Quoting the help center:

  • If your question could be answered by a dictionary, a grammar book, or another general reference, consult these. Explain why this did not help you when asking your question.

I have some problems with this:

  1. There is no clear understanding what "general reference" is.

    Let's compare this to English Language & Usage and their "general reference". They have a list of references. We: don't. They have a defined off-topic reason for that. We: don't

  2. Beginners don't always understand "general reference"

    General reference is not easy to understand. Language is hard, describing it is, too and understanding the description is a science in and of itself. We can't expect beginners to understand a complicated grammatical reference book.

    This is especially true for grammar related questions.

I say: general grammar reference is not helping the site in its current state. It scares away beginners and learners. Let's remove it from the help center. The help center should look more like this:

  • If your question is about a single word, please consult a dictionary before asking. Explain why they did not help when asking your question.

2 Answers 2


I think the problem is rather distiguishing between reasons for closure and recommendations for good posts.

While the respective text is technically in the on-topic section of the help center, it is also one of the few texts that we can change at the current point (if I am not mistaken) and thus a good place to give new users some advice how to ask good questions. Given the surrounding of the respective bullet point as well as the way it is formulated (compare to the following points), I do not think that it will scare away new users or make them think that we absolutely require indicating prior research for grammar questions.

(Rather, the way things are written now, the current text may not make clear enough that we do require indicating prior research for translation questions. And if we made a clearly contrast translation and grammar questions with respect to the strictness of the requirement on previous research, this would also solve any potential misunderstanding by new users.)

More importantly, we should clarify, what questions may be closed for not indicating prior research. Because according to my understanding, we do not require grammar questions to indicate prior research and thus there is nothing to abolish. Also note that we already discussed prior research for translations and similar here and this was not meant to apply to grammar question (and thus does not translate to them).

Maybe it’s a good idea to have one question to vote upon for which kinds of questions we require prior research to be indicated.


I agree about giving concrete hints and links how to help yourself.

But I don't agree with your suggestion, reduced to single words. Some questions about phrases can be answered with simple google search, some can be found with Google-NGram, some by tools about regional usages (which should be linked in the FAQ, since it is, similar to Google-NGram, not very popular).

Other helpful sources, which are often used to answer questions, should be linked as well. It will be helpful for the people answering the questions which didn't put them in their bookmarks as well.

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