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One of our close reasons currently reads as follows (based on this meta post):

Real questions have answers. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here.

I admit I was one of the people who upvoted it more than two years ago when it was proposed, and the moderator team implemented it. But every time I see it on a question, a part of me thinks "gosh, that's not very nice". In the very first sentence we malign the question, calling it not real. Yes the linked blog post says that, but the blog post puts it in context. Here it's just sitting there.

Can we improve the wording of this close reason? Especially the initial sentence, "Real questions have answers."

This is not a duplicate of Comment re the "real questions have answers" close reason. That question asks about the scope of the reason, asking whether a particular question should be closed this way. My question is about how we present this close reason. I'm not asking for changes to what we would close under it.

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    Related: meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/q/3138/16 Its kind of a dupe actually but since this is meta I have no objection to revisiting it since it has been over a year. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 10 '16 at 17:38
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    @Chad thanks. I did see that one while searching, but it seemed to be more about the scope itself, while what I'm asking here is if we can explain it differently. I'm not trying to change what's closable under that reason; I'm just hoping we can be a little nicer in telling people why we're closing questions. – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 18:39
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    My initial thought was no we do not need to, but the more I think about it I think it may contribute to the culture that it is ok to be blunt nearly to the point of being rude. After all look at that close reason. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 10 '16 at 18:45
  • Since this topic got brought up, I want to readdress the same question for the advice on what to do close description. I think a year ago we came to a consensus that it should be changed and some good ideas were put out, but no action was ever taken. – David K Aug 10 '16 at 19:14
  • The whole text of the close reason reads as somewhat snarky from my perspective. We're basically accusing OP of being a whiner. I agree this could be improved, but I think you need to target more than just the first sentence. The whole explanation could be worded to be nicer. – Lumberjack Aug 10 '16 at 20:55
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    I don't have enough rep here to VTC. Is "Unclear what you are asking" one of the choices? If so, we might consider doing away with this close reason altogether and using "Unclear what you're asking" instead. – Lumberjack Aug 10 '16 at 21:01
  • @Lumberjack I made an edit; we should look at the whole thing, and especially the first, bold sentence but the rest too. Yes, "unclear what you're asking" is a standard close reason. If you propose that in an answer people will be able to vote. – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 21:04
  • @DavidK - Feel free to ask that question. I have never been happy with the wording of that close reason. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 11 '16 at 15:03
  • @Chad The question was asked a year ago in the link I provided. Is it worth re-asking and linking to the old question? – David K Aug 11 '16 at 15:05
  • @DavidK absolutely. worst case scenerio the community is completely against the idea. Even that is something good to know but in this case I suspect it would be well received. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 11 '16 at 15:07
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    I'm too tired to actually suggest a wording myself, but could I advocate for getting rid of click here? Use meaningful link text. Always. – TRiG Aug 12 '16 at 15:10
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How about a bit of rephrasing

Questions require a goal that we can address. Rather than explaining the difficulties of your situation, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here.

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    To me that bold "real questions have answers" is a big part of the problem. (That's what I meant by the first sentence. Sorry if that wasn't clear.) Can you think of a way to recast this somehow, still keeping the link? – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 18:32
  • @MonicaCellio How about that? – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 10 '16 at 18:54
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    Thanks, that's better! – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 18:56
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    @chad. I .like it – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 11 '16 at 15:31
  • This is now implemented. – Monica Cellio Aug 23 '16 at 2:23
  • @MonicaCellio You may want to edit the actions taken into the OP as well. Comments are easy to miss. – Lilienthal Aug 25 '16 at 7:45
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How about:

Questions must have a constructive goal. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here.

Could also replace "constructive" with another word, like "definable" or "addressable".

  • Would you consider "Questions must have a constructive goal" for the opening phrase? – Monica Cellio Aug 10 '16 at 19:18
  • @MonicaCellio, yeah, that works too. I can edit that in. My main suggestion here was the use of the word "goal" to indicate a purpose other than ranting. – David K Aug 10 '16 at 19:56
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Let's consider two things:

"Real questions have answers!" Translates into "Your question is not a real one!" and is dismissive. Change it. There are excellent suggestions above.

The "on topic" page states "What should I do about an arrogant co-worker?" is not answerable, but "What can I say to my arrogant co-worker to ask her advice with my project?" is answerable.

These ARE THE SAME QUESTION!!! I'll refer you to an extraordinarily successful company and their take on "What time is the 3'oclock parade?"

A person asking "What should I do about an arrogant co-worker?" with discussion about a project, who is then told that is not a real question, then when they read that "What can I say to my arrogant co-worker to ask her advice with my project?" is answerable, then they are thinking WTF "how is that different?"

So, consider what the person is trying to ask, not their exact wording.

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Questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions. Rather than explaining why your situation is terrible, or why your boss/coworker makes you unhappy, explain what you want to do to make it better. For more information, click here.

Questions have answers.

The removal of the word "real" changes it from a value statement (your question/issue isn't real) to an observation (you're not asking a question).


Edit: Thanks @gnat for suggesting we use the final sentence of the Real Questions Have Answers blog post that the close reason derives from and references.

  • removal of "real" feels surprisingly smooth. But "questions have answers" sounds a bit abstract. How about borrowing a little clarification from the article linked from that phrase? "Questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions" – gnat Aug 11 '16 at 21:41
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    @gnat, I like that both because it removes ambiguity and because it changes the response from the title of the article to the takeaway from the article. – Chris G Aug 11 '16 at 21:50

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