It seems that naming is off-topic and single words requests are on-topic on this site.

How do I identify whether I'm asking a naming question or I have a single word request?

  • 2
    Mostly that seems to be just a question of how it's phrased. Pure naming requests are usually so specific, that they will almost never help someone else in the future.
    – Helmar
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 21:04
  • 5
    One way of looking at it: word requests simply seek help finding the established, existing names for a concept. Naming questions want an invention.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 21:35
  • IMO, the difference between "naming" and "word or phrase request" is so vague that it's troublesome that naming is considered off topic. For example, here is a question that asks for a word within a name for something. Someone is saying the question is off topic, but to me, it seems a valid question, because the OP is asking for a word within a name, which will eventual let him/her name something. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:19
  • @MetaEd, in that case, perhaps the "off topic" description list on the help page should reflect that (.i.e. no inventing names for things). Otherwise, the many users on the site who strongly desire things to be black and white will attempt to flag posts as off-topic that are not, simply because the word "name" appears somewhere, or because the end result of a question will lead to a name for something, as in this example. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:21

2 Answers 2


If you're able to follow the following steps, your question is most likely on-topic:

  1. You have a sentence where you'd use the word. (And not some weaselly sentence like "I should call it _____.") If you're able to come up with a sentence but it sounds tortured or weird, you may not want to post the question.
  2. You think that there's an existing word or phrase that covers the meaning you're looking for. (Questions that give a list of five unrelated character traits and ask for a word that expresses all of them don't tend to do well, for example.)
  3. You don't have too many unnatural restraints. Trying to enforce things like "must sound creative" or "must be shorter than 8 characters" generally doesn't go over too well.

In addition, you should check out the guidelines in the tag wiki.

These aren't really special rules; they should apply to any SWR.


Unfortunately, I can't think of a simple criterion that can be used to determine if a question is "naming" or not.

The class of name requests that seems most solidly off-topic to me is composed of questions about naming a company, product or brand. These are off-topic for several good reasons: brand names are not necessarily English words, there are many factors to evaluate when choosing a brand name that English-language experts are unlikely to know about, and often the choice between different potential names is primarily opinion-based.

However, the "naming" close reason also applies to some questions asking for words to use in programming (such as your question here: Automatically advance to the next step). The Help Center literally says "Naming, including naming programming variables/classes," but some people extend that somewhat to questions that just involve using a word in a context related to programming.

I don't actually think such questions are inherently off-topic for a site like this (and in fact, that question is now open; I don't know if it was closed in the past, or if you asked another question more recently that's been closed and deleted).

The problem with questions of this type was that people often found them uninteresting and prone to being unanswerable. There's a relevant answer here: Are single word requests always welcomed questions? Apparently, we also used to get a lot of them (mentioned here: English Language & Usage programming variable/classes rule question). So the Help Center mentions naming programming variables as off-topic specifically to discourage this type of question, and this is also used as a close reason by people who don't like specific questions that fall into this category.

I would give the following advice to someone considering asking a question about a word to use in programming:

  • Be sure to follow all of the guidelines for single word requests.
  • In particular, try to show your research to avoid being perceived as "lazy." If you can think of any words that have a similar meaning to what you want, mention them and explain as best as you can why they don't satisfy you. (I think it was helpful that you did this in your "auto-advance" question.)
  • Although you should include context and an example sentence and present a clear "problem" that you're facing, it doesn't actually have to be the same problem that you're trying to solve in real life. You could try to explain the concept using an example that is not directly in a programming context, even if programming is where you plan to use the word. This is a bit "iffy", I guess, but I think it's fine, as long as you're willing to accept whatever answers you get that fit the question you asked. If you would be dissatisfied with an answer that has the correct meaning, but that for some reason or another is not useable in your specific programming context, you should not ask the question here.
  • This last one is very subjective, but: is your question likely to be "interesting" to other people who aren't facing the same programming problem? It's true that this is a Q&A site, and its main purpose is providing answers, not entertaining the users. But word-request questions are kind of marginally accepted, and interesting questions get more leeway.
  • 1
    Example of Advice Point 3: "Not-empty" set. Unfortunately the edit there wasn't in time to save it, but the rewritten question is on topic. Generally, name questions aren't, because you can name a variable Susan or Joseph and it will work just as well as ItemsInMyBasket.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 22:30
  • If there's not a simple criterion for naming vs single word requests, how can naming be said to be off topic? Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:15
  • @KatherineLockwood: Basically, naming is off topic because people say it is off-topic. Some people decided at some point that we shouldn't accept naming questions, and got it put in the Help Center. There are practical problems with figuring out what this means, but it's an established principle of how some people vote.
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:18
  • 2
    @sumelic I make an argument in a comment above (by the question) that perhaps the "no naming" rule should be modified to "no inventing names for things that don't already have names," which makes sense, but would have to have a lot of examples to make it clear. I have no expectation of change; I just looked at this question because I encountered a comment that a user requested to close what seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable question because the end result of an answer would be a name. Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:25
  • @KatherineLockwood: That would make sense to me. I'm not sure that I agree with the policy; my main purpose for writing this answer was to explain what it covers and some steps people can take to avoid having their questions closed.
    – herisson
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 20:29

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