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Many users have expressed confusion about what, exactly, is on-topic on Writing; even the mods have to look things up in meta. It's time to collect our many discussions of what's on- or off-topic in one place.

If you see anything we missed, please let us know. The mods have talked about this summary, but we need the community to support and help. Our hope is that everyone will leave comments and edit this into a reference. Once we get this document in good shape, let's use it to update the FAQ and keep this question around as reference.

This is meant to be an easily skimmable summary, so let's keep these entries very short: no more than a sentence or two per topic is best. Links to source meta threads are optimal.

Also see: What are Writers.SE's unique Close/Off-Topic reasons? (It probably makes sense to fold that into this meta thread eventually.)


In short: Questions about writing or writers or supporting activities, asked in such a way that there could be canonical answers that can be voted on, are on-topic here.


Critiques:

Requests for critique and feedback are off-topic.
If you're encountering a problem with your own writing, you may use your own case to demonstrate the problem, but it should still be a clear, answerable problem that makes sense on its own.


English as a Second Language (ESL) questions:

If they're extremely basic, send them to the English Language Learners (ELL) site, but if they're actually about writing, treat them as any other question here.


Self-publishing:

On-topic. Questions about publishing and marketing your work are on-topic, but questions about the policies of specific platforms (like Amazon) are off-topic.


Grammar and proofreading

Off-topic.

Questions about the fine points of grammar can be sent to English Language & Usage (ELU). Questions that are about grammar as a tool but are primarily about writing can remain here.


Software tools:

On-topic, as long as they're about specialist writing tools or features of generic tools that writers use. General tech-support questions should be closed or migrated to Superuser.


Literature questions:

Off-topic, with this caveat:

I think literature questions can be OK if their tone is:

I am reading and analyzing these literary techniques with an eye toward adapting them in my own writing But if it's just plain 'explain this literature to me', then no.

Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/242/are-literature-questions-appropriate-on-writers-se


Editing:

On-topic, as long as it's about the process of editing. Questions asking for free editing or proofreading will be closed.


Technical and Academic writing:

Questions about style, style guides, attribution, organization, project management, change control, etc.


Legal questions:

On-topic, with the caveat that we can only offer informal guidance. We can guide users to legal resources but we're not lawyers.


Research questions:

Questions asking us to do research are off-topic. Questions about how to find stuff may be on-topic, but the community is also divided on this one. This needs clarification.


Generating Plot Ideas:

Asking to brainstorm ideas tailor-made for your particular story is off-topic; that’s too specific to your own work. But identifying a general scenario which naturally presents plotting difficulties is on-topic.


Single-word or phrase questions:

Requests for a single word: Off topic. (They can be asked on English instead.)

Rephrasing requests: Off topic

  • What are "ESL questions"? (Given the mention of English Language Learners, I guess it is related to the English language. But that's about what I could figure out. PEYA! – celtschk Aug 23 '14 at 7:10
  • @celtschk - ESL = English as a Second Language. The English Language Learners site is better suited to handle those. But what does PEYA mean? – Neil Fein Aug 24 '14 at 17:50
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    Thanks. PEYA = Please Expand Your Acronym. The fact that you'd likely not figure it out was part of the point. – celtschk Aug 24 '14 at 17:56
  • @celtschk - TY. :D – Neil Fein Aug 24 '14 at 18:42
  • /help/on-topic still has a notice indicating that it's under revision here. This post was last edited a year ago. Might I suggest you make any remaining decisions and remove that notice? – msh210 Mar 17 '16 at 5:42
  • @msh210 - Thanks for catching that; done. If you have any further suggestions, please don't hesitate to let me know. (That page could stand to be simplified a bit more but I don't have time just now.) – Neil Fein Mar 17 '16 at 13:23
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What about questions?

We have a tag for it, so they are obviously allowed. But under what circumstances?

On-topic. Questions about publishing and marketing your work are on-topic, but questions about the policies of specific platforms (like Amazon) are off-topic.

This quote refers only to self-published books. My argument is that marketing for any written work should be allowed. Agreed?

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Intersection of SPAG and style. Not just questions about "breaking the rules" which are (and always will be) uniquitous. Specific questions about elements of grammar or syntax that can be stylistically broken, the boundaries and the tradeoff of breaking them. Possibly related to this are questions about mixing languages and the tradeoff thereof.

Example 1: Does using sentence fragments convey urgency in an action scene?

Example 2: Should I include footnotes or a glossary explaining non-English words in a text aimed at English-language readers?

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    I agree with example 1 (that kind of question is mentioned above already). Example 2 is more of a style/book structure question, and should be fine here. – Neil Fein Aug 21 '14 at 13:47
  • What is SPAG? PEYA! – celtschk Aug 23 '14 at 7:17
  • I see your point, Neil. – lea Aug 23 '14 at 9:13
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    @celtschk - I had to look it up too, SPAG = SPelling And Grammar. – Neil Fein Aug 24 '14 at 17:51
  • @NeilFein: Thank you. – celtschk Aug 24 '14 at 17:56

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