Before adding a votable answer to the on-topic-off-topic question I figured some discussion would be appropriate.

Are typography questions on-topic or off-topic?

  • 2
    It seems pretty clear to me the first question was about [the history of] typography, so it can reasonably be classed as off-topic. The second was effectively looking for the word descender which seems a reasonable question here. – FumbleFingers Apr 1 '11 at 19:03

Typography, as a subject, shouldn’t in my opinion be considered on-topic. But it has some overlap with EL&U, and questions within that overlap should be allowed.

In particular, both the linked questions are — while certainly related to typography — also reasonably related to EL&U. They’re about the alphabet, and how it’s used in English, and how it came to be used the way it is today. That seems fairly on-topic to me.


Seems to me that typography-related questioners should be pointed towards the Graphic Design StackExchange site (I'd guess that they can't be migrated while it's in Area 51); matters of typography are part and parcel of the graphic design field.

The "what kind of questions can I ask here" question in the Graphic Design SE FAQ specifically indicates that such questions are on-topic there:

  • Graphic arts
    Examples: logo design, fonts & typography, visual communication

Though I've seen people suggest the questioner try the Writers StackExchange site, it's at least as poor a fit as EL&U and probably even worse.


The two questions tagged are about the usage of capitalization in nouns, and how blockquoted texts should be formatted.
The first question is not about typography, and the tag should be removed. The second question correctly tagged with and it should probably be closed.

The question that could be closed is old; I don't think it is worth closing it after so much time.


The first question should not have been closed unless letterforms and letter shapes are all off-topic as those letterforms predate typography. They derive from Roman cursive with the funny a possibly being a direct holdover from uncial.

  • 2
    The appearance of the 'a' glyph has nothing to do with the English language; hence, off-topic. The 'descender' question, on the other hand, was asking for an English word for a particular concept, so is on-topic, but is probably not really a typography question. – Marthaª Aug 4 '11 at 22:16
  • 1
    How is the first question not about written English? Would you say that questions about proper usage of the ampersand are off-topic? Can you show me where in the faq this is reflected? – user179700 Aug 4 '11 at 22:38
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    A general guideline is, could you ask the same question in a different language and get pretty much the same answer? If yes, it's not an English question. For example, the lowercase 'a' glyph has the same two shapes in any language that uses the Latin alphabet; its development had nothing to do with (and in fact largely predates) the English language. – Marthaª Aug 4 '11 at 22:53
  • Thank you for the well-thought out and understandable answer. Wouldn’t this principal also foul many questions about etymology and grammar? Can you provide me with a specific link to this general guideline? – user179700 Aug 4 '11 at 23:18
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    I don't know where I saw this guideline (I don't think I came up with it myself...), so no link, sorry. I don't see how etymology or grammar questions could fall afoul of it: both of those subjects are always specific to a particular language. – Marthaª Aug 5 '11 at 2:11
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    @Martha Borrowed words seem little different than borrowed glyphs. In addition, some grammar rules deriving from Latin or older languages. If the question can be answered and if it clearly pertains to the English language or usage then it shouldn’t take some bit of esoteric information to rule it off-topic. Seems best, I just bite the bullet and post the question in a format I believe should be allowed and see if others agree. Thank you. – user179700 Aug 5 '11 at 3:18
  • EL&U is not the site for any questions that are asked in English; it's a site about English language and its usage. If I am asking about a term used in mathematics, then it's not a question for EL&U; if I ask "How do you call an object-oriented class that is parent of another class?" I am not asking a question for EL&U even if the answer is an English word. – kiamlaluno Aug 6 '11 at 9:51
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    @Kiamlaluno I don't see where anyone has suggested anything about 'questions that are asked in English'. English is written and spoken. For myself, how English is written seems on-topic. Would, ‘Why is ‘g’ in gnat unstressed be off-topic? Or why are there two common ways to pronounce ‘tomato’ off-topic? Those seem similar to the question of ‘why does the ‘a’ in written English have two commonly different shapes? – user179700 Aug 6 '11 at 23:51
  • I am saying that EL&U is not a "catch all" Q&A site. If you ask why the a is shaped as it is, it's not a question for EL&U. – kiamlaluno Aug 7 '11 at 3:58
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    @user179700: here, try this: add "in [insert random language]" to the end of your sample sentences. "Why is the 'g' in gnat not pronounced in Swahili?" "Why are there two ways to say tomato in Hungarian?" Both of those are utter nonsense. But "Why are there two ways to write a lowercase 'a' in German" is perfectly sensible, and what's more, the answer will be the same as it would be for English, or French, or Dutch, or any other language that uses the Latin alphabet. – Marthaª Aug 8 '11 at 15:44

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