On a few occasions while going through the review queue, I've come across questions flagged as off-topic, usually for lack of research (such as this one) where I agree that it's off-topic but someone already posted an answer or answered it in the comments.

Considering at this point the OP basically got what they wanted even though it should have been closed rather than answered, is there really any point in voting to close it?

It seems to me that's potentially more hurtful than harmful, as the answer is already there and closing the question isn't likely to accomplish more at that point than preventing others with similar questions from finding these ones.

  • 2
    The posted answer should have been a comment, it would have helped the OP, and then the question could have been deleted. I mean if a hi-rep user answers this one, newcomers will think the question is on topic and will be puzzled as to why their questions are closed or put on hold. For crying out loud the answer was in a dictionary.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 1, 2016 at 14:43
  • I got momentarily confused thinking you were talking about this question and Andrew's answer. XD but yes, that's a great point. Apr 1, 2016 at 14:46
  • What @Mari-Lou said. The user who actually answered that question presumably works to a very broad definition of "On Topic", since he frequently posts early answers to questions that are subsequently closed. Apr 1, 2016 at 17:17
  • I'm curious as to who my three downvoters are; was this a bad question to ask in meta? Apr 1, 2016 at 18:14
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    No, this wasn't a bad question to ask in meta (it has 5 upvotes.) Downvotes in meta are different than on the main site. While they can mean this ought not even have been brought up, most often they simply mean "I disagree with you/do not support this idea." It's a way to cast a quick vote. The implication in your question is that certain low-quality questions shouldn't be closed because... I was not one of your downvoters because Andrew Leach's answer was available to vote on. But asking who your downvoters are and why is an exercise in futility (and with good reason, imo.) Apr 2, 2016 at 13:23
  • @medica That possibility did occur to me shortly after I posted that comment, and makes sense. Apr 2, 2016 at 13:35

2 Answers 2


Yes. Vote to close off-topic questions.

It sends the message that the question is off-topic and should not have been asked in its present form (or on the site at all).

It doesn't matter that there is an answer, whether that's an actual answer or in the comments. Often, the community tries to be helpful with poor questions, and answers-in-comments are not unusual for proof-reading requests, for example.

It won't prevent others from finding the question if they search — if they search. But an off-topic question is unlikely to be asked again anyway.

  • Thanks Andrew, I had a feeling that would be the consensus but as I'm relatively new to moderating the questions here I thought I'd open it up to debate to see how others feel about it. Apr 1, 2016 at 9:22

I agree with Andrew Leach's answer (close off-topic questions regardless of answers). This answer expands on his closing paragraph.

SE is about building an archive of expertly answered questions. There are three broad status levels: open, closed, and deleted. Between 3K and 10K rep, we can move questions between the first two.

  • Closing a question simply marks it as being of questionable relevance to the site. From the perspective of SE as an archive, however, this has little to no effect on search. Anyone can still view closed questions and their answers.

  • What closing does is feed into the deletion process, where higher rep users can take the question out of the repository altogether as far as generic searches are concerned.

I think your question is primary about the point of closing questions when it doesn't prevent the asker from getting an answer:

Considering at this point the OP basically got what they wanted even though it should have been closed rather than answered, is there really any point in voting to close it?

The fact is that we are a very diverse community. People find interest in all sorts of things that others don't. So people will answer questions that others find completely uninteresting. This may help the OP, or it may not. I don't think it's necessary to police this - if the question is so bad that it gets deleted, the answers and comments will also disappear. If the OP is helped in the process, that's between the answerer and the OP. It shouldn't factor into the decision to close or delete a question on grounds of relevance to ELU.

I suggest that the primary factor in reviewing questions for closure should be whether it is a good fit for ELU - that is, whether it is something that etymologists, linguists or English enthusiasts are likely to find interesting.

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    +1 for this answer. I understand the EL&U preference to close all questions that don't show adequate (or any) research, but I think such questions (and answers) should not be deleted unless they also have no prospective value to future site visitors. By retaining satisfactorily answered questions in closed form (so they remain searchable), rather than deleting them outright, we cover questions that someone else might have asked with supporting research, and thus avoid having the same question come up again and again as if it were a matter never before raised on the site.
    – Sven Yargs
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:24

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