In an attempt to identify what a good question is here, I'm just gonna start posting a bunch of questions I particularly like, and I'll say why. I'm focusing on questions that are:

  • Answerable, which means that it's possible to write a single, canonical answer in response to the question
  • Clearly written (this is Writers, after all!)

There's more to a "good question" than just those two axes, of course. It's my hope that this will solicit discussion, and help us start to narrow down what form a "good question" will take here. Not being included here doesn't mean a question is bad!

Also, please go ahead and add questions to this that you find fit these criteria: Answerable and clear.

What this will accomplish:

  • Let us know what questions the community thinks are good.
  • Maybe answer the question: Is it possible to write a question that's both a good Stack Exchange question and also valuable for writers?

Please upvote the answers you agree are good questions, downvote the ones you think are terrible. It would also be helpful if you tell us why you feel that way.

Edit: If you think a question is bad, it might also be helpful - for future reference - if you could think of a way the question could be made better. (Or if they should have been closed entirely.)

  • I'm staying away from critiques for the time being, as that's a separate issue we need to address. Commented Mar 3, 2012 at 22:19

13 Answers 13


What's the modern way to handle gender in tech writing?

Interesting question that, while it probably has no clear answer, it invites longer, more comprehensive answers that explain the problem, informing the reader about the issue and educating them. (Like this one.)


What makes first person plural a tricky narrative voice?

The question is straightforward: It's asking why this particular grammatical construct can be tricky, despite being uncommon and interesting.


How do you avoid the problem of a collaborative work having separate voices?

Clear question with broad applications.

Here is some extra text to try to prevent this answer from being converted to a comment again...


Writing about drug induced hallucinations and paranoia

A unique, highly-focused, and eminently practical question about conducting an unusual line of research.


How do you develop a strong female character?

Original post is a bit sparse, but OP clarifies in the comments. This issue is so often seen as a criticism of a piece or a field, that asking how to deal with it successfully is clear and highly valuable.


How do you build good per-book *and* global indexes?

At the risk of immodesty... this got favorable comments and I think it's clear; I hope it's answerable too, but so far that remains speculative. :-)


I have written my first novel and I think it's ready. What next?

The question itself isn't that great, it seems like it'd attract a host of chatty answers. But...

Have a look at this amazing answer. I think there are probably entire book about writing that contain less useful information than this.

Maybe what this site needs to do is raise the bar on answers, and not questions?


Breaking Into Technical Writing - Where to Start (from a programming background)

This "breaking into the market" question is clearer than many I've seen.

  • The accepted answer is also pretty good: Presenting an overview of what the possible routes are is probably more valuable that the "yo should try [foo]" answers this could have gotten. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 3:00
  • Since I wrote that answer, I reserve judgement on it. :-) Thanks! Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 3:10
  • I thought this would be about questions only, but I'm finding out that sometimes mediocre questions can generate good answers. I think we need to find out more about how and why that can happen. (It nay be that we're just lucky.) Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 3:12

Querying for a setting-heavy speculative fiction novel

Problem. Solution. Yay!

  • The question is a perfect example of itself: Difficult to reduce down to one line. Commented Mar 5, 2012 at 15:03

How do I recover my confidence after a harsh writing group?

Another case of a fuzzy, tentative question attracting some solid answers. (But are "good answers" enough to make it a good question?)


How can I manage screen shots and other graphics for maintenance?

There was a long discussion in the comments last summer about whether this was on- or off-topic, so I thought I'd bring it up here for review.

  • The question is clear, but I don't think it's on-topic for Writers. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 17:12
  • 1
    I wonder what Standback thinks about it these days (at the time he said it was on-topic, but things can change). No way to ping him from this comment, though. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 18:24
  • Were it asked now, I think this could be tweaked a little and it would be on-topic. (It's an old question and has been answered, so not suggesting it be edited now.) I've started a discussion in chat on this, and perhaps this could be useful for future, similar questions that are on the borderline of being on-topic. Thanks for bringing it here, this is the sort of question I was hoping this thread would attract. Commented Mar 15, 2012 at 18:31

Is a movie script more like a short story or a novel?

Well-written, and it can be answered at length but definitively. While entire books have been written about this topic, a summary of the differences between these forms can be written to be both useful and accurate.

  • Oh, I really disliked this one. The title had potential, but the question itself is "how do I write?". This isn't a problem that needs solution, it's "please write me an essay on a topic I haven't started dealing with yet." :-/
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 5:25
  • How could the question have been improved? Because I see it as comparing basic structure of short story, novel, and movie script. I do see a lack of obvious research on the asker's part. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 6:13
  • 2
    I don't think this question can be salvaged without adding significantly more content. "Comparing" in what terms, in what areas? There's no distance function on writing in different fields. "I have a short story, how can I rewrite it as a screenplay?" would be a slightly better question. "I'm rewriting a story into a screenplay, and have run into the following problems:" would be an awesome question. "I have a screenplay I'd like to rewrite as fiction - would it make a better novel, or short story?" would be practically equivalent to this question, but infintely more practical.
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 10:00
  • Whereas as it is... it's basically "Please write me an essay about fundamental characteristics of screenplays as a creative medium." I don't like "please write me an essay" questions :-/
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 10:02
  • I also disagreed with this one, because this read more as a discussion question. I'm genuinely surprised no-one else thought this. Some people may view film scripts as similar to a short story (after all, so many short stories are adapted to film scripts). Others may view it as more like a novel. Others may view it as neither. How do you know what's right or wrong? This really cannot be answered definitively, and should be listed as an example of a bad question. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 12:04
  • @CraigSefton - I see your point, but following that line of reasoning, there's not much room for asking about any subjective writing concepts. Can you think of a way of phrasing this question that would work? Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 18:08
  • I agree with Standback's points above regarding rewriting. Or perhaps something like "What techniques from script writing can be used to improve short story writing?" Even that's probably not that brilliant, but I hope you get the idea. IMO, questions that focus specifically on techniques work really well. Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 22:02

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