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Sometimes we get a question worded like "why do chefs do " when the OP really means "does doing X have any benefits".

I feel that the difference between the two is important and goes well beyond mere linguistic niceties. Equating both implies that chefs only do X when there is a clear culinary benefit in doing it, or that it is wrong to do X if there is no culinary benefit to X, which is a dangerously misleading assumption (and also undeservedly insulting to chefs).

Second-guessing people's motivations and reasons is not really constructive. Asking "why did the chef do X" when we really want to know "will I gain something if I do X myself" only invites speculation and in the worst case creates either irrelevant answers or myths.

My suggestion is to focus on what we can answer: the food technique itself. If somebody posts a quesiton of "why do chefs do X sometimes" should be edited into "What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing X". That way we have an interesting and answerable question.

This is of course a matter for a community decision, not something for a moderator (or some other single user) to simply proclaim, so I would very much like to see your thoughts, input, criticism and counter-suggestions.

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I'm broadly in favor of this kind of edits, just as I favor pretty much any sort of edit that improves question/answer question quality without drastically changing the intent. I certainly agree that we don't need to be obsessing over why some particular person did something.

My only worry is forcing things into awkward wordings. "What are the advantages and disadvantages of X?" is pretty long for titles, and "What are the pros and cons of X?" is a little better but still not terribly natural. I'd be inclined to leave it up to people's best judgment when editing - just as usual try to balance the potential concerns with "good" writing.

Depending on the exact context, I'd be fine with "Are there reasons to X?", "Why would I?", "Why should I?", or even just "X?" (plus more explicit "advantages/disadvantages?" in the body). I know there's probably some disagreement about exactly how good each of those is, but as with most edits, it seems fine to just let people edit as best they can.

Bottom line, the important thing is that people are aware that this sort of phrasing is a red flag and probably ought to be edited.

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  • Given that some of this concern seems to be about the title of the question (and they are perfectly valid concerns) perhaps we can leave such "inexact" wording as-is in titles, and edit the body of the post to better align with the standard? – logophobe Apr 8 '16 at 3:01
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    @logophobe The problem is, some people are really strongly influenced by titles. Some people are good about it, reliably giving solid answers in the style they know is good for the site, despite the title. But I've also seen over and over again people's answers really skewed by the phrasing in the title. If there's a "better" or "best" in the title, you get a lot more "I prefer...". – Cascabel Apr 8 '16 at 3:03
  • Different site, but great example of knee-jerk reactions to "best": boardgames.stackexchange.com/posts/29710/revisions – Cascabel Apr 14 '16 at 20:51
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While I've not had the time to participate here as much as I once did I'll take a moment to try to 'split hairs' here. Given the general theme of Stack Exchange to direct users to more 'objective' questions and answers I balk at questions which ask for "the best" way to X...best in terms of "what" (taste, cost, time to prepare...etc) is entirely too subjective. I will, when I see such a question, make an edit to clean this up.

On the other hand...cooking questions rarely contain a strong moral component, and speculation regarding a persons 'motives' in the kitchen are (or at least 'should be') less likely to be 'offensive'...even when incorrect. For my part, I don't have a problem if some asks, "Why did Bob use Canola?"

When a writer speculates about another persons motives for choosing a particular church or political candidate ... especially if you are wrong ... they are likely to do so in a manner that would be 'offensive' to that person or others who might be akin to them. If, however, the question is posed "Why did Chef Bob" on the "Watch Me Cook" show choose Canola oil over Olive oil...and an answer is given which is both 'incorrect' but also a legitimate reason why "someone" might make that choice. Bob...and Bob's fans are unlikely to become enraged with offense over the error. I really don't have a problem with this type of question, even if the only one who can really answer the question...as asked...is Bob.

But that is just my opinion.

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    I think rumtscho's point is more that it's potentially misleading than offensive. Sure, no one will get mad at the suggestion that Bob used canola oil because it has a neutral flavor, and hopefully most readers will understand that answer isn't actually what Bob thinks. But there's still a bit of an association, and it gets worse as you venture out more toward "why do chefs..." It starts to get easy for people to associate the two: "I heard that chefs prefer canola oil because..." – Cascabel Apr 18 '16 at 20:24

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