Our site has had questions that show insufficient research. Often they are translation questions with not enough input from the OP. They should have consulted a dictionary, the should have tried to translate themselves or make it clear that they don't know enough Latin to do so, they should explain more carefully what they want to mean. Such questions need to be closed, but they can be reopened once the OP elaborates or does some homework.

How should the closing reason be worded? It has to be 25–400 characters, including any links to help pages or meta discussions. (We can have up to three custom reasons to close. We currently have zero.)

Currently such questions can be closed as off-topic (our guidelines do require effort) or unclear (without elaboration it's hard to tell what the OP is after), but neither of these reasons communicate the common problem of insufficient effort clearly enough.

It would be great if the text could include (as much as possible of) the following aspects:

  • It's hard to translate a phrase without context. Please explain what you want the text to mean.
  • Once you clarify your question, it can be reopened. Nothing irreversible has happened.
  • If you have tried translating (or other) yourself, show us your attempt and tell what you are unsure about.
  • At least consult an online Latin dictionary to find good translations for you key words. We can help you put them together in a sentence.
  • Links to relevant material, like our dictionary list or help pages.

Most such questions seem to be translation questions, but I think the description should make sense more broadly even if it focuses on translation. Feel free to write your suggestion in any way whatsoever; these were just my thoughts on what might be good to include.

If you think the reason to close should be specific to translation questions, that's fine. We can have three custom reasons to close, and more details can always be given in comments when closing due to a rarer problem, so specificity is not an issue. Or perhaps the closure reason should focus more on elaborating on what is needed than on requiring research. Please share suggestions and ideas!

5 Answers 5


I feel that such a closing-reason would be much too broad. This new reason would seem to assume that we require that questions show substantial research has been done. So far, we have not required this at all. In fact, many questions in our top 10 of all times with the most votes show no substantial research. So this would be a major change in policy.

In case this was not the intended meaning of the closing-reason as it was phrased, I think new closing reasons should only be created for sufficient causes: that is, "off topic" is a good closing reason, because being off topic is enough reason for a question to be closed. However, "not enough research" is not a sufficient cause as it stands.

If we do want to require research, I would propose that we limit this requirement to certain types of questions that have given us problems, as we already do with translation requests.

A few examples of fine questions without substantial research:

The full body of the question:

I was taught that one can use the '-que' suffix to string together multiple words, in a similar way to putting 'et' between them.

Are these two equivalent? Did one have a connotation in classical (Caesar-era) Latin that the other didn't?

Nearly every human language is named after the people who spoke it, from ancient Egyptian, Hebrew and Greek, to modern tongues such as English, German and Chinese. And then we have the language of the ancient Romans: Latin. Why do we call it that, rather than "Roman"?

I learned early on that Latin has no articles. So why is it, then, that Winnie the Pooh and The Hobbit are translated Winnie ille Pu and Hobbitus Ille?

Wouldn't it be more correct to not translate the article? What is the justification for including ille in these book titles?


Here is yet another suggestion, which is based on extended discussions with Cerberus and his answer. I propose adding two reasons to close:

  1. Insufficient context:

    Your question has been put on hold for insufficient context. If you edit your question to elaborate on it, it can be reopened. Are you unsure about something specific? Where does the text you are translating come from or what is it supposed to convey? What is the context of the text or word you are working with?

  2. General reference:

    Your question has been put on hold as a general reference question. It appears to be easily answerable using online Latin dictionaries or other such sources. Which sources (including older questions on this site) have you researched and how do they fail to answer your question? Is there something confusing in the sources you have consulted?

A key idea here is that the closing reasons come with explicit questions whose answers will clarify a question. Therefore I find these superior to the standard "unclear what you are asking" reason although the underlying reason to close can fall in that category. To me this is greatly a matter of communication.

We can of course have meta discussions about the specifics of any new reasons to close, and the banners can be edited to include a link. But at first I would like not to regulate too much and see how things go with people judging freely. I want to form a policy by voting to close and keep open before codifying the policy in too much detail. I trust our users with closing privileges to judge well. Should abuse of closing arise at some point, the closing reasons can be revoked if a meta discussion is not enough, so no permanent damage can be done.

  • 2
    How about "how do they fail to answer your question"? Commented May 16, 2019 at 21:48
  • 1
    Ad 1: if we go through with this, perhaps I'd like to see some additional qualification ensuring that users know not all questions require substantial context? Something like "certain types of questions require additional context (more details <here>)", with a link to some page describing what types of questions do? Otherwise, I'm scared this very general closing-reason might be over-used in the far future (I've seen this happen on other sites, although of course our own site is much more reasonable and friendly than others!).
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 21:53
  • 1
    Ad 2: I'd love to see a link to a page—a page where it is defined more clearly and more specifically what types of question qualify, and what kind of resources we require users to consult before asking such a question.
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 21:55
  • @Nathaniel Good idea! I put that in.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 21:57
  • I was thinking of putting it in another place; see what you think of this edit. Commented May 17, 2019 at 12:53
  • @Nathaniel That's much better. My edit didn't make much sense.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented May 17, 2019 at 16:54

To throw in my two cents, now that more low-effort questions are appearing:

Latin Language SE is for specific questions of general interest, and to help you learn and understand. Thus, questions requesting translation or explanation without research effort will be closed as off-topic. If you elaborate on your question, it can be reopened: What have you tried? What specific parts are you having difficulty with? And what have you found already?

  • 2
    Could you clarify what you mean by "questions requesting explanation"? Doesn't that mean all questions? And, if we require all questions to show they have done substantial research, this would be a big change in policy. Things to consider include: what do we do with questions that resemble ones in our top ten of all times, many of which do not show substantial research was done? Should they all be closed? And what do we do with those old questions?
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 3:39
  • 2
    By the way, the way it's been worded now by Joonas and Draconis, I have seen similar closing-reasons being abused on other sites. It's too all-encompassing and too vague, in my opinion (see my answer below).
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 3:42

Here is a list of what I see on other similar SE's, who also seem to share our desire to discourage low-level "translate X for me" questions.

All of these close reasons are under "Off topic because...":

  • German.SE

    German Language SE is for specific questions of general interest and to help you learn and understand. Thus, requests for proofreading, spell checking or translations of individual texts are not a good fit here. If you can, please narrow down your question to a single specific source of concern. See this post on Meta for more information.

  • 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.

  • Chinese.SE, Spanish.SE, and 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.

Italian.SE and Portuguese.SE does not have a specific reason for this.

In my opinion, the French message does not seem to hit the bar set by our community, which in addition to specificity requires research effort. The boilerplate message adopted by many other sites is pretty terse and discouraging, especially since we wish to be a welcoming community.

I like the tone of the German message, but think it should be adapted a little, since we do allow translation questions that show research effort:

Latin Language SE is for specific questions of general interest and to help you learn and understand. Thus, questions asking for translations without prior research effort are off-topic. If you can, please narrow down your question to a single specific source of concern. See this post on Meta for more information.

  • Dislike this approach? Vote down. Like it? Vote up. Needs some tweaks? I made it community wiki!
    – brianpck
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 2:06
  • 2
    I like this! But I would like to see several independent suggestions, so we can see what kind of direction we want to take. Should the meta link be to this question instead? I don't think it should point to "what do we do with these questions?" but more to something like "how do I ask these questions well?" – we might have to make a new meta question for just this purpose.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 2:29

We must acknowledge that Latin is the main language for producing mottos or short phrases (rings, tattoos, etc), and we get tons of questions like that. We must not pretend people know about Latin, as most don't. Asking for "research effort", e.g. a personal translation well analysed throughout might be asking too much. As long as they provide one from an online translator (e.g. Google Translate), I would be satisfied.

Perhaps we must state that at least one translation is required. "Research effort" is too strong. If mottos were traditionally written in Chinese and I just want a simple one, I would not try to create one myself if I know nothing of Chinese. The best I would do is to ask in a forum, providing the one given by an online translator (like Google Translate). Asking me for "research effort" when it comes to a language I know nothing about sounds scary.

So, my phrase for the off-topic message would be something like yours, but also stating a phrase like

Questions asking for translation that do not offer a suggested translation will be closed as off-topic.

  • This is good, but ideally I'd like to catch the no-effort etymology questions too.
    – Draconis Mod
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 16:22
  • @Draconis We can add three closure reasons, so one doesn't have to cover everything. It's not an issue if some are narrow. I wanted to start with adding one, but we can do several.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 16:46
  • @JoonasIlmavirta Ah, fair; I thought we were limited to one custom one
    – Draconis Mod
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 17:06
  • 3
    I do like translation questions having a suggested translation, but what good is that if the OP knows no Latin? If answers start with dismissing Google Translate, what was the point of using it in the first place? The thing I find more important in translation questions is elaboration on the context and the desired message. But on the other hand I realize that this is pretty close to the pre-existing "unclear" reason to close.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta Mod
    Commented May 4, 2019 at 19:40
  • 2
    @JoonasIlmavirta♦: I think I agree with you here. Context is often the main problem with translation questions.
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 5, 2019 at 3:55
  • @Cerberus Context is important too. But asking for context or one translation, imo both sufficient, seem less demanding than "research effort".
    – luchonacho
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 8:02
  • @luchonacho: At least a translation shows the asker put some thought into it, yes.
    – Cerberus Mod
    Commented May 6, 2019 at 21:47
  • Again we’re back to Google Translate. If you know no Latin at all, you are most likely to turn to Google Translate. I would dare say that providing a Google Translate doesn’t really show that one has put any thought into it, except doing the only thing one is able to. Basically, it is a ‘Since I am required to produce something to ask this question, this is all I was able to.’ To me, that isn’t much thought, even if well intended. I agree with the others that the most important information we can get is context.
    – Canned Man
    Commented Aug 5, 2021 at 10:33

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