I was prompted to ask this by suggestions on this question: developer on TN visa The question is about a kind of US work visas specific to Canadian and Mexican people. The question makes sense to people familiar with this type of visa. However, people not familiar with the visa can’t understand the question. Some people suggested that the question should be written to be understandable to everyone.

I note that making questions universally understandable is not common practice here. Many questions here are specific to software development and the don’t explain terms such as pull requests, unit tests or scrum. Location specific questions often mention terms like OSHA or relieving letters without explication.

Is there an expectation that questions be written in a way that anyone can understand them?

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    Pretty much agree with Masked Man's answer below, but note that you could have simply linked the wiki for "TN" and probably wouldn't have gotten any complaints. Your question looks hastily written which is arguably the main problem, not the subject matter.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 19:02
  • I don't think it's too much to ask to expand the abbreviation (which I seem to recall someone asking on there). I mean, it's only 2 words after all (or 1 word and another abbreviation, but close enough) (or 4 or 8 words). Although that specific example may not be the best example of a useful expansion. That most likely wouldn't make the question answerable by more people, but at least it would minimise how much those people feel like outsiders. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 21:41

2 Answers 2


No, this should not be required. This is an international site, and people from all over the world should be able to get answers to their Workplace questions, without the additional burden of explaining their issue in a manner that people from other locations or other industries would understand.

Besides, exactly what are people from other locations going to do with that explanation? For example, I am from India, I don't know the TN visa rules. I cannot answer that question anyway, so I will leave it to someone who can.

The questions here are not part of a school test. Everyone doesn't need to attempt to answer every question. We are working together as a community to provide good answers. We should cover each other's blind spots, and not get into a contest to see who answers maximum questions.

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    "I cannot answer that question anyway, so I will leave that to someone who understands the TN visa better than I do. " - I'd like to highlight this part, as it is key to achieving things like How can we be more receptive to non-IT workplace questions?. If someone does not know the technical aspects asked in the question that person is most likely not fit to answer it anyways.
    – DarkCygnus Mod
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 18:41

We have a similar situation over on Mi Yodeya, where discussions of Jewish law can involve a lot of jargon, some of which is hard to translate into English or would require a lot of explanation. The policy we arrived at derives from one key point:

Will any English speaker who is interested in this content be able to understand what it means without additional research?

With these followup points:

  • Don't use non-English terms gratuitously. If there's an English term that conveys your meaning smoothly, just use it. (But there won't always be one.)

  • If you use a non-English or specialized term that your readers might not know, define it the first time or link to a definition.

  • Terms that anyone who may be interested in the content would know are fine by themselves.

That last bullet, and "who is interested in this content" in the summary, are key points.

I suggest we take a similar approach here. According to such a policy, we don't have to explain every detail, every technical matter involving visa types or relieving letters or Dutch security clearances or whatever, but a question must contain enough information for people interested in that topic to understand it. It's still better to link to a reference or definition when possible, but you don't need to explain the whole US visa system to ask your question about Canadian work permits.

I think this is more or less what we do now, but as far as I know we've never codified it.

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