The current "How to Ask" when creating questions is this:

Is your question about the workplace?

We prefer questions that can be answered, not just discussed.

Provide details. Share your research.

If your question is about this website, ask it on meta instead.

Sometimes there are abbreviations which are not understood by the general public. Given that the Workplace SE includes people of all types of work environments, it may be a good idea to add a hint about explaining or defining work-specific abbreviations. I noticed that several times, and my presumption is that people new to the site, who just want to ask a question, may not be aware of that.


  • In some sense it's a general rule of communication. But it may be more prevalent here than in most other SE sites, which are more specific. If people are using abbreviations on Aviation, it's ok because the people answering there would be able to understand them anyway. On Workplace SE however, the abbreviations rather take on the shape of the background plot. Sometimes they matter for the context, and then we don't know.

  • Is this an issue at all? Yes - people tend to ask in the comments for clarification.

  • Does this solve the issue? It's likely to alleviate it at least. Unless the list becomes too long in order to be read by people. The correlation is probably: The longer the text/list, the less likely it'll be read.

  • Is this a matter important enough to be added into the list? This I can not tell. Is this problem prevalent and relevant enough?

Possible Solution: Edit the 3rd line to:

Provide details. Share your research. Avoid abbreviations.

So, what's your take on this?

  • 3
    Seems reasonable to me. It took me a few ticks to figure out what SE meant here. Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 20:10
  • 3
    On the fence about this one. It's not a bad idea but there's something to be said for keeping the asking text concise in the (probably foolish) hope that people will actually read it. Unclear abbreviations do indeed come up here with some regularity but from what I've seen our community is quite good at editing in the unabbreviated form when it's potentially unclear.
    – Lilienthal Mod
    Commented Dec 7, 2019 at 23:09
  • Currently everything in the help center is specific to the platform and how things work here. General workplace abbreviations wouldn't really fit there, it especially doesn't seem relevant to "How to ask", the help center isn't very visible and most people don't ever go to the help center for any reason. It also doesn't seem like we have a particularly noteworthy problem with abbreviations (at least not workplace ones; we might have a slight problem with SE-specific ones like SE, OP, IPS, etc.). Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 17:18
  • If you want to add something like this, I would suggest creating a Meta post instead. It's not much more visible there, but it's still easy enough to link to, easier to edit, doesn't require mod or staff buy-in and doesn't (or shouldn't) distract from site rules. Commented Dec 8, 2019 at 17:24

2 Answers 2


No change is required.

  1. Only a subset of users read these warnings, help pages, etc. So adding this is unlikely to make a huge difference in the occurrence of unexplained abbreviations (and will just lead to similarly confused meta posts about "why can't I abbreviate CV" or other commonly known acronyms).

  2. There are a thousand ways to write an unclear question. Unexplained abbreviations is one, but is not near the top of the list of causes. We can't and shouldn't bulk up the guidance trying to head all of them off. Leave it simple and intervene/comment/VtC as necessary.

When someone does this, they usually have a bigger problem, which is that they are very in their own head and have no idea other workplaces are different from theirs. Abbreviations is a low on the list symptom of that problem, usually in conjunction with much more severe gaps in information provided (personally I'm on a quest to vote to close every single legal question that doesn't provide a location). Consider how to address this bigger problem, I'd support a good concise addition to the question guidance that could remind people to provide context in general.


I think more specifics in the "Provide details. Share your research." part could help.

Or prompting people for the sorts of info that is usually requested later, like jurisdiction commonly is. As long as there aren't too many things to prompt the person for.

I see this helping a little with people who don't realize that anyone seeing their post won't realize they're in (e.g.) Cameroon. but not doing much for people who won't read help anyway.

WRT (with regard to) abbreviations, I think avoiding them altogether isn't a great idea as that could make posts rather terse and awkward-reading for some.

Maybe a reminder about people not knowing that a certain acronym means before you post. (and info on the best way of embedding that info in posts.)

Or, as a gimmick, add a box next to the posting field which tries to guess any acronyms that are in the text box in caps. e.g. PTO -> ["power take off", "paid time off", "people transferring ownership"]

The idea being, that the "suggestion box" would make it clear that some confusion is inevitable.

  • Even though I would love a box that contains something like "SE -> Sex Exchange" I doubt that is doable to program ...
    – Imus
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 9:16
  • @Imus It'd be possible if you had a list of abbreviations to start with. No idea where you'd get one comprehensive enough though. Your example would work if someone had added that abbreviation/phrase to whatever list was being used. (and it was sorted near the top somehow)
    – bobsburner
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 15:10
  • The abreviation lookup itself isn't the issue. Checking inside a browser text panel for known abreviations on the fly is what I'm doubting to be performant enough. It's technically possible seeing that google can do spellchecking in their docs, but that's google scaling ... I don't think if SE can afford to do it too.
    – Imus
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 7:17
  • I imagine the list of abbreviations is short enough (small millions of entries, maybe gzipped) that it could be grabbed and processed locally by the browser.
    – bobsburner
    Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 9:23

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