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New users often don't understand some of the quirks of our community and ask questions or provide answers that get closed or deleted because they don't adhere to our site standards and / or community etiquette. Some of these things happen over and over again (recipe requests, comments or questions as answers, etc.) and the mods (or potentially the community for closing questions) do the same thing over and over again. The repetition can get frustrating and I often find that I don't want to have to explain something again. That's not fair to new users though, and we should do our best to educate anyone that comes to our site with an interest in cooking.

As a solution, I propose this question, a place for us to come up with a series of canned responses that we can just copy and paste in to comments when we take mod / community action. In each answer, please provide a common mistake new users make as well as a comment that could be added when mod or community action is taken.

One mistake / comment per answer please. Community Wiki, so edit away. And please, non mods, contribute too. Help with tone and message is much appreciated!

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For inappropriate answers (also in the scope of this discussion), most of this is already in the pro-forma comments script, which currently includes comments for:

  • Answers just to say Thanks!
  • Nothing but a URL (and isn't spam)
  • Request to OP for further information
  • OP using an answer for further information
  • OP adding a new question as answer
  • Another user adding a "Me too!"

Some Seasoned-Advice-specific issues that come up frequently but aren't in the script:

Recipe Requests

Recipe polls are off-topic here as indicated by the [FAQ]. If you're looking for recipes then there are some good resources linked in the following: What are some good recipe resources? For a more detailed explanation of this policy as well as guidelines on acceptable recipe-related questions, please see What types of recipe questions are allowed?

Culinary Uses

This question does not currently meet any of our guidelines for "culinary uses" questions. We welcome questions about using edible non-culinary or waste ingredients or other rare ingredients; common ingredients are better addressed by using an ingredient-based recipe search.

What can I add to X?

This question is currently written as a poll and will lead to answers and votes based solely on personal taste. If you have a specific, objective goal, please amend your question to include it and we may reopen it. For more information, see our guidelines on "What can I add to X?" questions which suggests several alternative wordings.


I believe it's important for moderators (and other close-voters) to be polite but still firm. We should never be rude or accusatory, but too much hand-holding (a) drains time and energy from more pertinent issues, and (b) sets the tone that every community or moderation action is open to negotiation. We should be taking on an almost parental role, being helpful and supportive when we can, yet secure in the knowledge that we don't always owe a detailed explanation for straightforward actions.

More specifically, when a question is probably salvageable, we should be able to provide specific guidance on how to improve it, or simply edit it ourselves. On the other hand, questions which are simply inappropriate or poor quality (and this applies to almost all Off-Topic and NARQ closings) are generally not worth it. That is why I'm against awkward, generic advice claiming that "closing isn't final" and so on.

Either we offer specific advice to fix the question or we accept that it probably won't be reopened and that the author might be unhappy about it. We can't be everybody's best friend.

Jeff calls this the Pee-Wee Herman Rule. If a particular member or question is at odds with community norms but represents a very high potential, then we should handle with extreme care. Personally, I'm more partial to the "Earn Your Bullsh*t" slogan, which more clearly states that we expect to see honest effort before we consider bending the rules.

Usually these are the types of questions that can simply be edited instead of closed, and thus we avoid the closing issue altogether. But in those extremely rare instances where we can't fix it ourselves but really want the author to do so - fine, point them to the closing FAQ and the closing meta discussion and explain that we will reopen it if they can make it fit within the guidelines. There's no canned explanation we can give, these need to be handled on a case-by-case basis.

P.S. The author of a post is automatically notified of new comments. Don't address them with the "@" notifier - the system will automatically remove them.

  • I hadn't seen the script thing. That is immensely useful and basically removes the need for this question. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 16:38
  • I disagree with your other two points though. First, I know that they get notified and I generally don't address people if they'll get the notification. I do it with new users though so that they see someone using the @ notifiction. I'm just hoping they follow the convention if they respond and that I get a notification. Otherwise, it's unlikely that I'll see a response and I would not assume that a new user would use the @username as a default. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 16:41
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    WRT to the "clumsy close speech", I think it's a major source of confusion with new users (and even some longer term users). It's one of two things on the site that are very counter to normal netiquette. Closed questions being reopened is touched on only briefly, far down the FAQ, and requires expanding a section to find it. It would be great if everyone would carefully read the FAQ before joining the site, but they don't and won't. Since the first experience on the site seems to be very important to stickiness, I think it's worth mentioning IF the question is salvageable. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 16:46
  • Hmm, upon rereading your answer, I guess it's not so much the pee-wee herman rule that matters in my mind, but the potential for the question that should warrant additional details about a question being reopened. I think my answer below about reopening questions may have confused the issue. I'm only advocating this if the question is a candidate for being reopened and not some of the random crap that has no hope. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 16:52
  • @yossarian: I think we're essentially saying the same thing. We should only concern ourselves with this advice when we're looking at a question that's on the favourable side of borderline; that is, questions we really want to see reopened, but can't because they're missing crucial details or maybe are asking too many things at once. In other words, those rare questions that are closed for the benefit of the author and not necessarily the site. 9/10 NARQs and probably 7/10 NCs don't qualify, but if one does, great, help them out. – Aaronut Sep 4 '11 at 17:39
  • Also, I don't expect everyone to read the FAQ before participating, but they should be reading it the first time they get a question closed. It's very much in the same vein as the fact that nobody is going to read the instruction manual before trying to use an app or a device, but if they can't get it to work right, common sense would be to consult the manual then before returning it to the store while yelling at the sales clerk. Ya get my drift? – Aaronut Sep 4 '11 at 17:42
  • Also @yossarian, like it or not, "@notifying" the author of a post is now officially against site-wide policy and requests to change it have been officially declined. You can disagree if you want - frankly, I don't really care one way or another - but the system will automatically remove your notifications. – Aaronut Sep 4 '11 at 17:46
  • Hadn't seen that either. You're full of useful information today! Looks like SE is with you on this one. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 19:42
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Recipe Request

Hi @XXXXXXXX, welcome to the site. Recipe requests are considered off-topic for this site. Please see the [FAQ] for more details. If you have a specific question about a recipe though (how to fix it, why it didn't come out right, etc.), then please feel free to ask.

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Added Comment as Answer

Hi @XXXXXXXX, welcome to the site. This site is a bit different than a forum; we have a strict policy that answers should serve to answer the question. If you have a comment rather than full answer, please contribute it with the 'add comment' link rather than as a new answer. I've converted this to a comment for you.

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Added New Question as Answer

Hi @XXXXXXXX, welcome to the site. This site is a bit different than a forum; we have a strict policy that answers should serve to answer the question only. If you have a new question (even if it is related), please use the Ask Question link in the top right to ask your question. I have deleted your question, but please ask it again as its own question. I'm almost certain you'll get a good answer for it.

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Closed but could be reopened with appropriate edits

Hi @XXXXXXX, welcome to the site. Your question isn't really appropriate for this site as currently written (See the [FAQ] for details about on / off topic questions). I have closed it for now; however, your question can be reopened if it is edited to be more appropriate. Closing isn't necessarily a "final" thing around here. In order to get your question reopened, I'd suggest the following to clean it up: [ADD SUGGESTIONS HERE].

  • I don't like this at all. Questions closed as NARQ are usually those that show the least amount of effort and understanding. If they can be salvaged, they should be (and usually are) edited instead of closed. If they're unsalvageable then we don't want to be holding their hands. For less clear-cut cases that might warrant reopening, we use Not Constructive now. – Aaronut Sep 4 '11 at 15:08
  • Point taken. I've edited the comment type. What I really meant was questions that are salvageable but not ok in their current state. – yossarian Sep 4 '11 at 16:48
  • If you want to hold their hands then that's your prerogative; I still think this is way too chatty for a moderator to post, even for questions with potential. Just say "Closed due to <blah blah>. For more details on our policies and information on how to get your question reopened, see the FAQ and the corresponding meta thread." That's it. If they react negatively to a neutral statement like that, imagine the gaskets they'll blow when they start getting real criticism and downvotes. – Aaronut Sep 4 '11 at 17:55

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