This question ("Doubts concerning Chapter 15 of Persuasion by Jane Austen") was closed today as "too broad". I would like to invite the close voters to reconsider.

The reasons that I think the question is not "too broad" are:

  1. It does not require much, if any, research to answer: a little knowledge of the plot of Persuasion, and some familiarity with Regency-era English vocabulary, are all that are needed. Questions on this site can be far broader and still be answerable, for example.

  2. A good answer can be quite short: indeed, Spagirl had the essential points in a four-line comment.

The features that may have misled the close voters are:

  1. The question is very long. (But its length is misleading, since it largely consists of quotations from the text. For someone composing an answer, the length and detail are helpful, since the difficulties the OP is having in following the text are clearly indicated.)

  2. There are six numbered sub-questions. Shouldn't these be split into six separate questions? (But again, this is misleading, since all six questions are about the interpretation of a single passage, and so the answers are connected: in this case they are all about the interpretation of Mr. Elliot's renewal of acquaintance with his family following the death of his wife. Having multiple questions about the meaning of a single passage is something that we should expect to be commonplace—if someone is having difficulty with the language of a text, whether due to lack of language fluency, or unfamiliarity with a technique like free indirect speech, then this difficulty is likely to show up more than once.)

Possibly the close voters felt that it should be the job of the OP to make all this clear, but I think that when the OP is a new user, and possibly not 100% fluent in English, this is unrealistic to expect, and it would be a good idea to err on the side of being welcoming.

For comparison, a case where I think the "too broad" judgement was quite correct, was this question ("How much real-life insight about espionage into spy novels?") which a monograph would hardly suffice to answer.

Update I edited the question to try to make it more acceptable, but since I thought it was fine as it was, it is hard for me to know exactly what changes are needed to propitiate the close voters.

  • I didn't vote to close, but I'd guess point 2 was far more prominent than point 1 in eliciting VTCs. There's nothng wrong with a question being long, per se, but asking multiple questions in one (which it looks like is what happened here) is precisely one of the things the "too broad" close reason is good for.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 16:41
  • Cf. this question with 5 subquestions about a single passage. A mod could confirm whether it ever received close votes (I suspect yes), but certainly it's never been closed.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 13, 2019 at 16:43
  • @Randal'Thor That question has not received a close vote.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 2:35
  • Have you considered accompanying your reopen-vote and meta post with a corresponding edit of the question that tries to adress some of what you think confused the close-voters? Especially point 2 seems like something a good edit might be able to fix. Just reopening a question as is is not always the best idea, especially when you already identified structural problems yourself. Afterall, putting on hold is also for stopping answers to questions in order to put them into shape. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:23
  • @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach: I already edited it once, without influencing the close voters, and the question seems fine to me as it stands, so it's probably more productive if someone else has a go. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:37
  • @GarethRees It seemed like your edit was only of minor cosmetic nature fixing the formatting, though. I didn't see it point out clearer connections between the individual bullet points (or doing away with the infamous bullet list format altogether). It's clear you think it's okay, but you seem to have realized yourself that there are structural problem with it that tricked people into close-voting it. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:39

1 Answer 1


I dug into this a little bit, and hot damn, how do some of you review a question like this so quickly? Some of the reviews (not all) on that question happened alarmingly fast. I timed myself -- I'm a relatively fast reader, and I could not come close to matching pace.

I want to take a second to address what I suspect may be the real reason this question is closed: it looks bad.

This is a common problem on Stack Exchange. Review queues encourage you to perform reviews, but they don't encourage you to take your time. The queues are set up so that, most of the time, the result will be correct despite this -- but the net consequence is that many questions are reviewed based on how the question looks, not how the question reads. Because, really, who's going to take that much time to review a question?

So this question looks long. It scans like it's asking multiple unrelated questions. It's structured like an essay-format question deserving an essay-format response. So people close it as "too broad." This is not the first time this has happened on our site. To insult the wound, these mistakes hurt us more than other sites because of the level of evaluation needed to assess whether a question is truly "too broad."

For my part, I'm going to start watching the review queues more closely for fast reviews by speedy reviewers. But for yours... please take your time on reviews. Read the whole question. Even if it's long. That by itself may go a long way towards solving this problem.

  • Thanks for having a look — the review queues do encourage a snap judgement based on a quick glance, even though the "Edit" button is right there. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 10:10
  • Thank you for this analysis and advice. But regarding your last paragraph, I'd like to add one note of caution: it's possible that fast reviewers may have already seen the post outside the queue. It's easy on a smaller site like this one to literally see every post as it comes in, even before clicking through to the review queue. I know this is often the case for myself: I've already seen a new post on the front page before reviewing it in FP/LA, or already read and voted/commented on a question before reviewing it in CV/RV.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:07
  • Encouraging people to review more thoroughly in all honours, but we (or the people having identified the visual problems the question poses) can also mitigate this issue by putting it into a better shape that doesn't exhibit these issues. The reviewers might be wrong in only judging the question by a quick glance, but it's not like the others can't approach them half-way by making it look better. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:28
  • 3
    @CahirMawrDyffrynæpCeallach: As I understand it, "the reviewers" are not supposed to be a separate group from "the others" — that's why there's an "Edit" button on the review form. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:47
  • @GarethRees True. But the problem is that the people understanding the question better and not thinking it is too broad are the ones in the best position to actually show that by editing it. If you only give it a short glance and think it's asking 6 different questions, you're probably not in the position to edit it (you could argue they're also not in the position to review it, but taht's how it is). But if you see people reviewing as "too broad" but realize the questions are actually all connected, you're in a good position to reformat the question accordingly. Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 17:50
  • 3
    @Cahir That principle is more true on other sites than it is here. Frankly, I do not expect that all "good" lit.se questions can be formulated in a succinct, clear way. Plus, minor changes that appear semantic can have significant non-semantic impact, making structural edits difficult and time-consuming.
    – user80
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 18:13
  • @GarethRees One problem with the "Edit" button on the review form is that it automatically removes the post from the queue, which a reviewer might not want to do. (Of course, they can equally well edit the post outside of the queue, so your point still stands.)
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Commented Feb 15, 2019 at 16:23

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