A recent EL&U question requested

A short punchy phrase that encapsulates “the mining industry is on the improve” .

It was noted in comments that this is a request for a headline and is therefore off-topic. On the main-site help page and the meta-site list, a text search (using the browser's search function - not a site-wide search) of each page for the text "headline" produces no hits.

The headline label is apt, but why is it off-topic? How is it different from other single-word or short-phrase requests? And finally, does commercial motivation (real or perceived) have any bearing here?

  • 6
    Because there can't, even in theory, be a "right" answer. Single-word and phrase-requests ask answers to provide existing words and terms which encapsulate a given meaning. This question is asking answerers to fabricate one. In other words: primarily opinion-based.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 23:47

2 Answers 2


At Lawrence's request, I'm reproducing my response (originally given in a comment) to a similar question that he asked me on the main site about why the poster's request was off topic. Here's that comment:

The question falls into the category of requests for writing advice, and such questions are off-topic at EL&U because they have no long-term value: they are so particularized that answers to them aren't useful to anyone but the person who poses the question. In a sense, the situation resembles a request for proofreading (which is also off-topic at this site), except that instead of asking "Is anything wrong with this sentence?" the poster asks "Can you think of a better way to word this sentence?" Maybe the question would be a better fit at Writers SE.


As Dan Bron says in his comment, single-word and short-phrase requests deal primarily with already-existing words and phrases. Answers can be supported by evidence from dictionaries or searchable corpora. But answers to a question like the one you link to can only be based on opinion. I think it is comparable to the situation with writing advice and naming advice, which are also off-topic.

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