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In an effort to help improve the quality of some questions we get here, and to take a chapter out of the EL&U book, I would like to propose a new off-topic close reason for questions which are answerable by reference materials.

We can borrow the close text from EL&U:

Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic. A list of these references can be found here: List of general references

If we are in agreement, we need to come up with such a list of references, which can be a separate meta post.

Are there any thoughts, comments, or suggestions?

  • But what more questions might there be, after taking out the DRAE, GLE, OLE, and DPD? Dictionary, grammar, spelling, and usage all accessible for free on-line (compare to the CGEL not being available at all online, and the OED behind a paywall). I think we can still allow some of those questions in as long as they're not exceptionally elementary. – guifa Aug 19 '14 at 21:06
  • @guifa: Do you have an example of a question that would be answered by one of these sources that would not be "exceptionally elementary?" – Flimzy Aug 20 '14 at 9:24
  • I think the recent question on diminuitives is a good example. Virtually the entirety of my answer can be read two or three sections of the Gramática. Or the order of object pronouns which is a single sentence in the DPD (and which the accepted answer on here for that question has incorrect, I might add). Good questions, but generic and answerable in freely available texts. (a specific diminuitive might be "How do I form the diminuitive with X word, where the existance of infixes can't be predicted and might not be authoritatively recorded anywhere) – guifa Aug 20 '14 at 19:45
  • @guifa: I would agree the questions on diminuitives belong here. I wouldn't agree that they should be closed for this new close reason. What do you think about Gille's answer below? He's suggested a narrower close reason than I initially proposed. Would you be comfortable with that? – Flimzy Aug 20 '14 at 20:41
  • @Flimzy Yeah, I think so. I mean, I think it'd be good to have a list of resources that show up either with that close reason or even in the asking phase. "Check to see if your question has been asked, or whether it can be readily answered by using one of general references*" or something similar to show if there's confusion it can still be an okay question, though maybe that's better for a different meta post. – guifa Aug 20 '14 at 21:08
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On French Language, we have the following close reason (see https://french.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/459/why-havent-we-rolled-out-custom-close-reasons/460#460 and the linked discussions for the path that led us to it):

Please look up the meaning of words or expressions in a dictionary first. If you did so and found nothing satisfactory, mention that in your question. Do give context for where you heard or saw the word.

I like it more than the close reason on ELU because it provides more guidance. The ELU reason mainly targets dictionary lookups, but also elementary grammar questions. We don't get a lot of elementary grammar requests, and there isn't as much authoritative material online, so we haven't felt a strong need to keep out elementary grammar questions. Because the close reason is restricted to dictionary lookups, we haven't provided an official list of references, though this would be a possible improvement.

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