Recently there was a question that attracted a lot of answers:

Is there a word for a person who can't do things right? Or can't handle things, and ends up messing up?

text of question: "I just wanted to know, so I can learn more about words that might describe as me. If you know some words or something related about those of my question please answer it. I would be glad that you'd help me. Thanks"

It was nicely coming along.

image of "nice answer" badge

Now, however, it is deleted. I asked why this happened and received the stock answer it was deleted because of being off-topic.

I'm questioning this order of events. Why remove something generating quite lively and interesting input so late, after much happening, and why remove, not just put on hold?

What are the decision points here? I'm... disappointed as this stands.

EDIT after the answers received.
Good answers both. But still disappointed. Taking this further here.


2 Answers 2


Why the question was judged unsuitable for this site

This question did not meet the criteria for single word requests, and the original poster never edited it or returned to it in the approximately five days since it was closed (closed Aug 18 at 13:59, deleted Aug 24 at 1:58).

The question, stripped of fluff, basically consists of this:

Is there a word for a person who can't do things right? Or can't handle things, and ends up messing up? I wanted to learn more about words that might describe me, or something related to my question.

When the question was closed, a notification was posted that explained the close reason and linked to the tag information for for single word requests:

This tag is for questions seeking a single word that fits a meaning. To ensure your question is not closed as off-topic, please be specific about the intended use of the word. YOU MUST INCLUDE A SAMPLE SENTENCE DEMONSTRATING HOW THE WORD WOULD BE USED

There was no sample sentence. In my opinion, a sample sentence isn't actually necessary if the question is clear enough otherwise, but this question was definitely not clear.

Use this tag for questions that are about finding a single word to fit a meaning. Describe the intended meaning, its connotation—is it laudatory or derogative, and/or context in as much detail as you can.

There was some description of the desired meaning. It's likely the desired connotation was negative, but it's not entirely clear, since the original poster wants to describe himself using the word. There was not much detail and pretty much no context.

Questions that show no research are likely to be closed.

There was no research.

Question Checklist

Before making a single-word request, ask yourself the following questions (taken from this meta topic about good request questions):

  • Does the question describe exactly in what context you want to use a single word?
  • Does the question specify the criteria for which the suggested word will be accepted?
  • Does the question list which words you didn't like?
  • Does the question show that you searched for a suitable word before asking the question?

The answer to all of these is "no."

Why it was deleted even though it had high-scoring answers

In general, if a question is bad enough to be close-worthy, it's bad enough to be deleted.

There are different opinions about the circumstances where "Bad questions can lead to good answers." (For what it's worth, I mainly agree with MrHen's answer to that question.)

Supposedly, this site's mission is to be a "library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage." Single word requests, with their tendency towards single-word answers, have always been an uneasy fit with this goal, even though they constitute one of the largest categories of questions on this site. Jeff Atwood's answer to the preceding question specifically mentions that good questions make it easier to write good (=long, detailed) answers.

The requirement for citations in answers and the character limit does provide a kind of "lower bar" for answers to any single word request, but its difficult to get much detail beyond that without more detail in the question. For this question, the top three answers were essentially just words and quoted dictionary definitions.


(This answer simply states the general principles. I didn't vote to close or delete the question, so I'll leave it to those who did to confirm.)

Whether a question is suitable for the site is decided at the time it is put on hold, i.e. when voting to close a question. Those votes don't immediately lead to deletion. Questions are put on hold so that the OP can address specific deficiencies. If the issues are adequately addressed, the questions can, and should, be reopened promptly - with a nudge at Meta if required.

The primary 'decision point' for deleting a closed question is then whether the stated reason for its closure has been adequately addressed. If it hasn't, the onus is on those who want to keep it open to explain why the reason for closure was invalid.

In this case, the revision trail suggests that the OP has ignored the request in the notice to edit the question, as well as the request in comments for more information. As such, the decision to delete simply ratifies the decision to close the question.

Note that at Stack Exchange, all questions and answers are freely editable by anyone with at least 2000 rep and, subject to review, freely editable by those with less rep. It doesn't matter who edited the question - if the reasons for closure are adequately addressed by the edits, anyone may note this on Meta and request that the question be reopened.

  • Correct, but would that imply that all questions on ELU that have been put "on hold" and still are (quite a few I guess) should be deleted?
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:31
  • @Josh61: Yes, assuming they should have been put on hold in the first place. The questions that shouldn't have been put on hold should be reopened of course. The difficult part is distinguishing these two categories.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:33
  • 3
    @Josh61 Not necessarily. This answer only explains why the burden of proof lies with those who want to have this question undeleted or reopened. Reviewers have on occasion not deleted closed questions, because of their historic value. I'd imagine that there are also questions that reviewers consider have sufficient value to retain even though they are closed. (I.e. disallow further answers, but keep what's already been posted.)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:35
  • I think we are walking on very thin line regarding what should be done away with and what not..possibly dangerous.
    – user66974
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:37
  • @Josh61 There is an argument that the site's charter, especially the part regarding every question about English language and usage, calls for a looser policy. Clearly, there should still be boundaries, otherwise we might as well just have one Stack Exchange community instead of ELU, SO, etc. I'm interested to hear where you propose to (re)draw the line. (I'm not sure whether comments are a suitable venue for this discussion; if not, we can use / open a chat room to discuss this.)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 7:47
  • @Lawrence: with single word requests, the main disqualifying factor in terms of the charter is probably the "detailed answers" part. But the charter is just a summary of the goals of the site. I wouldn't say it establishes site policy.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:03
  • @suməlic Fair enough, though the level of detail that is sufficient does depend on what the question requires - as evidenced by other (non SWR) short answers that have been well-received. Regarding policy, the detail is what we're now discussing (recognising, of course, the mountain of historical discussion that already exists). Arguably, the summary provides a little more guidance than your comment might suggest.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:11
  • @Lawrence: The reason I would discount the charter as a source of guidance for policy on question closure is because taking "every question" literally would directly contradict other material on the site, such as the Help Center page on question closure ("each community decides which specific topics are and are not allowed on their site."). Summaries often make general or technically incorrect statements about things that are explained in more detail in other places.
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:16
  • But anyway, you never said the charter was binding in the first place, you only said "there is an argument," and I'm not really in disagreement with you about that. I just don't find that argument convincing on its own :)
    – herisson
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:19
  • 1
    @suməlic (with reference to the earlier of your most recent pair of comments above) Indeed, hence my invitation to Josh61 to expand on his views. Nevertheless, looking at the track record of closures over the years, there has been a tendency to become ever stricter (albeit somewhat less so in recent weeks). People from both, shall we say, the strict and the open camps have been painfully labeled and hounded at various times. (cont'd)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:33
  • @suməlic (cont'd) I think Josh61's comment is timely. It's hard to be dogmatic about something like English, but I'd support a call for the community to talk about this. Regarding your point about the charter, I'd state it differently, but we're in broad agreement. I'd say that it's binding because there's little else of relevance that's unchangeable even by site mods, but there is scope for working out the specifics.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:33
  • @suməlic Should we start a chat room?
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:33
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:36
  • @suməlic Done. :)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:40
  • @Josh61 I'd like to invite you to expand on your views in the chat room for this answer.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 8:42

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