A recent incident caused me to, among other things, look at the help center article What topics can I ask about here? in relation to the "existing literary works" close reason:

The community has decided that questions about existing literary works, except in a writing-specific context, are off-topic. For more information, see this meta answer.

The help center, in turn, says under the off-topic heading:

  • Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work (except when applied to a real-world writing project).

"Questions about" existing literary works seems broader than Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work.

Do we need to clarify the help center article to be more in line with the wording in the close reason? Or do we want to adjust the wording in the close reason? If either, then how?

1 Answer 1


Let's go back to what we're trying to say.

Contexts where we allow discussion of existing works:

  • Here's an example of how your problem can be solved
  • Here's an example of what I'm trying to do, how do I do it? (example)
  • Here's an example of what I'm trying to avoid, how do I avoid it?

Contexts were we do not allow discussion of existing works:

  • Why did writer X do Y in situation Z? (Should perhaps be migrated to Literature.SE, off-topic for us.)
  • Can I get examples of X? (That's a list question, and doesn't work well on SE anyway.)

Am I missing something?

I would say, keep whichever off-topic explanation says better what we mean, modify the other one. Possibly modify both, if you feel neither is saying exactly what we want it to say. I honestly don't see much of a difference, but if you feel the two statements are not identical and it could create confusion, making it clearer sounds like the right thing to do.

  • I don't know, that's why I'm asking here on Meta before barging through making changes. Maybe it is clear enough already, and I'm basically splitting nitpickers' hair. If so, then that's fine by me; no changes needed. It does bother me slightly though when the help center and the flag/close reason at least seem to say slightly different things.
    – user
    Jan 16, 2019 at 19:05
  • @aCVn I don't know. What can you do with existing literary works other than interpret and analyse them? Ask a list question? Those are closed as list questions. I guess I don't see much of a difference. I might go with "questions about existing literary works" as shorter, simpler and more general. Jan 16, 2019 at 20:18
  • One can also ask recommendation questions. Those don't necessarily need to be list questions (although they often are). That said, you do have a point. :)
    – user
    Jan 16, 2019 at 20:20

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