I've seen a few questions asking explicitly for single words, rather than phrases, which fit a certain description. Today, one popped up in the close queue. I saw this comment:
Single word requests are off-topic on ELL. We should focus on how to express something naturally, not how to express something within arbitrary game-like limits such as "the expression must be a single orthographic word".
However, this is the first time I've seen such a question closed for this reason. (Open examples: 1 2 3 4 5). I voted to close because I agreed with the comment's remarks (we shouldn't be limiting ourselves arbitrarily to one word on this site), but I now find myself rethinking it; likely I will end up rescinding my vote.
Often with these sorts of questions, the answer is there's just no one single word for this, here are some phrases, and usually askers will be receptive to this. I've looked at a number of these questions and many parenthetically remark that a short phrase would be OK also, or accept an answer which suggests phrases, etc.
Is this really a reason to close questions? A question which is otherwise fine is now off topic because the asker requested the greatest amount of brevity possible? I don't think this is a reasonable approach, since:
- The question is still perfectly answerable; there's no single word for X is a proper answer.
- Learners might not understand English well enough (or may simply have incorrect expectations) to understand that many concepts can't be adequately expressed with a single word in English.
- It's better to put information about the failings of single word expressions in an answer than a close reason. This allows for explanation and suggestion of proper phrasal alternatives, rather than just shutting the question down.
- Single word requests are on topic at ELU; we can migrate there rather than simply closing (assuming that we edit the question first, check for duplicates, etc.).