Recently, there have been two new questions addressing multiple problems:

The first one was closed in the meantime as needs more focus, whereas the latter one has four close votes and counting at the time of linking.*

I'm not sure how to deal with them further without changing the intention of the asker too much and thus respecting his autonomy too less, and whether this can be approached in some cases by considering those as questions on a specific phrase instead of a specific problem.

Question 1

Is it okay to remove a part of a question that addresses multiple problems and was or is about to be closed for the reason needs more focus and leave it to the asker to open a separate question for the rest?

  • If so, which part should be the new focus? Always the first problem or the main problem at discretion of the editor?

Both questions are apparently motivated by something read or heard in real life. They differ, however, in one aspect: the first one seems to be about an introductory chapter of a text book, while the second is about an everyday phrase. So in my opinion, the second one is more about How to understand the peculiarities of this phrase?, which are in this case for instance the not separated verb and the old-orthography Du.

To handle the second one as a question about the phrase rather than about an isolated language feature has two advantages and one (maybe big) disadvantage in my opinion:


  • It's a natural way to ask for less experienced users.
  • The question can be answered holistically.


  • It doesn't meet the design of SE 100 %, for instance the voting would be overall. However, since SE is a spin-off of StackOverflow, there are some features that don't meet the requirements of questions about natural languages perfectly themselves, e.g. the tag system.

Question 2

Would it be okay to base a question on real-world evidence, for instance How to understand this sentence?

*Before they were (almost) closed, I answered both because I considered the first to handle related issues and the second to be about a distinguished main and a minor side issue, but I agree with the community decision. For the nonce, I edited the titles to reflect both respective aspects.)

1 Answer 1


Q1) I consider this a tricky issue, since the most efficient solution is, that the author of the question performs the separation. Only after their own separation they get the (up)votes and the choice of which answers to accept. (One serious disadvantage of combined questions is, that the parts of different answers may be worth of acceptance.)

Quite a few people seem to be annoyed by getting a question closed instead of doing the split. Separating via a strict and narrow rule is probably not a good idea, since simpler questions have a higher risk to be considered as duplicate and getting a newly separated question closed for a second time is unlikely to educate users into that direction. In any case we have to pay attention to support quick re-opening of the improved questions.

Q2) If the context is sufficient for a pragmatic unified answer, I personally would prefer that to no answer at all or to a downvote of the question.

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