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One difficulty for the Writers Stack Exchange is that writing questions tend to be more subjective (requiring greater length for a good answer) and often address a specific problem the asker has (leaning toward being "too localized", which is part of the discussion in "Critiques considered harmful?").

As Monica Cellio commented in "Critiques considered harmful?", some people «I tend to notice giving broader answers that would be useful to people other than the OP; how do we "bottle that" and get more of that from others?». While this issue is virtually essential for critique questions (which are likely to become off-topic in part because answers tend to be excessively localized, matching the localization of the question), it seems to apply more generally.

Neil Fein's answer to "Simple rules for separating paragraphs in books?" seems like a decent example of an answer that broadens the scope of the question without being too broad or too long.

So how do we "bottle that"?


Broad answers have the danger of not clearly answering the specific question in a manner useful to the asker or to a site visitor. Concise and more focused answers are often useful even though less complete. Organization (including summaries and the use of headers) helps, but at some point a general answer stops addressing well the specific question. (The 30,000 character post length limit provides some constraint, though I suspect just the effort required for a long post that would be upvoted might be a stronger constraint. Attracting upvotes tends to require the post be readable and interesting even if not actually answering the question well.)

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One difficulty for the Writers Stack Exchange is that writing questions tend to be more subjective

Aside from questions that depend on a specific style manual, or very basic technical writing questions, or questions about certain well-established techniques (i.e., the three-act structure in screenwriting), most questions here are extremely subjective.

The community here is small, but is also very good at providing good answers to... not-so-good questions. High-rep users here have learned how to write at length on questions that cut to the core well and address the underlying problem.

Neil Fein's answer to "Simple rules for separating paragraphs in books?" seems like a decent example of an answer that broadens the scope of the question without being too broad or too long.

So how do we "bottle that"?

In this case, the question itself had several things that allowed this. The title itself, Simple rules for separating paragraphs in books?, asked for a broader answer. (It could easily have been, "How do I decide when to separate paragraphs?")

I'd suggest that the answer to how to keep this going is to just keep asking good questions and answering them. The content on a Q&A site sets the tone, and new users pick up on that when they ask and answer questions of their own.

Let's all continue to set a good example and this phenomenon of answering questions with a larger audience in mind should continue naturally.

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  • We should also consider making edits to the question that do not harm the question but make it a little easier to write a better answer (like the title change you mentioned here). – Monica Cellio Sep 30 '14 at 15:56

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