Pertaining to On a tidally locked planet, would time be quantized?.

I think we can mostly agree that this question is super messy. I personally love the premise, but I wish there wasn't a giant wall of text. After the last edit by OP, the question was nearly illegible. I proposed an edit deleting nearly the whole rant, replacing it with my best two sentence summary, but it was rejected. I can see why; Intent of OP and all that, and that's not what I'm asking.

In the future, if there are more questions written this way, what's one to do?

Do we leave it there and downvote, asking OP to clean it up? OP likely won't do it, and then we've got a junk question with some decent answers.

Do we edit it, as User L. Dutch did? Obviously, we need to be more concise than I was, and OP may still resent the edits.

Do we VTC or delete or something else?

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    $\begingroup$ Ow. Would any answers be invalidated if we reinstate your edit? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ For reference I just removed all the comments that were added since Dutch's initial removal. I have also protected, closed and removed the question from the HNQ list. $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MonicaCellio No, but if my edit were to be reinstated, it seems then that answers might wish to address the "why" of that. $\endgroup$
    – user45266
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 4:04
  • $\begingroup$ The simple answer may be to find the duplicate, I'm sure we've done this one before. $\endgroup$
    – Separatrix
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 11:13

2 Answers 2


It is the responsibility of the OP to ask a clear, concise question

That, as of the writing of my answer, is a question run amok. Rather than improving the question, the OP simply appended... and appended... and appended... in massive quantities. Frankly, if you need to express that much information to ask a question, IMO you don't have a question (or haven't yet figured out what you're going to ask).

If you can't explain your backstory in three paragraphs...

Again, IMO, if an OP can't explain the backstory or premise of the question in three or fewer paragraphs (maybe add to it a 3-5 item bullet list of conditions or qualifications for an answer), then 95% of the time the OP hasn't figured out what they're trying to ask.

And no question on the main site should require more than a single sentence with a single question mark.

However, what to do when a question becomes incontinent?

1. Downvote

Please remember that a VTC is not a super-downvote. A VTC should only be cast if the question violates one of the appropriate-question rules. Ideally, it should never be cast because one doesn't like the question or because the question length/complexity is getting out of control.

2. Edit

Because ours is a creative site, we have a general unwritten policy to not substantially edit an OP's post save for legibility and/or grammar. This isn't the case on other sites. In fact, SE's general policy is that they encourage user B to edit user A's question if it clarifies the question without changing that question's intent. (That italicized bit is really important.)

In the case of the linked question, the question is way, way, way past the need for somebody editing it back down to proper size. Taking the time to do that helps the OP learn how to write better questions.

3. Live with it

If all else fails, because we live in an imperfect world, one can always live with the fact that some questions will be out of control. I suspect that for most of us, participation on this site is a hobby. Never let a hobby take over your life (or, said in the words of The Joker, "if you're good at something, never do it for free").

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    $\begingroup$ I love your most recent answers in Meta. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 20:02
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    $\begingroup$ I think you mean “...more than a single sentence with a question mark.” (Remove the second “single.”) And I agree wholeheartedly. Actually, that is one of the best skills I’ve learned on Stack Exchange: how to write a single question that actually is THE question I am seeking an answer for. $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ "because the question length/complexity is getting out of control" ...unless that out-of-control-ness is actually impacting understandability of the question, at which point VTCing as "unclear what you are asking" may well be appropriate. Though if one does vote to close for that reason, a downvote for "unclear" is probably also in order. (A downvote for unclear is probably in order long before a VTC as unclear, but that's my opinion.) $\endgroup$
    – user
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 8:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Wildcard, this comes from my publishing background. Question marks and exclamation points take the place of commas in single sentences with dependent clauses that need them ("Do you think that's wise? or should I just ignore you?") It's an uncommon construction, but grammatically legitimate: a single sentence with multiple question marks. Thus, my statement. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 13:59
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH thus your statement technically allows many such sentences, but only a single sentence with a single question mark. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Wildcard
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 14:43

What we should do:

Write comments explaining the problem(s) with this question, directing the user to the help center or asking for clarifications.

Only remove irrelevant text that doen't provide any information related to the question. On Worldbuilding, this is very seldom (compared to other Stacks).

Only if the OP gives essential information in comments but doesn't edit those into the question should we do it for them.

What we shouldn't do:

Please don't substantially edit any questions. In most cases the initial intention gets warped or lost, even against your best intentions.

If we are absolutely honest, we all are biased. We understand the question in a way that doesn't have to be in accordance to the intention of the OP. Maybe we have the beginning of an answer formulated in our head. Conciously or not, our edit will shape the question in a way that it fits our answer better, not the other way around.

I've seen it done on other Stacks with a much higher frequency of new users and bad questions. Experienced high-rep users see it as their responsibility to edit any salvagable question to be on topic somehow, but in the wake, the original intent of the OP is totally lost because no-one actually asks the OP for clarification.

To give a real-life example I witnessed on The Workplace:

  • New user rants about why he should wear protective boots in hot summer weather.
  • High-rep User A edits the question and removes the hot weather as irrelevant.
  • High-rep User B edits the question (at that time a single short sentence) into asking what kind of protective footwear is best because otherwise the question would have been off-topic
  • High-rep User C edits the question into asking how to choose the best protective footwear.
  • Later the OP apologized for his rant. He didn't actually care about any answers.

At this point the question was actually on topic, but it wasn't recognizable anymore as anything related to the original question.


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