Ranty introduction

In the last year, I made several attempts to sanitise our close reasons or capture some common denominator as to when we close questions, in particular regarding which questions must indicate prior research. All of this did not really work out. For example, despite an overwhelming vote against requiring questions about differences to indicate prior research, questions about differences not indicating prior research still tend to get closed with fire. (Mentioning this to some people caused the vote to be balanced now, but still the vote does not reflect our closing behaviour.)

Moreover, some people hold the opinion that we should have close reasons for prior research effort, but should not strictly apply them. I think that this is a bad idea as it leads to inconsistencies, arbitrariness, which in turn result in confusion and disappointment of whoseever question was closed, in particular new users.


After another long chat discussion about this, I make with the following suggestion: Let’s ditch our current custom close reason¹ and replace it with something along the lines of this:

We feel that your question can be answered by a dictionary, a grammar book, or a similar general reference. To have your question reopened, explain what you found when consulting these references and why they did not help you.

So, if we want to be vague and do not want to precisely define what we consider closeworthy, let’s at least have our close reasons reflect this to some extent.

This close reason does not really cover bulk translation requests anymore, which would probably need their own close reason (which could then include bulk proofreading requests as well). As I am not aware of anybody disagreeing on closing these, I consider this a side effect and not the core of this proposal.

What are the practical consequences of this?

  • We can still close any translation question that does not indicate prior research. Moreover, we can close almost any other kind of question that doesn’t. But, we can always not close them, if we feel that prior research would not have helped or, e.g., if we are confident that a word whose translation is requested is not contained in a dictionary. Most importantly, if we do not close, we are not being inconsistent – subjectiveness is worked into the close reason.
  • Indicating prior research, if done properly, prevents closure, but it is not the only way to avoid closure.
  • Essentially, we can close any question if we think a general reference can answer it. In particular the native speakers amongst us may overestimate the power of general references from time to time, but that’s not a problem: If we do, the asker can always prove us wrong by indicating prior research. And properly indicating prior research from the beginning would prevent such an error and thus closure in the first place.

¹ “Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service. See: Are translation requests from German allowed? / Sind Fragen nach Übersetzungen aus dem Deutschen erlaubt?

  • Also related: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/698/… (tries to explain why strictly closing all question showing no research effort may not always be a good idea)
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 5:46
  • Good post, but I'm going to comment at the follow-up Do we want to deactivate our old custom close reason? where the latest discussion is. (I'm also moving the "featured" tag from here to there.) cc @Takkat
    – Pops
    Commented Jun 19, 2015 at 19:54
  • For what it's worth, here's the current wording of the corresponding close reason on French Language: “Please look up the meaning of words or expressions in a dictionary first. If you did so and found nothing satisfactory, mention that in your question. Do give context for where you heard or saw the word.” You've made me think we should improve on it. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 21:48
  • @Gilles: That one is actually more close to our new one than our old one (which I added to this question in a footnote for future visitors).
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 21:57
  • Ah. We have a separate one for translations: “We are not a text translation or proofreading service. If you're translating into French, be specific about the word or expression you want help with, and explain the meaning and provide context. If you're asking about the correctness of a sentence, tell us which specific word or construction you are unsure about. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 22:25
  • @Gilles: We have something along the lines of that too now, see the accepted answer to this question.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 22:28

3 Answers 3


I’m not sure about Stack Exchange-wide policies, but I feel we should also provide the reason in German — some people keep reminding us that not everybody speaks English well enough to understand everything while they do speak German.

Thus I propose adding a translation to the close reason:

Wir denken, dass diese Frage durch ein Wörterbuch, eine Grammatik oder ein vergleichbares Nachschlagewerk beantwortet werden kann. Damit deine Frage wiedereröffnet werden kann, beschreibe, was du in diesen Nachschlagewerken gefunden hast, und warum es dir nicht geholfen hat.

  • This is something to keep in mind if it was decided to have a German user interface localization. At this point all S.E. interfaces are in English so at least basic knowledge of English is a prerequisite for using the Stack Exchange network. See meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/33/…
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 3, 2015 at 13:40
  • 1
    @Takkat I think it's debatable whether understanding the close reason in question still passes for basic knowledge. Also, I don't see why we shouldn't be as helpful as possible to users who come here for help despite not fulfilling that prerequisite. A bilingual version of german.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic wouldn't mean much effort and could help, and bilingual close reasons (if feasible without graduation) would do so, too.
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 0:07
  • @Matthias Nope - having additional German messages (preferably depending on the the users's locale settings) is technically not yet possible. In case we feel a user can't speak English at all (which I believe is exceptionally rare on any SE site) we can always comment in German.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 4, 2015 at 6:30
  • @Takkat I didn't ask for locale detection. Let's just do the simple things now and not wait for graduation in the next aeon. I know you can edit the text in the help center, and I don't see a good reason why we shouldn't be bilingual there at least for the most important parts. After all, this is German Language SE.
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 8:55
  • @Matthias as said at present it is technically not possible to have the same close reason in two languages. But it may come in the future if SE approves to have a German user interface - we all will have to wait until then.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:06
  • @Takkat But we could have every text within our reach be composed of an English and German version like "reason A in English / Grund A in Deutsch". So it would be technically still one close reason (or one article in the help center) with one text representation. It's just that the text would double in length and switch to German in the middle. I thought Jan meant that, and I strongly second it.
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 11:42
  • 1
    @Matthias: this would merit another Meta question and should not be discussed here. Please also take into consideration that both, custom close reasons (3), as well as the maximum length of each custom close reason (400 chars) are limited, and that the canned close reasons can not be changed.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 5, 2015 at 13:24
  • @Takkat Here it is: meta.german.stackexchange.com/questions/918/…
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 21:05
  • @Takkat just for the record, the number of custom close reasons can be expanded on well-founded demand
    – Vogel612
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 22:20
  • Do you have a problem with many dictionary lookup questions being asked in German? On French Language they're invariably from non-natives and asked in English, so I've never felt the need to provide a French version of that close reason. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 21:47

Let me suggest the following wording:

We feel that your question can be answered by a dictionary, a grammar book, or a similar general reference. To have your question reopened, explain what you found when consulting these references and why they did not help you. See our Help Center and How do I ask good, on-topic questions for translations or about differences?

This moves the meta-links additional line which also should include the Help Center (where we could say even more if we wanted to).

  • The raw text for this proposal has 416 chars. In a comment above, you mentioned a limit of 400 chars for custom close reasons. Would this text still pass through?
    – Matthias
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 20:26
  • It is 371 Characters. The link to the Help Center will be shortened to [help] in the custom close reasons. But from the amount of votes it appears people don't appreciate any of these proposals anyway.
    – Takkat
    Commented Jun 7, 2015 at 20:48

After the wording has been discussed here, the proposal is now life. The new close reasons are:

  • This site is about the usage and rules of the German language. It is not well-suited to replace dictionaries, grammar books or similar. If you have already consulted such general references and still have questions, please edit your question to explain what you found and why it did not help. See this post on Meta for more information.

  • German Language SE is for specific questions of general interest and to help you learn and understand. Thus, requests for proofreading, spell checking or translations of individual texts are not a good fit here. If you can, please narrow down your question to a single specific source of concern. See this post on Meta for more information.

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