Of the three standard reasons offered for closing a question as off-topic, the third one is:

This question should include more details than have been provided here. Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question, or provide more context. See: Details, Please.

I have three objections to that:

  1. Lack of detail may make it a poor question, and maybe even an unanswerable question that is worthy of closure, but strictly speaking, it doesn't make the question off-topic.
  2. Rather, such questions should be closed as "unclear what you're asking", or possibly "too broad" or "primarily opinion-based", and those options already exist.
  3. Beta sites only get three standard off-topic reasons, and we're wasting one slot with this redundancy.

So, what should we replace that close reason with? The Help Center lists many kinds of questions that are off-topic. For example, questions for EL&U, questions for Writers, requests for learning resources, …

  • I sort of agree. However, I think I understand why "Details, Please" happened. During that time, I remember that a lot of questions was posted with a title such as "What does this mean?", "What is this 'for'?", and so on, and there is only one example sentence in the body of the question (usually posted as is, no formatting). Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 10:48
  • (cont.) As for what could replace that close reason, in addition to existing reasons listed on eh Help Center page, I think I've recently seen more and more technical English questions, and I'm not sure if we should treat them as on-topic on ELL (e.g. "What does ROS mean?", "Usage of the two “over”", which must be read in the context of finance), and I'd like to hear opinion from others about this. (In my opinion, we should treat these special English questions the same way, be it programming-related, medical, legal, business, finance, etc.) Commented Sep 10, 2014 at 10:55

2 Answers 2


I agree. The proper close reason when a user does not provide enough information is

unclear what you're asking
Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

Customizing the "off topic" close reason for this use case is misleading at best. At a glance, most users will see Off Topic and simply move on to another site.

It's actually a bit of misuse of that feature to classify those questions as "off topic". Using the wrong close reason makes it somewhat difficult for the database crunchers to know exactly what is happening on this site. And what if (hypothetically) we treated unclear questions a bit differently than those that do not belong (like contacting users to request an update — hey, great idea!). That would no longer work.

I would suggest removing that close reason from the custom list.


Remember, "closing" a question really puts it on hold. The O.P. can add the details that are missing, and then the question will get reopened. That's how it's supposed to happen.

I agree that "off-topic" isn't really the most fitting place to put this, but the SE doesn't allow too much flexibility in how these preset reasons are arranged and categorized.

  • 1
    I like the Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question part of that close reason. Questions like "what's the difference between supper and dinner?" are obviously answerable with a search and off-topic, but often a question that is unclear becomes clearer when you see where the poster has looked to try to answer it themselves. Also, I think encouraging posters to revise to include some research would lead to higher quality questions. Is it possible to add that language to the "unclear what you're asking" reason for ELL?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 21:03
  • @Colleen - That's a good suggestion. I'll look at that with the mod team.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 21:09

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