A recent question asks for clarification on How should I spell the valediction ‘tschüss’?.

Apparently it is highly controversial whether or not this question is off-topic and I must admit that I feel slightly ambivalent about this, too. Nonetheless, I voted for closing the question. There are two reasons for me. First, it is general reference. I am aware that Duden alone doesn't answer the question and especially someone who's new to German might not know enough resources to look that up. And second, it's too broad. I'll come back to that in a minute.

After I realized that there were quite a few differing opinions, I gave my reasoning in a comment and I'll quote myself here:

My point of view is that there are many words in many languages that have a variety of valid spellings and/or pronunciations. Depending on who answers, the answer will be different. Generally, a good answer will point out that you can go either way. That is, you'll have to decide which one you prefer; as long as you stick with a valid one.

I can fully understand the motivation for asking such a question. Occasionally, I come across an English word with a few possible spellings or pronunciations; and yes, I usually do try to find out which one is the more common one. Well, actually, I try to find out which one is the American way as I'm in favor of American English. Anyway, I'm pretty sure that I've ask such a question some while ago though.
But I feel I am wiser now and don't ask such questions any more. There are quite a few reasons for that, but an important one is that I rarely received a satisfying answer. As mentioned in my quote above, a comprehensive answer would look at a variety of possibility, like "If you're Bavarian, spell it like that; if you're Austrian, pronounce it like that; if you're from Berlin, don't use it at all". And so on, and so forth. That's why I think that the question is too broad.

Still, it's possible to give a comprehensive, correct answer. And the answer that was given to that specific question seems fine to me. (So far I've just skimmed over that answer.)

To cut a long story short, what is the opinion of the community. Is it on-topic or off-topic?

1 Answer 1


I believe we should not make it a general rule to allow or disallow questions on spelling, simply because we can not give general reasons valid for any such a question. In addition we do not have many such questions. This indicates that this may not really be an issue of any wider scope.

We should assume that if somebody asks us for spelling then there was a discrepancy with what they found and what was written in their dictionary. It would be desirable if this was mentioned in the question but in any case we will likely be able to give a satifactory answer.

In the example question the community felt it was off topic for being of general reference. After an edit with findings from a dictionary the community voted to reopen the question as the issue was now made much clearer.

This example has a good answer which I believe shows that in this very case it was not too broad. This does not exclude that future questions on spelling may be.

For spelling differences coming from a spelling reform we may consider to create a canonical question & answer to direct people.

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