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I see one-paragraph questions (normally asked by new users) around here all the time. To be clear, I'm not talking about one short paragraph like here. I'm talking about one huge paragraph that could easily be split up into two or three paragraphs.

Questions asked like this normally don't get any attention, because the first thing you see is this monstrous block of words jumping right into your face. How about putting a length-restriction on a single paragraph?

Example (860 characters)

This is a going to be a very long, single paragraph. I do not include any sub-paragraphs because that would make this whole thing actually readable and nobody wants that. Actually, this example is a little unrealistic, as I'm using punctuation and switch between upper/lower case letters. sometimes i see questions being asked like this where nobody uses comas or dots this normally ends in sentences not making any sense the people which are doing this should be hanged. Normally, even these huge things are structured into "This is what I have", "This is what I need", "This is what I tried". It would just be too easy to make all those three parts of the question into separate paragraphs, because that would allow to simply skim the question and make up your mind about whether this is interesting enough that you want to put time into answering it or not.

It's not at all possible to skim through this big pile of characters without reading the whole thing (be honest with yourself: you didn't read it either :). I then normally move along without any further interaction.

Now, only allowing around 200-300 characters per paragraph would force people to think about proper sentences. It doesn't hurt anyone to hit return every once in a while.

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200 chars per paragraph is way too small. –  Servy Feb 15 '13 at 17:44
Propose a new length. –  Lukas Knuth Feb 15 '13 at 17:44
I wouldn't go any lower than 1000 at least, as a hard cap, and I can even think of problems with a limit at that point. For example the 860 char paragraph you have posted isn't an unreasonable size for a paragraph. Having each sentence as it's own paragraph (thus resulting in dozens of paragraphs per post) makes it even harder to read than a post with 2-3 paragraphs of more than one sentence. –  Servy Feb 15 '13 at 17:46
Hm, not sure if I agree. It would also be possible to check for one-paragraph answers and automatically flag those as "Low Quality" –  Lukas Knuth Feb 15 '13 at 17:49
I agree that long paragraphs are unreadable but I don't think there's an automatic way to do this. Personally I just edit posts like this and add linebreaks either where appropriate or between every 4-5 lines of text at a random period if I'm all tl;dr –  Ben Brocka Feb 15 '13 at 17:50
And yet for short questions a single paragraph could be fine. As for your idea of flagging, we have a "low quality post" queue in /review. For all we know it already does take into account size of paragraph as an indication of quality (which is likely a decent idea). That, combined with other indicators, can indicate a possible low quality post. That's certainly much more appropriate than preventing it. –  Servy Feb 15 '13 at 17:51
@Servy I think it takes the length of the overall question/answer into account. Answers/Questions which are very short land in there more often. –  Lukas Knuth Feb 15 '13 at 17:52
@LukasKnuth It takes a lot of things into account; trying to discuss what they might all be here wouldn't be on topic. I'm not saying that all posts with a large paragraph should be included, but I assume that there is a list of problems, each of which adds some "weight"; if there is enough, it goes in the queue. Having one paragraph that is over X chars long could be one valid portion of that algorithm, I wouldn't be opposed to that idea. –  Servy Feb 15 '13 at 17:55
640K ought to be enough for everybody! –  George Stocker Feb 15 '13 at 17:59

1 Answer 1

Any rule you propose is likely to be wrong for some site or another. I am as likely to edit a wall of text into separate paragraphs as I am to edit 7 short sentences, each their own paragraph, into a single paragraph.

One of the reasons a length is hard to propose is that questions need to be more accessible than answers. Once you've read a question, you're kind of committed, and you care, so you'll wade through more to get the answer. An ok length in an answer will not be ok in a question.

The other is the site type. SO is really focused on code. Walls of text should be broken up by code. Gardening, Travel, and Great Outdoors feature photos. Workplace is words-words-words. You would want a different length for each of those.

In the time it would take to gather metrics, propose appropriate paragraph length limits, implement it, report on gaming and tricking techniques, implement preventions for those etc, you could just edit the walls of text you happen to meet and take care of the problem that way.

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