What should one do when having a short question to which one can't find the answer? With short questions I mean question which can be answered with 'no' or 'yes', a simple example ("Is 'advise' a noun?", "Is 'trod' the past tense of 'tread'?", and go on.) Are we allowed to ask such short questions with a short answer: "No," "Yes."

Please, don't answer "No" or "Yes." Thank you!

3 Answers 3


It's notoriously difficult to ask a short question sensibly, without context. Is 'trod' the past tense of 'tread'? might mean What is the correct past tense of 'tread'?. Answer: Yes/trod; closed as GR. It might mean Is there anything else 'trod' could be, besides the past of 'tread'?. Answer: There are other possibilities, such as hot trod meaning hot pursuit, or X or Y... Could be an interesting question, but might be NARQ (unlikely to be a genuine problem you face). Or it could be I don't understand the way 'trod' is used here; is it really the past tense? Once edited to put in "here", it may be fine, or may be Too Localised. If you're asking the question, it's up to you to make sure the rest of us understand exactly what you want to know.

Myself, I think asking a proper SE question that is unambiguous, short, and can be answered Yes/No is probably impossible. [But this is not a challenge to people with too much spare time.]


I don't have a problem with such questions being asked, although they are often prime candidates for closure as general reference. That fate can be avoided, though, with further clarification about why the question is being asked, coupled with prior research.

For example, for something as straightforward as:

"Is advise a noun?"

I'd expect to see something like references to (or excerpts from) reputable dictionaries, along with published quotes that use the word incongruously with those definitions. In other words, the question may have a simple answer, but the O.P. should take pains to present it as a worthy and thought-provoking question.

(Such wrinkles often exist, and sometimes motivate questions that seem rather basic on the surface; however, it seems that O.P.s don't always do the best job of explaining those vindicating factors up front, and opt for vague brevity instead.)



A good answer, though, will consist not just of a one-word response to the direct question. It will also contain an explanation of why this is so, or provide other background information, and it will generally cite reputable sources or specific expertise to back the answer up.

Likewise, a good question will consist not just of a one-sentence query. It will also contain an explanation of why the question came up, provide context and examples of usage when appropriate, and it will show real forethought and effort: for example it will cite reputable sources or specific expertise consulted before asking here.

  • In such cases, I think this frequently applies to both the answers and the question.
    – J.R.
    Jan 6, 2013 at 21:15
  • Good point, thank you.
    – MetaEd
    Jan 6, 2013 at 21:45

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