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What topics can I ask about here?

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I did not find a webpage that explains what's on-topic here (although I'm not hugely familiar with the site).

Question: What topics can I ask about here?

It seems plausible that what's on-topic at Writing.SE differs from what's on-topic here. Moreover, since this site endeavours to be independent of Stack Exchange, it's probably worth whipping up an independent post or webpage that states what is and isn't on-topic.

Why should this post be closed?

4 comments

One for you and yours, @MonicaCellio :) ArtOfCode 6 months ago

Independent, yes, but not necessarily different. I see no reason why the on-topic list over at Writing SE shouldn't apply to us as well. It's certainly a good place to start, since most of us are already familiar with it. We can adapt it in our own help section (once that gets created) and change it as we feel needed. Thomas Myron 6 months ago

Help pages are already available, @ThomasMyron - any moderator can create them. ArtOfCode 6 months ago

For now, the same scope guidelines we used on SE apply. As we move forward, and particularly when we move onto the Codidact platform which will give us some new capabilities, we can refine. I intend to create some help topics but won't be able to do so before the end of Shabbat, sorry. Monica Cellio 6 months ago

3 answers

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Monica asked me to write up a 'what's on topic' text for a future help page, based on the SE on topic page. Below is what I have. Note that I have condensed the guidelines to follow and show more what I feel are the guiding principles. Note also that while I've included examples of what is off-topic, I have also included examples of how to ask the same questions in a format which is on-topic. This is exactly what I have always done at Writing SE, and I feel it is more helpful to writers with a specific question than just saying, 'no, you can't ask that.'

This text is open to revision and criticism. Please keep comments concise.


This website is intended for use by professional or aspiring writers of fiction, nonfiction, technical writing, and other types of professional writing, such as bloggers and reviewers. This is not a comprehensive list, but is meant as a guideline to suggest who will find this website useful. Below are some guidelines to using this website.

This is not a chat room or discussion-type forum. This is a Q&A website, intended for clear and concise questions, followed by equally clear and concise answers. Please keep that in mind when asking and answering. Also, please note that all questions must be answerable. Do not post a question which is a rant/discussion in disguise.

These questions are on topic:

  • Questions about nonfiction, technical, or any kind of professional writing, including the presentation of charts or diagrams
  • Questions about fiction, including poetry, scripts, or song lyrics
  • Questions about copywriting, general writing style, or organization
  • Processes related to writing (publishing/editing), where the focus is on the relation to writing (more below)

The focus of this website is to help other writers. As a general rule, if your question is going to help no one but yourself, it is probably off-topic (details on that below). If, however, your question can be applied to other writers, it is most likely on topic. Please refrain from asking questions which apply only to yourself, as these will not help anyone else.

As follows from the above paragraph, be aware that these types of questions will be off-topic:

  • Requests to proofread, edit, analyze, or critique any length of writing. This will help only you. This also applies to works not written by you. That is out of the scope of this website.
  • Questions asking what to write, or how to write something. Remember, this is not a discussion-type forum, where people bounce ideas off of each other. Such questions will almost always only benefit yourself.
  • Grammar, English, and syntax questions. While these might conceivably help other writers with similar questions, they are beyond the scope for this site. (English is mentioned here because this is not - currently - a multilingual site. SE was built that way, but then SE also had sites devoted to other languages. This will be something we might want to discuss further down the road.)
  • Questions seeking professional writers, agents, publishers, or similar professional persons, or referrals to such persons. Again, these questions will only benefit you, and do not relate to the writing process. Publishing and the like is a completely different field.

However, you will often find that you can reword questions so that they are on topic. This usually comes down to rephrasing your question to ask something general which will benefit others, and then using your specific problem as an example. These questions would be on topic:

  • Don't ask for criticism. Instead, identify what you think the problem is, and ask how to handle it. You may include the passage in question as an example.
  • Don't ask a question looking for ideas. Ask a question about how to generate or find ideas. This will help other writers in a similar situation. If applicable, you may supply guidelines for the general idea you are looking for, but only as an example of what methods will and will not work.
  • Don't ask questions about proper grammar or English. Instead, ask questions about how to improve your own grammar or English. This will benefit other writers in similar situations. Please keep these questions focused on writing, meaning don't start asking for referrals to grammar textbooks. Instead, ask how you can improve your grammar or English in your writing. You may include brief examples, to show where you are having problems.
  • Don't ask for professionals. Ask questions about how to find professionals, contact them, etc. Please keep these questions focused on writing. So asking about what you should know about the publishing process as a writer is a good question, while asking how publishers advertise your work is not.

Two final notes: questions asking about how to express an idea are on topic, as long as they focus on how to do the expression (helpful to others), and not the idea you are trying to express (helpful only to you).

Also, answering your own question is perfectly fine, and even recommended if you have an answer which has solved your problem, and has the potential to solve other writers' similar problems. Sharing knowledge is what this website is built on.

If you are unsure if a question would be on topic, please ask in Meta or the official Discord channel first before posting your question.


5 comments

Great! Major criticism: It's too hard to find what's on-topic; it should just take a glance [this is the Internet]. Other points: there's imprecise and verbose writing ["vigorous writing is concise"]; the "on-topic" dot points begin with "Don't ask..."; I encourage adding quality on-topic examples. [It seems necessary for the community should affirm each off-topic point.] I'm tempted to write a revision. [Maybe a new answer? It'll take some time though.] becky82 6 months ago

@becky82 Certainly add your own answer; just keep in mind we're basing it off of the SE help page because it's a good place to start. Probably the best way to go about revisions is to catch me on the official discord. We'll be able to hammer down exactly where and what you're talking about a lot easier. If you don't have the link to the Discord, go to my profile in Writing SE (same name). The link is in my bio, towards the bottom. I'm Trainer on Discord. Thomas Myron 6 months ago

I have a lot of points, so it's probably far easier to "show, don't tell". Discord is blocked in China. becky82 6 months ago

@becky82 Your point is a good one. Not only should what is on topic be up front and clear, but I was also too focused on the line between on- and off-topic questions. I've included a bulleted list highlighting what kind of questions we accept, before the other lists. Thomas Myron 6 months ago

I have also clarified as to why I mentioned English specifically. Thomas Myron 6 months ago

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Here's how I would envisage writing the on-topic page. It's incomplete---it's better written by someone more familiar with the nuances of the site. Hopefully you can understand where I'm going with this.

I'd further recommend re-affirming each on-topic and off-topic reason in individual meta posts: it's not necessarily the same here.



Codidact: Writing. What questions are welcome?

The overall mission of Codidact: Writing is to facilitate writing via a community-based question and answer (Q&A) website.

Questions need to be answerable, which requires that they are narrow and focused, and perhaps accompanied by an illustrative short passage. Questions are expected to be of benefit beyond the original author.

Questions that our community welcomes are:

  • On-topic: The publication and editing process, and working with publishers, agents, illustrators, etc.

    [add example(s)]

  • On-topic: General editing and copy-editing procedures, and resources support the process of writing and specialized writing tools.

    [add example(s)]

  • On-topic: Questions about how to generate or find writing ideas.

    [add example(s)]

  • On-topic: Grammar or English self-improvement. [ed: Why only English?]

    [add example(s)]

  • On-topic: Questions asking about how to express an idea, provided they are not limited to a specific instance.

    [add example(s)]

[ed: What have I missed?]

Codidact: Writing. What questions are considered off-topic?

The community has declared certain questions off-topic, specifically:

Codidact: Writing. What to expect.

Codidact: Writing is a community-based Q&A site for professional or aspiring writers. We write fiction, nonfiction, technical writing, and other professional writing (blogs, reviews, etc.). Self-answering is fine, and even recommended if you solve your own problem.

Still don't know if your question is on-topic? Please ask on the meta site prior to posting.



Here's a draft for now [work in progress], to give a rough idea of what I think it should look like. I'll have to peruse the Writing.meta.SE posts to get a better understanding of the site-specific issues.

Most importantly:

  • The on-topic page focuses on what's on-topic, not what's off-topic. Moreover, the on-topic material is at the start, made obvious, and there's concrete examples so the reader can think "my question is like that" (or "I can make my question like that").

  • It's succinct (we're literally asking the reader to write concisely---we need to lead by example). Netizens are not going to read a wall of text: they don't care about our motivations. I also strive to avoid vague writing (e.g. what does "help other writers" mean?).

  • I say the word "community" a lot. I highlight how what's on-topic and off-topic is based on community decisions.

3 comments

I like your layout. With my proposal I was going for an approach which would stave off 'off-topic' questions. If we go with your approach, which starts with what's 'on-topic', then we should start with some better examples. The examples I gave were tailored to border-line instances, and should not be used to define on-topic. Give this a look; it is the equivalent page on Writing.SE: https://writing.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic Thomas Myron 6 months ago

Okay, I think you get the idea of where I'm going with this [but maybe it's better I leave it to someone more familiar with the site]. Basically, if I were to write it myself, the next step would be to go through every on/off-topic question on meta and copy/paste the link into the post. (Nothing is on-topic nor off-topic without prior discussion.) becky82 6 months ago

I've edited my answer to include your original suggestion. Let me know your thoughts. Also, note that while these guidelines should certainly be discussed, the majority of us are coming from Writing SE, where these guidelines have been used/tested for years. So any discussion about whether or not they will be adopted will be minimal; they are in effect already in use, just out of habit. Thomas Myron 6 months ago

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Great start!

from this:

Publishing and the like is a completely different field.

...are we going to assume that, with publishing off-topic (for now, I know that this is all pretty rough) should we assume similar topics like publicity, marketing, and finding an agent are out of bounds also?

1 comment

I don't think publishing is categorically off-topic. Writers need to understand what publishers are looking for, how they will advertise your book, etc. And questions about finding an agent (as opposed to specific solicitation of same) should be welcome. Also, some writers self-publish and that means they need to promote their work. Monica Cellio 6 months ago

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