions. But even a good subjective question just may not be a good fit here. I'm wondering if we should refer the questioner somewhere else or just slap them down (of course I'm leaning towards a reference, but that's extra work and may also encourage such questions because they get what they want by getting answered in comments.)
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 15:56
  • Ask h2g2 thrives on questions which produce long discussions.
    – TRiG
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 18:54

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