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When asking about whether an example text has a particular desired effect, it seems like it would be helpful to present the text before specifying the effect to allow an unbiased first reading. However, avoiding such spoilers in the question title might risk excessively general titles.

Does my poem convey the character of the (fictional) author well? seems to make good use of the title, specifying that the reader should pay attention to what the writing reveals about the character and that the example text is a poem written by the character. (The body of the question does present the specific effect before presenting the text, which increases the difficulty of discerning the effect on a reader without such information.)

It seems that the person giving a critique should be given no more information than a reader of the work would have. Asking about whether an introductory passage works as a hook does not reveal any secrets even if asking for a particular type of reader's reaction (e.g., "Would a lover of hard science fiction be hooked by this introduction?"). Asking if a passage in a mystery is too obvious has minimal spoiler effect because readers of a mystery are expected to read more carefully for clues, but asking if the passage indicates that the butler did it before presenting the text would be problematic (unless the reader is expected to have this true or misguided view of the butler before that passage).

Writers is somewhat unusual in having this issue with the ordering of presenting information (game design could have similar questions where "this is what I tried" should be placed before "this is what I want to accomplish", but even there the spoiler effect would probably be less significant). I think it would be helpful to have some guidelines on titling critique questions and ordering of the information relative to the example text.

  • A secondary question: should edits be made to questions in order to avoid such spoiling? – Paul A. Clayton May 13 '14 at 20:36
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You can put spoiler information into a question or answer using the spoiler markdown:

>! Spoiler text here

Which renders as

Spoiler text here

When you mouse-over it the text is revealed.

Judicious use of this formatting could allow a question that asks you to read some text and then asks the specific, spoilery questions after. However, it does obscure the actual question of the post and could lead to, eg, trolling: Read this long passage I just wrote, then mouse over my 'spoilers' and, surprise, the question was off-topic or trolling or whatever. Such usage could be edited out or voted down by appropriate users, but it would still be annoying for those caught in the trap.

  • I think putting spoilered text before the sample text would be less desirable as one wants the sample to be read before the spoiler regardless of the reader's knowledge. Text immediately after the sample is unlikely to need spoiler protection because the reading of the sample is usually intended to be an ordinary reading (e.g., unlike a puzzle where the reader might accidentally scan past the puzzle to a solution or hint while thinking). Some questions may urge multiple or slow readings in which case hiding the text after the sample may make sense. Forcing back scrolling seems wrong. – Paul A. Clayton May 13 '14 at 20:10

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