We've been seeing a lot of comments lately that are somewhat along the lines of

Off-topic. Voting to close.


This is too localized. [remainder of comment...]

Essentially, these comments are simply giving a reason for why the post these comments are on should be closed. However, there's a problem that arises from these comments: they're often taken as rude and/or abrasive by users new to the site. Instead, a far friendlier tone can be taken by explaining

  1. Why this specific post is off-topic/not constructive/too localized/etc., and
  2. What can be done to improve the question.

Remember, a post that has been closed will always give the reason why it is closed in the close box, and a post that shouldn't actually be closed doesn't need a terse comment there saying "this is not constructive", when, actually, it is. If you have something specific to share, like "we have a post that recommends great online resources where you can look up words", that's great. If all you're going to state is "General reference. Voting to close", that's not terribly helpful for anyone.

The mods will be pruning some of these comments in the coming days and weeks, and we'll ask that you work with us by flagging such comments if you come across them.

  • 3
    They are the two lines that have a nice grey background in the question.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 8, 2012 at 20:10
  • 1
    @waiwai933: Where are the 'given examples of the types of comments I am referring to'? Your question above doesn't have a nice grey background and the two bullet items do not have links and do not have concrete examples.
    – Mitch
    Oct 8, 2012 at 21:50
  • 4
    @Mitch They are the second and the fourth lines of the post. They happen to be made up, since I don't want to call out specific users, but we have seen very similar comments being posted.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 8, 2012 at 22:10
  • @waiwai933: can one search comments? (I have a feeling not)
    – Mitch
    Oct 8, 2012 at 22:18
  • 1
    @Mitch Not through the in-site search, but you can use Google.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 8, 2012 at 22:22
  • 8
    @waiwai933: Point well-taken. I've always thought that a comment reading Off-topic. Voting to close. was directed more at the rest of the community, rather than at the O.P., but I can see why a new member might have trouble making that distinction. So, if we feel like a question is, say, gen. ref., but a kind and helpful comment is eluding us for some reason, would you recommend just casting a close vote, sans a comment? That is, letting the close vote speak for itself, without announcing it using a comment? That's how I'm interpreting your remarks here, but I'd like to check with you.
    – J.R.
    Oct 9, 2012 at 8:37
  • @J.R. Yes, that's correct. Generally, it's helpful to link to a dictionary or to a thesaurus when the question is general reference, but if not, just voting to close is fine.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:42

4 Answers 4


On August 25 KitFox posted an answer to the question Why are most new questions being downvoted which I think bears quoting in this context:

Before you downvote:

  1. Did you ask the OP to clarify and give them at least one day to do so?
  2. Did you edit the OP's question to include information that the OP had buried in the comments?
  3. Did you clean up and retag the question so it was clearer and easier for other users to find (even if it was a dupe and even if it was off-topic)?
  4. Is the OP a new user who needs some extra consideration because maybe they can't figure out how to edit their own question, or maybe they've been overwhelmed by an overgrown comment chain?

You are not required to leave a comment if you downvote, but the site won't improve if you don't.

Downvoting should be the last thing you do, not the first.

I keep forgetting this. I've just put it at the top of my ELU links, so there's a better chance I remember it.

  • I find it odd that there's a fundamental part of EL&U system that many people, or at least those whose upvoted this frozen question, are ignoring: the comments. If any, only close votes without comments, in their loud silence, are abrasive or rude by new user. I agree with you and @KitFox; and I hope this answer can get a lot of upvotes. Congratulations.
    – user19148
    Oct 9, 2012 at 22:23

I'd like to point out that not all closed questions even get the courtesy of an explanation: see Valid question closed as 'too localised', requesting reasons for being out of scope for an example, I believe my question is valid but seems to be closed because there is no real answer ... and no one has really justified those 5 VTC :(.

Since it is closed, I do get the boilerplate 'localized' text, and yes its possible that some of the votes were for a different reason. Unfortunately, in some cases the standard text does not adequately explain how it applies in that particular case imho; and it would be great if people actually left some comment in that case.

  • 1
    I did consider voting "Not Constructive" on your term for 'ephemeral questions' question, precisely because I thought there was "no real answer". I didn't and still don't see the point of a "beauty contest" between various newly-coined suggestions. But I didn't VTC because I thought there might be an established term that I either didn't know or couldn't call to mind. Those are my reasons for almost, and then not voting, but I can't speak for those that did. Perhaps there isn't an established/credible term, but I'll vote to re-open on the off-chance. Oct 13, 2012 at 2:42

I just closevoted What's the difference between 'modeling' and 'modelling'? as General Reference, and that was one of the relatively rare occasions where I didn't comment a closevote. My position there is that anyone who seriously thinks ELU is going to explicate a difference in meaning between those two spellings probably isn't someone I'd welcome future questions from.

As it happens, I also silently closevoted Does and [sic] online repository exist for texts written in African American English / 'Ebonics'?. I find it irritating to see such a blatantly offtopic question from someone with a rep of 626, who's been a member for almost two years.

Per J.R.'s comment to the question here, I usually post closevote comments primarily for the benefit of other users, not the OP. If a potentially closable question looks salvageable, hopefully I'll post a comment asking OP to amend, rather than peremptorily vote to close. If it looks like a dead duck, I comment in hopes that others will either do likewise, or post further comments contesting my position.

But, I'd also point out that even if I don't write a long conciliatory explanation of my closevote, I think the questioner is at least entitled to know there is a closevote. My understanding is that new low-rep users can't actually see the number of closevotes, so a comment is the only way they're going to know there's a problem (unless it actually does get closed).

  • Fumble, to see things as they really are means to see them consistently in the light of actual criteria allowed by EL&U. I ageree with you. Congratulations.
    – user19148
    Oct 9, 2012 at 22:49
  • 1
    Commenting, yes, is the only way that a lot of new users will know that there's a problem. But what we're trying to address here is the comment that just says "Not Constructive. Voting to close", which is a very unhelpful comment, since new users don't know what not constructive means in our context (the close box explains it, but a comment that just says that doesn't). I'm not trying to say here "don't comment that you voted to close", rather, "if you're leaving a comment, please make it helpful, or, at the very least, not abrasive".
    – waiwai933
    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:46
  • And remember, anyone who has the power to vote to close will already know that there's been a close vote on the question, since it shows up as close (1), and they'll be able to see what option the previous voters have chosen as the rationale for closing.
    – waiwai933
    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:47
  • @waiwai933: In the case of "Not Constructive", I think I would almost always post a comment explaining why. With "General Reference", I usually include in my comment a link to a webpage giving the answer, unless someone else has already done this in a comment or answer. Having said all that, I'm solidly behind J.R.'s "Point well-taken" comment, and I will in future take more care to avoid seeming rude and dismissive unintentionally. Your question is "well-raised", and I do share your concerns. Oct 10, 2012 at 11:32

This page just popped up seemingly of its own volition so I thought I would throw in an idea of two.

To the same degree that I can appreciate a well considered, comprehending vote down, the opposite can be a source of annoyance. But, that is not the essential point of this entry.

It appears that a vote of four warrants a put down (and forfeiting of another's effort) without practical resource. That said, is seems to be the worst of impropriety to give put down votes a full weighting of 1 each equals 4. Judiciousness as well as common sense suggests that a put down vote weighting of 1/4 per vote should be imputed, retroactively, against an errant contributor after the fact that his/her contribution has been cut off. To quadruply cast aspersion seems unfair when, say, the gaining of reputation is never so easy...and does not always occur by reason of relative merit.

What commentators severally or collectively deem too far afield in some way, should not detract disproportionately from reputation already awarded. To inflict subvalueless votes as if punishments seem to make the entire processs more about moderator or priveleged, than about participation quality, achievement, or value of contribution. Additionally, for the slap that is a cutoff to be attended by the club that is 3 exta forfeited points, speaks poorly, after a fashion, of moderators themselves so long as they are "priveleged" to vote up or down. Its like saying, for example, here's two kudos for answers we approve of...oops, let's make that minus two for the one we don't.

It is not always possible to know when a put down will occur; and it sometimes can happen that one occcurs mistakenly, for example, because contribution is read incompletely or hastily; or merely because a modicum of clarification might be needed.

Another factor to take into account, if positive behavior modification is any kind of influence hoping to be "wielded," is the established evidence that people generally do not learn from mistakes. So, in that regard, it is possible that quadruple penalty for markdowns only amplifies the very problem wanting to be (no, not mitigated) ameliorated.

Thanks for considering. Intense pressures on my time might not make it possible to advance or defend the position. It's only there for consideration as is. So make of it as you will.

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