10 of 16
Minor editing for fluency
  • 38.5k
  • 17
  • 32

When a question is closed, tell them the procedure for reopening it

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

[About reopening questions](http://meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/7839/142322)

NOTE 1: There has been some discussion about the merits of this proposal. The core of this feature request is to give the OP of a closed question some transparency about the process of reopening their question. This is an invitation to (re)engage to get the answer they're seeking. It also helps reviewers. Having a stated reason to reopen helps reduce the guesswork, frustration and inefficiency of each reviewer having to piece the clues together from edit trails and comment trails.
Note 2: There are many ways to do this (single meta question, separate meta questions, edit-trigger only, chat, comments to original, etc). The update above links to a trial of one implementation of the concept, but all avenues are still available.


There are many questions deemed low-quality (LQQ) on this site. We also want to make the site inviting to people who potentially have something to contribute. I'd like to suggest that we can address both issues to some extent if we post or link the preferred reopening procedure when a question is closed.


Here are two examples that were closed for lack of research. I'm not asking for their reopening, just pointing out the kinds of questions I'm talking about. They aren't even particularly good examples, but they did unknowingly kick off this request (see the link to chat above):

What is the exact definition of the expression 'A Rat's Chance'? [on hold]

What does the idiom “to make something of a meal out of something” mean? [on hold]

The rep counts (1 and 4 at last check) of the posters suggest that they are new to ELU. To a visitor, I'd imagine it's a little confronting to find that the community deems one's question to be unworthy of attention. On the other hand, ELU regulars want to keep up the quality of questions.

Current Procedure

If a question is deemed to be posted in ignorance or carelessness, the usual approach is to close it, resulting in a notice like the following:

put on hold as off-topic by [names of those who voted to close] 8 hours ago
This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit [link to editing page] the question.

The notice makes sense from the point of view of ELU regulars, but the one it needs to make sense to is the OP, who may be new to ELU. Although it links to useful resources, it doesn't really address the natural inclination of an OP to simply walk away once they see what amounts to a rejection letter. In that sense, it doesn't promote quality or friendliness. In particular, even if the OP edits the post to fit the rules, they may still wonder how they are to get the question reopened.

If an OP asks for the reopening procedure, they would be told the currently accepted procedure, which is to make their case on the meta site.

Note: It's true that upon editing, the question automatically appears in the reopen review queue, but the intent of this suggestion is to improve OP behaviour, not reviewer behaviour. With the question closed, the onus should be on the OP (not reviewers) to demonstrate that their edits are worth reconsidering. It isn't appropriate to insert that justification into the text of the question, so we need somewhere else to house the justification.


Voting to close LQQs is objectively an invitation to improve the question - closed questions can be reopened. Invitations should sound like "here's where to go and what to do" rather than "go away until you improve".

The proposal is to tell the OP on the close notice the reopening procedure that we'd advise anyway if they asked. The onus is then on the OP to edit their question to acceptable standards, and then make their case that their question has met said standards.

Here's the gist of what I'm suggesting should be on the notice:

After you have edited your question, you may make your case on [link to where they can make their case] to request that your question be reopened. Your question will be reopened once it gains 5 reopen votes. [Link to a sample reopen-request, steps to follow, standard resources, etc. on one page.]

There are several candidates for where we direct them to make their case:

  1. new meta question (current policy);
  2. new dedicated 'appeals' chat room (avoid smearing the LQQ problem to meta); or
  3. a single meta 'question' with each appeal taking the form of an 'answer'.

I suggest option 3. It avoids the problem of LQQ-smearing as well as the administrative overheads associated with maintaining a dedicated appeals chat room. The normal processes will bring up the appeals 'question' whenever an appeal is made.

What is the worst case this is likely to cause? Probably that OP behaviour doesn't change at all. I'd say the improvement to the quality of our ELU process (greater transparency of the reopen process) is justification enough to expand the boiler-plate notices and put up with a single dummy meta question.


Getting LQQ posters to improve their own questions helps to both build a better site and be welcoming to good company. I think at least some of those new to the site would be willing to give the group norms a better hearing if they knew there was a way to get their own questions a better hearing.

By self-selection, these are the visitors likely to contribute to the quality of the site, and are precisely the ELU users we should welcome with open arms.

  • 38.5k
  • 17
  • 32