One of the reasons for closing a question is as follows:

unclear what you're asking

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question.

I get that there are a lot of unclear questions, and that we need to let the askers of such questions know that they need to majorly rephrase and fix up their question so that we can answer it. But what's the point in closing such questions?

Say the person does fix up their question and make it understandable, now we just have to go through all the shenanigans of opening it back up again so someone can answer it. And even if they don't end up fixing up their question, all closing it does is make it unanswerable, so even if somebody manages to decode it and thinks they can answer it they can't!

So, why do we close questions as unclear? What harm does an unclear question left open do us?

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    $\begingroup$ I think the vote-to-close is a bit of a misnomer and misdirection, don't we put these questions on hold when it's unclear? The question gets locked but the language of 'on hold' suggests it is still redeemable. $\endgroup$ – zeffii Dec 25 '15 at 11:39
  • $\begingroup$ @zeffii Yes I guess that's the terminology that is used, but it's really functionally no different than being closed. $\endgroup$ – PGmath Dec 25 '15 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ OK, but saying something is on hold rather than closed conveys a different message. Like if someone puts you on hold while on the phone, you expect to be able to resume the conversation in the not too distant future. Unlike if someone says 'i'm going to hang up now'. If i had it my way the options would be share | edit | close | hold | flag | protect $\endgroup$ – zeffii Dec 26 '15 at 11:55
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    $\begingroup$ because if you flip the u and the n in unclear you get nuclear! :-) $\endgroup$ – X-27 wants to Reinstate Monica Jan 1 '16 at 22:49
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    $\begingroup$ I agree that we should keep the question open for a time period. Let some users vote it as unclear when more than 3 marks the question as unclear give the original poster say 10days to rectify the question? If he fail to do so , there is a high chance he already found the solution? $\endgroup$ – hawkenfox Jan 3 '16 at 11:21

I think closing helps encourages the OP to make an effort to clarify their question. If they know no one can answer, they know right away that they aren't getting an answer if the question is left as is.
If it's still technically possible to add answers, then they might (knowingly or not) end up waiting and finding out the long way that no one is answering.

If someone thinks they can decipher the question, they can edit and decipher it for everyone else too. If their edit is accepted, the question will be put through a review queue to (hopefully) re-open it quickly.

That said, the OP can't be expected to just clarify their question after being told "it's unclear". It's possible (even probable) have no idea what to clarify; what appears as total nonsense to an outsider may make perfect sense to the writer.

I'd suggest always leaving a comment with an unclear vote, describing as exactly (and clearly) as possible what it is about the question that isn't understandable.

  • $\begingroup$ It should also be mentioned that closing bad questions that no one can possibly answer removes the question from the un answered list, improving our answer ratio. $\endgroup$ – X-27 wants to Reinstate Monica Dec 26 '15 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ @X-27 Well.. tbh I don't think those statistics matter a whole lot now that we are graduating. (idk If they really mattered much before for that matter :P) $\endgroup$ – gandalf3 Dec 26 '15 at 22:01

There's never a reason to put a perfectly good answerable question on hold. Some questions do need clarification and putting them 'on hold' is the mechanism we use to get it. An OP who is invested enough in getting an answer will stick around and be happy to clarify once prompted.

The question needs to be clear or else the answer will become a meandering tour-of-blender, covering many possible answers in the hope that one of them hits the spot. This takes a disproportionate amount of effort than it's worth to both parties.

Questions rarely remain 'on hold' when the question has been clarified. if at least 1 person elects to reopen it, other reopen votes will often follow. You can always leave a comment to a moderator to suggest you are comfortable with providing an answer.


It seems to me that questions that are unclear fall into at least two categories. One category is questions from users whose first language is not English, and as a consequence, the obscurity of the question is perhaps to some extent the fault of Google Translate or Babblefish. Another category is when the problem of clarity lies in the perception of one or more readers, rather than the questioner.

I understand the value in closing questions that are unclear, or poorly asked, but in my opinion, the vote to close should always be preceded by a comment requesting the OP (or someone else who understands what the OP was asking in the question) to clarify what was meant. After a suitable duration (in this case I propose that "suitable duration" would be 36 to 72 hours) has elapsed, then a vote to close is reasonable.


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