UPDATE: Version 2.1 of the trial is now live. The intention is for the last voter who closes a question to link to the trial in lieu of the link appearing in the notice of closure. Here's a template that can be pasted directly as a comment:

See [Notes to Reviewers](https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/q/7913/142322)

Low-quality questions (LQQ) serve as a disincentive for visitors and regulars to seek or contribute high-quality answers at ELU. We therefore place an LQQ on hold for a grace period, reopening it if it sufficiently improves and deleting it if not. The OP of a closed question should bear the onus of proof that their edits make their questions worth reconsidering, but in practice, that burden falls almost exclusively on reviewers.

On the other hand, on-hold notices can appear final to visitors. It can feel off-putting to find that the community deems one's posts unworthy of attention. Closing a question is objectively an invitation to improve the question, but invitations should sound like "here's where to go and what to do" rather than "go away until you improve". The OP may make a case on the meta site for reopening, but they are only told the policy if they ask.

The core of this feature request is to address both issues by giving the OP of a closed question some transparency and guidance about the process of reopening their question. This is an explicit invitation to (re)engage to have their posted question answered. It also helps reviewers of the reopen queue: it's easier, less frustrating and more accurate to read what the OP thinks s/he did to improve the question than it is for each reviewer to piece the clues together from edit trails and comment trails. Here's the gist of what I'm suggesting should be on the close/on-hold notice:

After editing your question, please note in comments or [notes to reviewers (link)] how your edits improve the question. Your question will be reopened if it gains 5 reopen votes.

In the worst case, OP behaviour doesn't change at all. However, the improvement to the quality of our ELU process, namely, greater transparency of the reopen process, is justification enough to expand the boiler-plate notices.

In the best case, the OP raises their own question to a high quality and stay on to contribute, so we have a better site and feel welcoming to good company.

Note: The previous version of this feature request can be found here.

  • When a closed question has been edited, doesn't it show up on the review queue?
    – MetaEd
    Mar 10, 2016 at 16:50
  • @MετάEd Yes, it does. The problem is that edits sometimes don't tell the whole story - there may need to be an accompanying appeal about the edits. More to the point, this request is geared towards changing OP behaviour rather than changing reviewer behaviour.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 16:53
  • 6
    Hi, Lawrence, I fully understand where you are coming from about this issue. But remember this. We have so many Original Posters all around the word who don't know what edit means or don't understand what the close reason is for. I don't want this Meta site swamped with requests for re-opening. Most of them are just one-off users about whom we don't have to care so much. If they spend more time, they will be able to ask a better-researched question. If not, what else can we do? They are on their own.
    – user140086
    Mar 10, 2016 at 16:58
  • 5
    @Lawrence I agree with Rathony. If there's going to be a change to the notice simply let the user know the question will be reopened if a post-edit peer review leads to enough reopen votes.
    – MetaEd
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:01
  • @Rathony That's a good point. Instead of pointing to meta (which, incidentally, is the advice we give to those who ask), we could start a special-purpose chat-room for reopen requests. This would let us keep meta for more serious discussion. What do you think?
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:01
  • 3
    So I'm saying I don't disagree with the idea of providing more transparency but I also don't like the idea of a million appeals to meta.
    – MetaEd
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:02
  • @MετάEd Ok, how about the idea of appealing to an appeals chat room instead?
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:03
  • @MετάEd By the way, I like your idea about noting the peer-reviewed reopen process in the close / on-hold notice.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:05
  • 2
    For what it's worth, the standard process worked in the case of the "make a meal out of something" question. In its original form, the question was obviously off-topic enough that 4 high-rep users and a mod VtC within minutes, but at the same time offering comments offering clear & professional explanations of why the question didn't adhere to the norms of the site. Thereafter, the OP came back and read those comments, reacted to them in good faith, asked for further clarifications with comments, was directed to edit his question, did so, and now the Q is in good shape & has 3/5 reopen votes.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:27
  • @DanBron On the other hand, the rat question didn't get a single close vote after 2 days. Both were summarily closed (by a moderator) after I asked about the inconsistency in chat - that wasn't my intent when asking, but still ... . Posting the process in the on-hold notice will encourage VtC for some who are reluctant to close questions that technically do breach the rules about research but that show thought and significant effort otherwise.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:37
  • 6
    @Lawrence Yes, my comment wasn't intended to offer a counterpoint to your suggestion (which I like, as I like all tools that automate a repetitive task I otherwise have to perform manually). Rather, the only concern I have about your feature-request is that it will prove ineffective, for the reasons you identified: when most OPs see "... [on hold]" or "... [closed]" they stop reading (and, in many cases, start arguing). But as you said there are some conscientious OPs out there who take feedback in the good faith under which it is offered, and your suggestion will improve their experience.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:42
  • 1
    @DanBron Agreed. Those are the very people that we want to encourage to stay.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 10, 2016 at 17:44
  • 1
    Note: I'm editing the request for clarity, and adding another suggestion: to create a single meta 'question' where each reopen request is an 'answer'. When done, I'll either post another comment delete this comment.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 11, 2016 at 14:47
  • 2
    @JEL Just a note to say that I've changed the suggested 'appeals court' location to a single meta question, with each appeal a separate 'answer'. This avoids LQQ-smearing of one-meta-Q-per-appeal and the admin overheads of a dedicated chat room.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 11, 2016 at 16:41
  • 1
    Is there some sample text for the last close-voter to use?
    – Marthaª
    Mar 18, 2016 at 22:37

3 Answers 3


Note: this (below) is the text I intend to post as the 'appeals court' meta question. Before taking that as a unilateral step, however, I'm posting it here first for a few days for community editing and comments. The next step would be to post the meta question as a live trial, during which users can link to it from comments when voting to close a question.

UPDATE The trial is now online.

Title: Please consider reopening my question. [Trial]

Original meta discussion: When a question is closed, tell them the procedure for reopening it. Please use that question to discuss the procedure below. Answers to this question should only consist of appeals to reopen specific questions.

If your question has been closed, it means that Stack Exchange's English Language and Usage community has voiced an opinion that your question wasn't quite ready for prime time yet. Questions can be closed for many reasons. In each case, the main reason will be shown on the notice that appears on your closed question. There's a simple procedure to ask to reopen your question:

Edit your question to meet the site's requirements.

This will automatically put the question into a review queue, where it will be reopened if 5 reviewers (or one moderator) vote for reopening. If you think the reviewers have missed or dismissed your improvements, this page is a place where you can explain why your question should be reopened.

Before we go into specifics, here are two general guidelines:

  • Your question must be clear. People should be able to look at your question and immediately know what you are asking.
  • Your question must be clearly answerable. It should be possible to answer your question fully, within a reasonable space.

Basic Steps

Address the concerns on the close/on-hold notice. For example,

  • if your question is claimed to be a duplicate of another question, read the linked question and its answers. Sometimes, the link of duplicates may include several questions (yours links to theirs, which links to another, etc). Read them all, then if you still think your question is different, edit your question to refer to those questions and explain why.
  • if your question involves a single-word-request or similar tag, follow the detailed instructions in the tag's info (hover over the tag and click 'info'). Quite often, the only thing lacking is a sample sentence to show what part of speech you want. Edit your question to follow the extensive guidelines.

Look up general references yourself and edit your question to report what you have found, then explain why you are not satisfied with what you have found. This helps the community to directly address the actual problem. Here are some collections to consider:

Further Steps

If the above isn't enough to get your question reopened, try explaining here why you think it should be reopened.

Explain what you have done by adding an answer to this question.

  • Add an answer to this question. This will bring the question to the attention of people on the meta site (note: don't add a whole new question on the meta site to ask for your question to be reopened - that's what this page is for).
  • In your answer, summarise what you have done and include a link to your question. You can get the link by clicking the share button under your question. enter image description here
  • Answer any issues that the community may raise.

Link to the answer you just posted.

  • Click the share button under your answer, and copy the link that pops up.
  • Go to your closed question and add the following comment: [I have made a request to reopen this question.](xyz), replacing "xyz" with the link you copied from the share button.
  • Include the square brackets and round brackets exactly as shown. This adds a link in your comments to the reopen request you've just made, which makes it easier for reviewers to see why you think your question should be reopened.

See you on the other side!

  • The first draft is posted above. I'm sure there are many improvements that can be made - please contribute via comments below, separate answers, or direct edits of the above. I'll act as editor-in-chief for this answer for now, though if any mod would prefer to take over, just let me know. I hope this process will produce something that most of us will be happy to adopt. In a week's time, let's say, I'll post the result (sans header comment) as the 'appeals court' meta question for a live trial. The notices will stay the same, but we can link to the 'appeals court' from closed questions. ...
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 11:02
  • If (when?) the mods are happy with the result, it'll be up to them to conclude the trial by making appropriate changes to the notices.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 11:05
  • 3
    The above will work very well for users who are strongly motivated and/or passionate about the English language in the first place. But seeing as they already are, they're the ones who took the time to read the help center in the first place. For non-native speakers who lack confidence, such a detailed text is overwhelming. And what's more, I don't think it will make one jot of difference to users who are simply saying "gimme the answer".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 13, 2016 at 12:23
  • I'm a strong believer that if you can see a "good" or "valid" question in a post that has been put on hold, then edit the OP. Show how it's done without changing the original question. If necessary provide support and the research. Some of the simplest questions in EL&U's database produced top notch answers. We need to recapture those users, the ones who have abandoned EL&U.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 13, 2016 at 12:26
  • Hi @Mari-LouA, thanks for your comments. I was (and still am) also concerned about length, but thought I'd put it up anyway so others can have a look and help improve it. The motivated ones you mention are the ones we want to keep. For the gimmes, a documented reopen process listed on the page would encourage me to VtC more. Since the visible change is just a couple of extra sentences on the notice, it shouldn't discourage people from making more specific constructive comments to the OP.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 14:37
  • @Mari-LouA I'm not a linguist or etymologist; an enthusiast perhaps. But I believe that the primary glue at ELU (i.e. why people stay and not just 'buy and bye') is the interaction of this community that has grown up around a shared interest in English. To a certain extent, building the site depends on building the community. I'll admit that this is a small step, but I think it's a step in the right direction. Still, I'm all ears if you have other ideas about recapturing those excellent ELU participants of the past.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 14:52
  • 1
    Part of the problem, and this is a phenomenon I have experienced whenever I have joined an online community, is EL&U's popularity. The larger the community base, the more quality suffers. I'm going to sound elitist, but I don't care because what I'm saying is the truth. It happened with Google plus, Stumbleupon, Answers.com, Reddit, Twitter etc...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:05
  • The number of top contributors is shrinking compared to the number of LQ questions and LQ answers submitted daily. The same thing is happening to Stack Overflow, it is flooded with LQQ questions, its clawing desperately to retain its reputation as one of the best Q&A sites. But it's a losing battle...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:05
  • Thanks @Rathony. I suppose we're guessing at their responses either way, but I'd like to reiterate that I'm not trying to make it easier to reopen questions - I want to make it clearer how this community wants OPs to go about it. If this approach would encourage me to VtC more, perhaps it would encourage others to do so as well. Those who view VtC as quality control of the accept/reject variety would then see more LQQ closures, and those who view VtC as an invitation for OPs to improve their own questions would feel freer to do so. (cont'd)
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:14
  • On the LQQ-OP's side (excuse the acronyms), those that don't care would go elsewhere quickly and without too much argy-bargy via comments. Those that do care about getting their questions answered self-select by following the reopen process.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:16
  • I apologise for sounding such a wet blanket, or the voice of doom, just call me Cassandra from now on :)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:17
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA I think you're among the "users who are strongly motivated and/or passionate about the English language" that you mentioned :) . ELU would be a poorer place without you, Rathony or other currently active ELU members. (cont'd)
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:26
  • @Mari-LouA The content of my reply to Rathony applies to your point about popularity as well, so I'll just incorporate it by reference. I think the 3 of us (among others) want similar outcomes, that is, to maintain / increase the quality of questions, answers and - for me at least - community interaction on ELU, though perhaps via different means. My invitation to suggest other means wasn't rhetorical; no need to apologise. Although I think this feature request is a good approach (of course, or I wouldn't be suggesting it :) ), I'm interested to hear other approaches as well. (cont'd)
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:36
  • @Mari-LouA (Rathony and any others also) Do you have any constructive suggestions regarding this proposed 'appeals forum' draft?
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 15:39
  • Thanks @Rathony. Let's see how it goes :) .
    – Lawrence
    Mar 13, 2016 at 16:02

Trial Version 2.1

As before, I'll leave this up for a few days for comments and improvements before taking it live. I'd like to incorporate some of the lessons learnt from the trial so far.

Title: Notes to Reviewers

English Language & Usage (ELU) is a community for etymologists, linguists and English enthusiasts. As a Stack Exchange community, ELU shares Stack Exchange's goal to build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise.

Questions should be asked within ELU's areas of interest and answers should be definitive. This imposes a level of expectation to carefully state the question. It may include noting aspects of the question that are not of interest, how far you've got, or carefully highlighting the core of the question.

When the expectation isn't met, the question may be put on hold as an invitation to edit for improvement. Once edited, your question is automatically queued for review. It will be reopened if 5 reviewers vote for reopening. This page is for you to make brief notes to reviewers to assist the review process, similar to that at Math.SE.

  1. Read this page for some excellent tips on how to ask questions, including examples of good questions and a simple pattern for asking good questions.

  2. Edit your question, paying attention to the concerns listed on the close/on-hold notice. Here are some general references that may help:

  3. You can add notes for reviewers by placing a comment on your own question. You may also record your notes in a new answer here and link the answer to your question as follows:

    • In your answer, include a link to your question. Click share under your question for the link.
    • Add the comment [Notes to reviewers](xyz) to your question to show reviewers where to look. Keep the square brackets and round brackets as shown, but replace xyz with a link to your answer. Click share under your answer for the link.
  • It's been a couple of days with no comments or objections, so I'm taking this live.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 24, 2016 at 6:28
  • Version 2.1 posted.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 29, 2016 at 16:14

Let's not feed the bear!

This community is surrounded by many hungry bears who don't want to hunt to feed themselves. Also, I found some bears who complain about our not feeding them quoting a few vague guidelines of our Help Center or a question asked a long time ago when we didn't have those guidelines in place. A few lazy bears don't even respond to comments intended to help write a better question. We should not welcome those bears. We need to build up more fences and enforce those guidelines more strictly so that those bears could learn what to do to survive here and how to ask a well-researched question with context.

  1. What is the exact definition of the expression 'A Rat's Chance'?

The OP started the question with "I started to learn English." Then, the OP is a learner. I don't think the question is salvageable. It would be better to leave the following comment:

If you are a speaker of other languages learning English, I'd like to advise you to visit our sister site English Language Learners, but please make sure you take the tour and visit their Help Center before posting any question.

  1. Does the expression “make something of a meal out of something” mean essetially “make a meal of something”?

As Hotlicks commented, the question is not clear. A full sentence is required. The OP is lazy. What else can we do? The OP seems to be a learner and he should be advised to go to ELL where (s)he belongs. (I close-voted this question.)

Both Original Posters don't seem to belong on English Language and Usage (ELU), but belong on English Language Learners (ELL).

We have a well-established mechanism where a question is placed on a review-queue for reopen vote when it is edited. We will review it and decide. We rarely see a question re-opened while so many questions are being closed everyday. The main reason is almost all those hungry bears don't respond to comments and close reasons. That could mean (1) they are one-off users who don't intend to stay here long, (2) they don't want to bother to edit it and get it reopened (they are not desperate enough), (3) unfortunately, they don't know how it works and they don't even know how closing and re-opening work.

What can we possibly do to those users? I don't think letting them know they can go to Meta or ELU Chat Room to get their questions reopened is as much helpful to those OPs as advising them to edit the post in as much detail or go to ELL.

They should edit their questions and our focus should be on whether they edit their posts properly or not. The beauty of ELU is we are democracy and decision-making process is quite fast, especially for reopening.

I just left a comment (advice to go to ELL) to an OP who asked six questions, five of which were closed. We need to post such a comment more to the OPs who will be welcome and upvoted on ELL while being downvoted and closed on ELU.

  • 7
    Hi @Rathony, I understand where you're coming from. This isn't feeding the bears - quite the opposite, actually: give the OP an incentive to do their homework, and reassure fence-sitters that hitting the close button isn't being unkind to visitors. I also took on board your earlier comments about not swamping meta. Instead of using the ELU main chat room, the proposal is to open a new chat room for appeals (using the main ELU chat would have the same effect as posting on meta). Those who aren't interested in reviewing appeals can simply avoid the appeals chat room.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 11, 2016 at 9:14
  • @Lawrence Hi, Lawrence. I admire your enthusiasm to help those OPs. Based on my rather short experience, more than 90% of the OPs are one-off users who don't care very much about their questions being closed or down-voted. The OP of the first linked question didn't log in after posting the question. I am sure (s)he will never come back. The second OP logged in later, but is not responding to the comments. There is virtually nothing we can do for them. They need to respond to the comments if they want to get an answer which I think is far more important than letting them know your suggestion.
    – user140086
    Mar 11, 2016 at 15:28
  • 2
    Hi @Rathony, yeah, can't win 'em all. Think of my request as site improvement of a different sort :) . If it ends up winning over even just a handful of linguists, etymologists or enthusiasts, I'd say it would be worth it. The two examples I cited aren't the best showcases, but they did (unknowingly on their part) kick this off. Oh, by the way, we need a better phrase than telling them to go to ELL - it's uncomfortably close to telling 'em to go to 'ell.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 11, 2016 at 15:45
  • 2
    @Lawrence I absolutely agree with your idea on "explaining to the OP in more detail that they need to edit the post and letting them know the question could be reopened." The problem is we rarely see any OP respond to such a comment in the close reason. Let's see how your idea is implemented. I am not against your idea.
    – user140086
    Mar 11, 2016 at 15:51
  • Strenuously disagree with the premises here. If you're going to throw some poor neophyte into a maze of arbitrational beaureaucracy, it behooves you to at least show them the beginning of the red tape you expect them to follow. This isn't "feeding the bear", it's common courtesy. The aim should be lowering barriers to entry, not the opposite: "build up more fences" is elitist, user-hostile nonsense, seeing new users as "the enemy/bear", rather than something to be welcomed. Mar 14, 2016 at 18:57
  • @DewiMorgan I am not sure how long you have been a member of Stack Exchange and how much you know about how it works on English Language and Usage. We have English Language Learners which is exclusively for learners. This site is not for learners. You get that? Spend more time here and see how it works. We are swamped with low-quality questions and we find it very difficult to manage them.
    – user140086
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:00
  • Hi, I'm a new user. If you assume that all new users are just ELLers, then it's you who have something you don't get: you consider me a bear. This would be why I disagree with your viewpoint so strenuously. Mar 14, 2016 at 19:02
  • @DewiMorgan It is up to you. Don't judge a book by its cover. All right?
    – user140086
    Mar 14, 2016 at 19:03
  • Hi @DewiMorgan, glad you could join us. This feature request hopes to address two issues simultaneously. You've picked up on the first, which is that new users should be shown the beginning of the red tape - that's only fair. The second is that too much jst-gimme-de-answerz can be distasteful to some. According to your public user profile, you've been around ELU longer than I have, but I'm glad you're keeping an eye onthe needs of the new :) . It's always tricky to balance concerns, and I invite you to visit the other answer to share your thoughts as the proposed process is being drafted.
    – Lawrence
    Mar 15, 2016 at 2:42
  • @Lawrence Thanks! Already upvoted other answer and Q, but had nothing further to add to them. Compared to the luminaries around here, I consider myself new still: I've little understanding of the red tape hoops, so greatly appreciate this proposal. This answer comes across to me (and I may be misreading it?) as saying we shouldn't follow this proposal as it adds a valuable wall that forces newbie questioners to become fit and able to survive in the wild, or else dump their bodies on ELL as not fit to live. I try never to downvote without an explanatory comment, so left one. Mar 15, 2016 at 3:39

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