Heading towards streamlining closure, I went through and categorized the current off-topic the close reasons at the language-related sites (using this Data Explorer query thanks to Glorfindel).

Take-home lessons:

  1. Most sites declare "proofreading" and/or "translations" off-topic, except under certain conditions. However, I don't see "proofreading" as a problem: just critique the major problems.
  2. Some sites declare "low-effort" questions off-topic, but I'm getting the feeling this is less about "low-effort" and more about "if you ask this question as is, the answers will be very obvious".
  3. Only two sites (Chinese.SE and Japanese.SE) declare "resources" off-topic (!), and both make exceptions. This makes me think we need to revisit this topic. I previously noted the interesting way in which Physics.SE handles resource questions: How Physics.SE handles "resource recommendation question".

Proofreading and translation:

  1. English.SE: Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.
  2. ELL.SE: Questions asking for someone to find and correct errors or improve the phrasing are considered requests for proofreading and are off-topic. Please edit your question to focus on something in particular that you are unsure about; if that's not possible, see websites for proofreading instead.
  3. German.SE: This question asks for the translation, proofreading, or spell checking of a text. It does not ask for help with a single issue within that text. Phrases, idioms, and similar are such single issues; questions on them are welcome in general, i.e., unless they should be closed for a different reason.
  4. French.SE: We are not a text translation or proofreading service. If you're translating into French, be specific about the word or expression you want help with, and explain the meaning and provide context. If you're asking about the correctness of a sentence, tell us which specific word or construction you are unsure about.
  5. Spanish.SE: Questions asking for corrections in a text e.g. "are there any mistakes in this text?" are off-topic. You can ask specific sentences in separate questions that may help other users. For more information, see what you can ask here.
  6. Italian.SE:
    1. Questions asking if a given text is correct are considered off-topic on this site. If it is possible, please reformulate your question so that it asks about a specific doubt you have rather than asking to proofread a long text.
    2. This website is not a translation service: questions that ask to translate a single sentence, without further motivation, are considered off-topic. If you are uncertain about a certain word or nuance of meaning, please edit the question mentioning the exact issue, including your attempts at translation, and describing your doubts.
  7. Korean.SE: Requests for translation and proofreading of large passages of text are off-topic. For more information, please see the on-topic page.
  8. Chinese.SE: Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.
  9. Russian.SE: Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.
  10. Japanese.SE: Questions asking for translations, transcriptions or proofreading are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not to provide a bulk translation service nor to proofread your translations or transcriptions. See: We don't do translations.

I don't see what the problem is with proofreading: (a) it's about the language, and (b) the OP has shown effort. If it's long, we don't need to correct every minuscule little problem (not useful to future readers), but instead critique the major issues in the snippet (useful to future readers). And if you don't want to answer it, leave it for someone else who might want to answer it. (If nobody wants to answer it, it'll probably get autodeleted.) This type of question is normal at other sites, e.g. Math.SE has a [solution-verification] tag; there's a whole site CodeReview.SE.


  1. English.SE: Please include the research you’ve done, or consider if your question suits our [ell.se] site better. Questions that can be answered using commonly-available references are off-topic.
  2. ELL.SE:
    1. This question should include more details than have been provided here. Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question, or provide more context. See: Details, Please.
    2. Basic questions on spelling, meaning or pronunciation are off-topic as they should be answered using a dictionary. See: Policy for questions that are entirely answerable with a dictionary
  3. German.SE: The only answers we can post to this question reproduce a dictionary entry or similar. The question neither elaborates why such a resource did not help nor is it obvious. Do not vote to close questions only because they can be answered by grammar books. Also see this FAQ for close voters.
  4. French.SE: 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.
  5. Spanish.SE: Questions that show no effort are off-topic: translations & definitions easily found online; corrections (homework) posts with no clear question. Tell us what you do understand and we will help you with what you don't. Preguntas sin esfuerzo no valen: traducciones y definiciones fáciles de hallar; correcciones (tareas) sin pregunta clara. Di qué entiendes para ser ayudado con lo que no.
  6. Russian.SE: Questions about spelling, stress, pronunciation, and other information easily available in a dictionary are off-topic, unless prior research effort is indicated. We are a Q&A site, not a reference dictionary.

I'm growing weary of the "low-effort" label; it feels like we're accusing the OP of laziness. And if the OP might show "effort" such as "I copy/pasted this into Google Translate; it didn't help." There are also questions where it is not reasonable to show effort.


  1. Chinese.SE: Questions asking for learning resources are off-topic as they can become quickly obsolete and are difficult to maintain. We do maintain a list of generally-useful resources for learning Mandarin that you might find helpful.
  2. Japanese.SE: Questions seeking resources or advice about learning Japanese are off-topic here, but you may find our list of resources for learning Japanese

Wait, only two sites have problems with resources?! In fact, many sites have a tag: English (77 Qs); Japanese (48 Qs); German (118 Qs); French (141 Qs); Spanish (33 Qs); Russian (25 Qs); Latin (72 Qs); Italian (40 Qs); Portuguese (8 Qs); Esparanto (21 Qs); Korean (32 Qs); and... Chinese (123 Qs). Wow! This has totally undermined any belief I had that resource questions should be considered off-topic.

(I also note the Japanese.SE list of resources is at their meta site, and not the main site.)


  1. English.SE: Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests

Do we want this? I think no; we even have tags like and .

  1. German.SE: This is a translation request to German where the problem is understanding the term in the source language or this is a translation request from German where understanding the German term is not the problem (and its meaning is not so intricate that it’s difficult to describe with other words). Also see this FAQ for close voters.
  2. Russian.SE: Questions seeking words or phrases in English are off-topic, but you may be able to ask them on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange.

We should discuss on meta when "translating from X to Y" is on-topic. It's not clear to me. Having expertise in Korean, Japanese, or Vietnamese is not that uncommon among Chinese language enthusiasts.

  1. Spanish.SE: This question is not about the Spanish language as described in What topics can I ask about here?. Esta pregunta no versa sobre el lenguaje español según se describe en ¿Qué tipo de preguntas puedo hacer aquí?

I think we need a "not about the Chinese language" close reason. But we need to identify the exceptions first (see my answer here).

  1. Japanese.SE: This question was caused by a simple spelling mistake, misreading, or typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, this one was resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. For more information, see our meta discussion on "typo questions".

This seems too narrow to have a close reason for here.

1 Answer 1


Proofreading and translation

I'm fine with this kind of questions, provided the OP isn't actually asking for free language services. As long as they can reasonably demonstrate that they did their homework (either figuratively and/or literally), I see no need to close.

Anyway this is one of those kinds of questions that not everyone is keen to answer. Then it's fine to just leave it to other answerers and move on.

Low effort

I'm growing weary of the "low-effort" label; it feels like we're accusing the OP of laziness

Yes, and we should keep doing that. This is the non-programming version of Minimal Reproducible Examples on Stack Overflow. I recall reading a meta post by, probably, Jon Skeet, who was explaining why it's reasonable and necessary to demand MCVE's from the OP. Unfortunately I can't find the post right now. In short, it pointed out that by spending time to put together a minimal example to reproduce their issue, the OP is effectively debugging their program, and while doing that, they may even come close to the solution. Or at least acquire a better understanding of the original issue, which then makes them better equipped at appraising other people's answers.

Yes, this MCVE concept doesn't translate perfectly into non-software subjects, but it's still applicable. You will benefit from improving your own understanding of whatever issue you have at hand. At the very least, you will train your research skills. And by encouraging this kind of behavior we are ultimately helping the OP even before writing a single line on the answer text area.

Yes again, as you say, indicating prior research doesn't make sense on all questions, and that's where the voting system shines. If the question appears low-effort enough that 5 people vote to close, then it will be closed, otherwise it won't be closed, and that's what voting is for.

Now, I'm not sure if this warrants its own close reason. Maybe it doesn't, as we already have "questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated".

I can get behind expanding this description a bit to cover questions that can be trivially answered by looking up terms on a dictionary, like this one that was asked just now.


This is probably the most controversial close reason right now. Personally, I do think that resource requests should be off-topic:

  1. Answers are difficult to maintain. Links may break, web apps may stop working, someone might link to paid services, and then are paid services on- or off-topic? Etc. And we all know that Stack Exchange is about building lasting value.

  2. Answers tend have some degree of subjectivity, firstly, because questions tend to be worded as such: "Can you recommend a resource for doing X?". Secondly, answers will be what the poster thinks is the best resource, i.e. opinion-based. That also defies the purpose of voting, because then we vote based on how much we like or dislike some linked resource, instead of how objectively helpful the answer is.

  3. Objective resource requests can be on-topic, e.g. "What is the Chinese-English dictionary approved by Taiwan's Education Ministry?". That is objectively answerable.

  4. Discoverability: we already have a resource thread, which is more discoverable and more comprehensive than single questions. If the question asks for very specific resources, it probably won't get closed anyway. Otherwise, if some resource category is missing from the big thread, they can post on meta to request an addition.

  5. It's easier to close as duplicate when we have only one resource thread to link to, instead of when we have to remember N other questions.

  6. People can just ask for resources on Reddit, where nobody will nag them about what's on- and off-topic.


Not about the Chinese language

IMO "Not about the Chinese language" can be covered by "Too broad" ("Needs more focus").

Caused by simple spelling mistake

Japanese.SE: This question was caused by a simple spelling mistake, misreading, or typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, this one was resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. For more information, see our meta discussion on "typo questions".

I agree with this, and again, questions are closed with five votes, not one.

Choosing an ideal word or phrase

A dedicated close reason seems unnecessary. Ambiguous requests can be easily sorted out in comments, and in case the question is excessively unclear, we can always hit "Needs details or clarity".

Translating from X to Y

I would say:

  • X=English and Y=Chinese, on-topic (obviously)
  • X=Chinese and Y=non-English, off-topic, because 1) even if it's about the Chinese language, Stack Exchange is a website in English, and 2) if we allow any language, then we need a tag for each, in order to enable proper categorization of questions, and that gets impractical fast.
  • X=Chinese and Y=English, on-topic for single phrases, idioms or particular meaning-in-context expressions (example here) that may be not obvious.
  • X=Chinese and Y=English, off-topic for anything else, as the site is about learning Chinese, not English.
  • X=Chinese and Y=Chinese, on-topic, with [synonym], [antonym] or similar tags
  • X=Chinese and Y=topolect, on-topic

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