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.
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.
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.
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/345/should-we-allow-questions-on-how-to-self-publish
Grammar and proofreading
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/301/should-we-allow-grammar-proofreading-questions
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.
- Site: English Language & Usage
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.
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/276/should-this-site-help-with-specific-writing-software-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.
On-topic, as long as it's about the process of editing. Questions asking for free editing or proofreading will be closed.
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/218/is-a-question-about-my-editing-someone-else-on-topic
Technical and Academic writing:
Questions about style, style guides, attribution, organization, project management, change control, etc.
Related site: Stack Overflow
- Related site: Academia
On-topic, with the caveat that we can only offer informal guidance. We can guide users to legal resources but we're not lawyers.
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.
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/20/is-it-appropriate-to-ask-questions-on-specialist-knowledge-areas
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.
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/136/is-a-help-me-generate-plot-ideas-or-similar-question-on-topic
Single-word or phrase questions:
Requests for a single word: Off topic. (They can be asked on English instead.)
- Source: https://writers.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/671/is-this-question-asking-for-a-single-word-on-topic
Rephrasing requests: Off topic