One more tickle to see if we can move forward. I was hoping suggesting a strawman for the wording of the expanded off-topic reasons would be helpful, but maybe it wasn't a good idea for this format.


I'm not sure how to either move this forward or close it out as not worth pursuing, so I'm going to tickle it and see what happens. I think we need to find some consensus on the points below, but I'm not sure who can "pull the trigger". I'm a little worried that I quashed all discussion by mentioning how distracting some of the discussion is in the current links.

  1. Do we want to make a thread for our custom off-topic reasons?
  2. If so, are we satisfied* with the content in the answers here?
  3. Who can change the current "for more information" links to point to the new detailed guidance and how do we ask them to do it?
  4. Do we want the answers to remain community wikis in the new thread, or should we make them more static?

* I really wanted to say "content with the content", but thought it would be kind of a jerky thing to do to folks whose first language isn't English.

So I was poking around Workplace.SE and I clicked on a link in one of their custom off-topic reasons and was directed to the appropriate answer in https://workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/q/2693/26699.

I think this handling of custom off-topic reasons is pretty great. Each answer has an explanation of why posts closed with the reason are off-topic and a detailed explanation of how to bring the question back on topic, and each is a community wiki that can be tweaked without a lot of hassle if needed. Because the explanations are all in one thread, folks that have had a question closed get exposed to all of the advice for keeping questions on topic if they choose to scroll around.

Some of our links go to places that have a lot of answers and discussion in the comments that might be a little distracting for a poster trying to figure out exactly how to edit their question, for example: Policy for questions that are entirely answerable with a dictionary.

And some don't explain how it might be possible to bring the question on topic and just suggest other places to ask it, for example: Alternative websites for proofreading

I think it would be useful to have one thread for our custom off-topic reasons with an answer for each reason that goes into detail on why questions get closed for that reason and how a question might be edited to be on-topic. I think making them a community wiki is pretty brilliant, but I know the reputation thresholds for beta sites is somewhat lower for certain privileges, so I understand why we might not want to do that.

I don't mean to suggest that, for example, all proof-reading questions could be on-topic with editing, but I think that we could provide better editing guidance than we are currently, and that a thread with a single answer per custom close reason would be a better way to communicate with learners.

What do you think?

There seems to be some interest, so I'm going to add some community wiki answer stubs that we can use to work out what we might want the explanations to say if we decide to go ahead with such a thread. I don't mean for this thread to be the thread I'm suggesting.

  • I like this idea... not sure why no one has commented other than to vote. Perhaps having the close reasons in the answer spaces is confusing... but I think it's good and would be useful. It would be great to implement this.
    – Catija
    Jul 27, 2015 at 21:09
  • @Catija All of the answers are community wikis, so feel free to expand or tweak them. The "proofreading" topic seems a little thin but work has been sucking the life out of me lately and I'm uninspired :)
    – ColleenV
    Jul 27, 2015 at 22:57

3 Answers 3


Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.

Questions asking for an overall review or correction of something you've written, like "Please correct these sentences for me", are better asked on a site designed for proofreading. Lang-8 is a website where you can write a journal post in English, and have your entry corrected by native speakers of English.

If there is a specific part or aspect of what you've written that you're unsure about (for example, "I'm not sure which verb tense I should use in this sentence"), we can help with that.

If you do ask a specific, answerable question like this, answerers and commenters will often (though not always) include any observations they make about unrelated errors in the text.


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.

Adding detail to your question helps us give you high quality answers. Because comments are temporary, it is a good idea to edit your question to include any additional details that might have come up during a discussion in the comments.

1) Provide as much context as possible. If you are asking about something you've read that was confusing, tell us, where did you find this snippet? In a journal? On a blog? On an English test? In a commercial? In a new book? In a very old book? Don't make the people answering your question scour the internet, scrambling to find the context of the phrase or expression. Instead, paste it into your question, along with the surrounding text. If possible, include a link, so others can easily find and read the entire text.

2) Explain why you are confused. Questions like, "Is this correct?" are hard to answer when it's not abundantly clear why you think there might be an error. Do you suspect the wrong preposition is being used? Do you think the word order is wrong? Do you think a word is being used improperly, or outside its scope of dictionary definitions? When we understand why you're confused, we can focus our explanations on that specific aspect instead of giving you a more general answer.

3) Show your research. Wondering if something is common? Tell us what you found when you did a Google search… and what search terms you used. Confused about a word? Paste the dictionary definition, so everyone knows you've already looked the word up. Including a definition serves a few different purposes: (a) it shows you've put forth a good-faith effort to answer your own question, (b) it keeps people from mistakenly assuming the meaning of a word is obvious, and (c) it saves time for people answering your question, because they don't have to spend time writing things that you already know while they are composing their answers.


Basic questions on spelling, meaning or pronunciation are off-topic as they should be answered using a dictionary.

Please look up the word or phrase you are asking about in an online dictionary before writing your question. If the information you find isn't helpful, explain why it didn't help. For example, maybe the definitions you found were confusing, or it wasn't clear which definition applied in the context you're asking about.

Including a definition serves several different purposes:

  1. it shows you've put forth a good-faith effort to answer your own question,
  2. it keeps people from mistakenly assuming the meaning of a word is obvious, and most importantly,
  3. it saves time for people answering your question, because they don't have to spend time writing things that you already know while they are composing their answers.

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