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I am somewhat outraged that the question Reflexive verbs, confusion, definition? was closed as "unclear what you're asking".

First of all, I find it highly unhelpful that five people felt the question was unclear but not a single one bothered to comment on it. I feel that this particular close reason (almost as it is for duplicates) should always be accompanied by a comment that states what the close voter thought unclear. After all, how is the poster supposed to improve his question without feedback? The accepted answer to the meta post Should we comment on voting to close? seems to support this position and I have lobbied for it before here: Are questions really that poor and what do we do about it?.

Secondly, questions that are poor with regard to either spelling and layout or wording are not automatically unclear; it just takes more effort to understand them. The linked question is poor in all three regards but by no means unclear (even the curious working on/of myself is easily understood within the context). I feel that a downvote is more appropriate for lack of effort with regard to spelling, layout, wording than a close vote.

Thirdly, it seems weird to me to close a question as unclear that has an answer with a positive score. After all, a positive score indicates that an answer has been judged useful. Is this fact not proof that the question is understandable, given some effort? And if we expect posters to make an effort, shouldn't close voters make one as well?

Another example of a question being "welcomed" by close votes for unclarity without any request for clarification is Why does this relative clause not end with the verb? (although in this case only two people voted to close, which makes it less egregious).

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    Thank you for raising this concern. I too noticed an increase in supposedly "unclear" questions. One would think this side is about helping users and not going on a question-closing-spree. – infinitezero Nov 18 at 13:50
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I agree for the main question: Give a reason for a close vote. Vote a comment up, if your reason was already given.

Improve a question, if it is poorly written, even if you still want to close it for another reason. People needn't get headaches, by trying to figure out, what the question is about.

Thirdly, it seems weird to me to close a question as unclear that has an upvoted answer. Is the answer not proof that the question is understandable, given some effort?

Here I disagree. People often answer just something, even to clear questions they go off topic. Others like these answers, independent of the question.

Maybe they understood it like intended, and maybe you're the only one, who finds it unclear - then you will stay lonely with your close vote.

And many people answer for instance trivial translation requests, just to earn upvotes, while they know that such questions are off topic.

  • I should probably correct upvoted answer to answer with positive score. The positive score is meant to be an indicator that the answer is useful. This is the voters' responsibility, I see no reason to impugn the person that gave the answer. How can an answer be judged as useful if the question is unclear? – David Vogt Nov 16 at 23:09
  • @DavidVogt: Maybe reading the answer helps you to understand the question, so you can edit it and make it clear. But maybe you can't agree with person, giving the answer and you have reasons to believe, that this is not what was asked for. Then you have a reason to downvote the answer which is not an impugnment of the person, but of the answer. If all users would agree on all answers with positive feedback, we wouldn't need a second vote. – user unknown Nov 17 at 2:01
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    Downvoting an answer is fine by me. If, however, there is an answer with a score of, let's say, +4, and then the question gets closed for unclarity, that raises a flag. The collectively determined usefulness of the answer seems to indicate that the question is understandable, given some effort. If someone felt otherwise, I think it would be even more desirable than usual to leave a comment. But this is a quibble. Just leave a comment seems to be the message here. – David Vogt Nov 17 at 11:57
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I find it highly unhelpful that five people felt the question was unclear but not a single one bothered to comment on it.

Well … this is not wrong, but given the state of the original question I cannot make sense of it now and I probably could not have made sense of it then. (Disclaimer: I did not vote to close or vote on the question.) However, the only comment I could have given would have been along the lines of ‘I’m sorry, I have no idea what you are talking about. Could you rephrase?’ which … in my opinion has an equally limited usefulness.

Questions that are poor with regard to either spelling and layout or wording are not automatically unclear; it just takes more effort to understand them.

While this is true, I believe the exact question you chose to comment about fits both criteria, because I honestly cannot say I understood anything of its original form. Of course, some people may be more inclined to understand certain weird phrasings; having lived in Japan for two years now I can confidently guess what meaning a Japanese is trying to give their English more often than an average person.

It looks like in the context of said linked question, you belong to the understanding group while I belong to those who don’t. Ideally, you would have come across the question in the close vote queue and hit the edit button to clarify. That would have removed the question from the queue, prevented a peer-pressure style effect (oh, look, three people consider it unclear so so should I) and ideally improved it to the point where others come back and understand. If you do not have access to the queue, at least edit the question when you see it: it might still prevent further close votes via the queue or if it has already been closed it should (ideally) get reopened quickly if it has been clarified.

Thirdly, it seems weird to me to close a question as unclear that has an answer with a positive score. After all, a positive score indicates that an answer has been judged useful. Is this fact not proof that the question is understandable, given some effort? And if we expect posters to make an effort, shouldn't close voters make one as well?

Well … it only takes a single person to understand it to give it an upvote. But on the other hand, many people (me included) will not downvote a question merely for being unclear. Close vote yes, but not downvote. It takes five to close but only one to upvote so in a worst case scenario we still have a 5:1 majority for unclear. See above for how some people might understand a certain way of writing more easily than others.

I do hope™ that close voters do attempt to understand what something is about before they cast their vote. However, as outlined above an attempt will not necessarily lead to success.

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