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If I ask a question starting with "Greetings, fellow Latinists" and end with "Best regards, [my name]", they are removed. Some texts seem to be removed automatically, and often some user or moderator comes and removes the rest. Why is that? Am I not allowed to be nice? Can I put "Hi!" and "Thanks in advance!" and all that back to my post?

(Note: I did not ask this question from my own point of view, but that of a newcomer who might be perplexed by Stack Exchange policies like greeting removal. I think it is worth having an explanation on our meta from the point of view of our community. All Stack Exchange sites are a little different.)

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First of all – we don't remove them because we don't value civility or friendliness! Rather, we do value those things, and we strive to provide an environment where Latin students of all levels feel welcome to participate and learn together.

And yet, such "personal" content – greetings, expressions of thanks, personal stories, contact information, and so forth – is often removed. Here are two main reasons:

  1. Personal content may hide more valuable content in "excerpts" of our posts, such as in search engine results and page previews.

  2. Personal content requires the reader's time to parse and determine that it does not contain valuable information.

Hiding valuable content in excerpts

There are a few places on Stack Exchange where "previews" of posts are given, but perhaps the most familiar example is in search engine results. Here's what I get if I search for "pronunciation gn" on Google:

search results

The text that appears below the URL is automatically pulled from the answer by the search engine. Now, we don't know Google's algorithm for selecting this text, but we do know that if it said "Hello, I really like your question and I'd like to see if I can answer it for you," the person using the search engine would be somewhat less inclined to believe that a helpful answer is available on our site.

Thus there is a possibility that including personal content in our posts would at least sometimes reduce the usefulness of excerpts of our content.

Requires more effort from the reader

To address this one, it's helpful to remember that Stack Exchange grew out of Q&A sites for computer programmers. These programmers, facing tight deadlines for fixing problems at work, place a high premium on "keeping it simple" – they want to find and implement solutions as quickly as possible. Even a second or two spent skipping over "Greetings, I hope you can help me" and "Thanks in advance," when multiplied by millions of questions and millions of programmers, results in a lot of wasted time for an audience that often finds itself under time pressure.

Of course, it's fair to ask how applicable this example is on a much smaller site, where the user community is more tightly knit and where most questions are asked out of curiosity, not in order to meet a tight deadline. Even so, consider:

  • Stack Exchange Q&A sites are structured differently from forums on purpose – our site's structure intentionally hinders personal interaction in order to make finding quality information easier.
  • The vast majority of the people who benefit from our content are the invisible and silent readers of it, who drop in from a search engine and then leave. What is best for them?

Conclusion

This question is one of the more difficult ones on the Stack Exchange network. Is it truly necessary to eliminate all personal content, particularly on a small site like this one? If yes, does it need to be eliminated right away? If no, where do we draw the line between ending a question with "thanks!" and opening a question with a four-paragraph autobiography?

This isn't the right place to work out the perfect solution. But hopefully it suffices to say – if your greetings, thanks, and other personal content have been removed from your post, it's not because we don't value you or your post. It's also not because we don't value civility – rather, "being nice" is one of our core principles. Instead, it's simply an attempt to help others find the information they need more quickly and efficiently.

In the meantime, if your personal content has been removed, consider doing these things instead:

  • Rather than saying "thanks," upvote any helpful posts and click the green checkmark next to the answer that best addressed your question.
  • Rather than sharing your personal story in a question or answer, add such info to your profile – there's a handy "About me" field for exactly that purpose.
  • If you'd like to get to know us, that's great! We'd welcome you to our chat room, where we discuss a wide variety of topics (and sometimes even Latin!).

Additional reading: Should 'Hi', 'thanks', taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?

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