In the What topic I can ask here?, two things attracted my eyes:

  • Non-fiction, technical, or scholarly writing is on-topic.
  • Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work is off-topic (exception with real world writing project).

Now, my question is asking about analyzing a non-literature technical writing. Will it be on-topic?

Proposed question: When to not using SI symbols for units?

Is there a reason for writing a unit in its full name instead of its SI symbol?

In the book What If?, the author usually write the unit as kilometer, atmosphere, megawatt instead of km, atm, MW. What is the purpose of this?

However he does use the symbols in the drawings:

enter image description here

In one line both mm and millimeter are even used together: enter image description here

1 Answer 1


From the help center:

On the other hand, these kinds of questions aren't allowed here:

  • Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work, although there are exceptions if is being applied to a real-world writing project.

It doesn't say "...an existing fictional work". Most questions that we get of this type are about fiction, literature, or poetry, but the scope is not limited to that.

A question about why the author of the book you asked about did what he did is therefore not on-topic, but a question about how you should represent units would be. In asking your question you could point to that example. (Ideally you'd point to one or two more examples, to show that both notations are in use out there.) You'd also want to tall us something about your audience; writing for high-school students would be different from writing for physics PhDs.

In other words, ask a question about a problem you are trying to solve, and you'll be on firm ground.

  • 1
    I think this is just a matter of wording. Instead of asking "why did he do that?", I can ask "I want to write a technical article, using the symbols as convention, but I see author X did the reverse. I don't know what to do now"
    – Ooker
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 16:39
  • @Ooker yes, exactly -- just make it about what you're trying to do, pointing out what's making you ask the question (the counter-example, in this case). Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 17:10
  • but in both cases, analyzing the author style is still needed. Surely the counter-example is about me, not them, but it's barely nothing more than the former. The problem I'm trying to solve in the counter-example is "I don't know why they did that"
    – Ooker
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 18:09
  • 1
    Oh. As I said in my answer, that's not really a good fit here. But "I'm trying to write this kind of document, I'm inclined to use this style, and I see that this other doc uses the opposite style. What are the factors I should consider in choosing one?", or something like that, is on topic. Answers might not directly address your example at all; for example, they might point to style guides, standards, or the like. Your question can't be about the example, but it's clearly inspired by it and that's fine. Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 18:36
  • But why in technical literature? So far I have only known that analyzing literature questions are off-topic (as too broad/vague). But in technical writing, the author should be consistent not only throughout their writing, but also with other existing conventions. Therefore, the vagueness is not so much. (This can be asked in another question if needed.)
    – Ooker
    Commented Nov 18, 2016 at 18:49
  • Sorry if this reminding is annoying, but what do you think about this? (I'll delete this comment after your response)
    – Ooker
    Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 10:44
  • 1
    I didn't respond to your new comment because I've already addressed your question and I don't see a new one. Lit-crit questions are off-topic; it doesn't matter whether the writing in question is fiction, poetry, technical, or something else. I told you how to reframe your question and you seem to have responded by asking what I think about the question you want to ask. One of us is not understanding the other. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 15:51
  • I see. I think that it's because your answer doesn't satisfy me. My question in title is about analyzing a literature, while what I'm actually thinking about is whether asking when to not applying the norm is on-topic. You can see how the first sentence of the proposed question represents this :)
    – Ooker
    Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 16:05
  • @Ooker see my update. While your proposed question focuses on the units (and thus should be ok), your question title is "Are questions about analyzing a non-literature writing on-topic?". And the answer to that is "no". Commented Nov 21, 2016 at 16:17

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