We have 8 categories as off-topic under "Why should this question be closed?" I have listed them in order of easiness in deciding whether to close-vote or not:

(1) Proofreading question, (2) Lack of research, (3) Duplicate, (4) Primarily opinion-based, (5) Unclear (6) Too broad (7) Better suited on English Language and Learners, (8) Choosing an ideal word or phrase should have context

Your opinion might be different from mine and that is not an important issue.

The issue I want to raise here is about category No. (8).

What is the single word for “make something slow”? This question was asked 5 hours ago with 472 views and 6 upvotes. I see two problems with this question.

  1. There is no context in violation of this guideline: Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered.

  2. It is close to a general reference question. I firmly believe the word the Original Poster is looking for is readily searchable using their own native language to English dictionary, e.g., by typing slow (down) speed or make something slow into either their language website or dictionary.

I wonder why there has been no single close-vote for this question. Nowadays, I don't cast the first close-vote unless the question is blatantly off-topic for proof-reading.

Is there any reason why this question remains open without any single close-vote?


It took approximately 23 hours for this question to be closed. 989 views with 3 upvotes. Phrase for doing something unexpectedly fast.


Another typical Single Word Request question without context. It is not even clear: what is the general word for a “language-changing” process?

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    No. And you should've just voted to close it, but I went ahead and did so now you can do so without being first. – curiousdannii Mar 1 '16 at 12:55
  • @curiousdannii Wow 740 views with 7 upvotes. I will wait and see how long it takes for this question. – user140086 Mar 1 '16 at 12:58
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    I didn't close-vote since I didn't want to alienate a (considerably) new user. I have done now post reading your views. I infer, in my overall experience with ELU, that adhering to community charter is more (much much more) important than retaining user base. – BiscuitBoy Mar 1 '16 at 16:27
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    @Rathony That question apparently hit the network-wide "hot questions" list, so now it's getting attention from all over the SE network. It could be closed, but that seems moot, since everyone and his grandmother have seen it already. Single-word and phrase-requests are among the most popular on EL&U, along with "What is the closest English analog to this foreign aphorism?", and as such, our treatment of them is a bit inconsistent. But they also increase EL&U's visibility, which is a good thing. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 16:28
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    My ultimate take is: we rarely get questions about fundamental issues of syntax or grammar, or asking for explanations of linguistic mechanisms. I think we all agree that those should constitute the core of the site, and they're really the only candidates for questions that can't be answered easily by existing resources (e.g. dictionaries, thesauruses, Wikipedia). But we'll never get enough to justify this entire Stack. So what else should we permit? At least reverse-dictionary questions offer an NP-hard problem to solve (as opposed to direct dictionary lookups, which are O(log N)). – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 16:32
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    @BiscuitBoy You will see so many questions have been asked and discussed on Meta by those who are worried about Ellization of ELU. Now, the reason I am raising this issue is to eliminate the close reason for Single Word Request. Let's think about it. Some ask for similar proverb to X in Y country and how on earth are you going to use it? How many times are you going to use it in what context? If the rule doesn't stick, we can live without the rule. I totally agree with you and we should not alienate a new user. Many members agree with that point. We need further discussion on this point. – user140086 Mar 1 '16 at 16:36
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    @DanBron ELLization is happening to this site. I don't think anybody can deny that. Then, we accept what is happening. If all those users who were worried about ELLization are not casting their close-votes for ELL questions like that, we should accept them here. Why bother to migrate them to ELL where there are obviously ELU questions? We need serious discussions on this point. I firmly believe there is no difference between ELU and ELL. We are no longer a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. We have to admit that. – user140086 Mar 1 '16 at 16:55
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    @Rathony I agree with you, and I think this has been recognized for a long time (see phenry's famous critique This is not a site for 'serious English enthusiasts' and never will be), but in the wake of that recognition, what's still lacking is a decision on what to do about it. Or at least a discussion on what paths are available, and which direction to take. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 17:18
  • @DanBron I had a long discussion with deadrat who is one of the most helpful and enthusiastic users on ELU about basic questions and why we should not reward a basic question with an answer. After that, I realized why the hell are we closing those questions? How many questions would be helpful for current and future readers? I always thought questions that are helpful to the OP him/herslef should not be encouraged and ultimately closed as off-topic. But, wait a minute. Then, how many questions out of 67,000 questions should be closed? This is a turning point where we have to see the reality. – user140086 Mar 1 '16 at 17:22
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    @Rathony Bear in mind that ELL was set up for a reason, by rational, intelligent people who had many years of experience operating and moderating EL&U before ELL was even conceived. Many of those people are still active here today. I don't think we should dismiss or reverse their decision so lightly. That said, I do realize that the reality is we're mostly, both now and for the foreseeable future, going to be inundated with basic questions from novices. Ignoring that reality won't make it go away. So something has to be done. – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 17:26
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    What I would really like, though this is more a pipe dream than anything else, is not for the "basic" questions to go away, but for all querents to conduct themselves like adults. That is, ask questions as one peer would of another, not as a child would ask a parent. That includes doing as much work as they can themselves, in advance of asking strangers on the Internet for help, and when they do ask, to ask more thoughtful questions, perhaps driving to fundamental mechanisms or motivations, rather than "I was given 4 choices on my homework: which is correct?". – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 17:29
  • @DanBron I think we are of the same opinion basically. Proof-reading, lack of research, homework questions, what is this? why is that? are off-topic. But other than those, we should not close them. Some idealists dreamed that they would be able to create a site for linguist, etymologist and enthusiasts. It failed. It turned out to be a site with all the questions in the world related with English thanks to its name. Many of those idealists are gone, now. The name will attract all those questions as long as it retains the name. We need a new proposal for close reasons reflecting the reality. – user140086 Mar 1 '16 at 17:38
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    @Rathony Yes, I think we're on the same page. The only quibble I have is I don't think the name is so much the problem as the fact that there aren't as many people interested in the nuances and mechanisms of English as the original site founders had hoped. This is the reason most of the other non-technical stacks are so low-traffic (see Linguistics and Philosophy, e.g.). The only thing that saved EL&U from that fate is precisely the name, which attracts more eyeballs (because English is a useful practical skill). As much as you and I want to discuss theory, incoming questions focus on practice – Dan Bron Mar 1 '16 at 17:44
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    @Rathony I didn't realise you wanted to remove the close vote reason, so I have retracted my upvote on this post. I disagree completely, and think it needs to be strengthened! We need much clearer and stricter guidelines for these questions. To start with, there should be a requirement that they specify which word class the questioner wants. That would cut out hundreds of poor word request questions. – curiousdannii Mar 1 '16 at 22:39
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    But that's how it is for every question on this site. It always takes too long to close questions, no matter what the close reason is. This site has two groups of people with completely different ideas about what is on-topic. Removing one close reason won't help with that. – curiousdannii Mar 2 '16 at 8:49

I have no idea what should be done. I don't even know if it's a problem if we enforce the current policy inconsistently or not. I do think that enforcement is currently inconsistent, but... I can find a way to justify that. Basically, I'll vote to close if the question actually seems unclear to me (especially if there are answers that seem to have missed the point of the question) but I often won't vote to close on other questions that don't meet the guidelines, but that somehow seem clear to me anyway. I thought there was a recent example of this, but I somehow can't find it now.

I am also less inclined to vote to close if there are already answers. For one thing, if the answers are upvoted, it means the question is much less likely to end up deleted. At that point, I want to leave the question open so that people will be able to post better answers. For another thing, it's just discouraging to see that so many people are willing to answer these sorts of questions, and it can make me re-consider my own judgement of the question.

Another observation: there seems to be a disconnect between the up-voters of this site and the "close-voters" of this site, as shown by the high number of votes these questions often receive. Again, I don't know what this means. In general, I don't trust up-voters to select good content. But it's a big part of the mechanisms of the site, and that's not going to change.

Sometimes I wish single word requests were on a separate site. But at this point, a split like that seems impractical for many reasons.

We have guidelines, but ultimately the guidelines are supposed to be set and enforced by the community. If the community is not enforcing the guidelines, I think we should either change the guidelines to reflect this, or change the way the community acts. But I don't know what the best way to do that is.

The most important thing to me is that we avoid alienating knowledgeable users. But, how do we do this? Different users have different personalities. Some might be driven away by the presence of a lot of poorly-researched questions. But others might be driven away by a perception that ELU is being controlled by "close vote police" who go around closing interesting questions.

Another factor: we want answers to be useful. But how do we best accomplish this? Closing a question prevents any new answers from being added.

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  • Thanks for your answer. The way I see this problem is this. Our tagline says a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Your justification could work if there is no ELL on Stack Exchange. 1. The question is blatantly too basic for this site. 2. General reference. 3. No context. I don't agree with your point that you are less-inclined to vote to close if there are already answers. We have to close it even if there are answers because we don't need low-rep users duplicate answers and one liners. It took us 12 hours to close it. (Cont..) – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 5:13
  • If I had not posted this question, it would have taken longer. Inconsistency is not a good thing. I am not saying we have to be perfectly consistent. But we have a judgement question, Does this question really belong to ELU? or Is there research or context?. I don't think these two questions are so difficult to ask ourselves when we read questions like that. Off-topic questions are off-topic and we have a clear guideline on this single-word-request question. It is as obvious as the one for proof-reading request. You and I could have difference in judgement. We have a clear guideline . – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 5:18
  • As phenry says, the tagline is just not true. There are some linguists and etymologists here, and they provide many valuable answers, but they are outnumbered by the mass of ordinary people who ask single-word-requests. In fact, I've received comments on two of my questions saying that they should be closed here and asked on Linguistics instead – this indicates that some users actually consider overly "linguistic" questions off-topic on ELU. I'd consider myself and most of the people who post on meta "enthusiasts," but many users of this site probably wouldn't fall into this category either. – herisson Mar 2 '16 at 5:22
  • The tagline could be true if we follow and enforce the rules and guidelines of this community. I don't think it means all members should be in those 3 categories (linguists, etymologists, enthusiasts) to be users here. Members could be a beginner, but they should not ask a learner's question here. That is against the rules and guidelines of this community. They can read/vote. But they should not ask off-topics nor post an answer. That's what this tagline is for. The question is asked by a learner without even trying to look up the dictionary. That's clearly off-topic. On-topic questions only. – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 7:40
  • Regarding your points after the edit, I am not raising issue about the guideline already set. I am raising the issue why it is not implemented when it is not followed. I don't find the question interesting or useful to current or future users as it is a typical thesaurus question. How can a thesaurus question generate useful answers? Letting users post an answer to this type of question is not helpful to this community. ELU is never controlled by close vote police. They are just trying to follow the guidelines already set up by this community itself. – user140086 Mar 2 '16 at 9:38

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