Should questions where a problem arose from a typo be closed?

Here is a recent example:

Google Analytics JavaScript event tracker code not tracking events

The problem was a misspelled _gaq (written as _gat).

  • Should these be closed? Surely they're of no use to anyone once the OP recognizes the mistake.

  • If so, what justification should be given? Not a real question? Too localized?

Just to be clear, the question linked above actually was not broken due to a typo. This was my mistake, and raises some other interesting questions. See the discussion below.

Note, this applies to many Stack Exchange sites, not only Stack Overflow.

  • 25
    I think "too localized" would be appropriate here...
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 7:46
  • While your question here is valid - I believe that the example you gave does not fall under this category - see this answer on that post.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:01
  • @Lix hmm, you're right, I just tested it out and apparently _gat is a thing once the google analytics stuff is injected. In fact I think I actually knew _gat was a thing at some point and forgot. I don't suppose there's any way to remove my premature flag? ;) Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:09
  • No - I'm afraid not.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:11
  • Hmm, that's silly. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:13
  • I think that it is better to miss flag a question rather than un-flag a possibly bad question. If most of your flags are valid I do not believe that this should have any negative effect - your flag will just be ignored.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:15
  • I don't see why the flagger shouldn't be able to unflag after realizing the flag was invalid. I imagine there could be plenty of cases where someone flags something and then either realizes they misunderstood something, or some conversation unfolds that indicates things weren't as they seemed, or whatever. Lack of negative effect doesn't necessarily make nonunflagability preferable to unflagability. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:21
  • I agree with you there - perhaps one should reconsider your usage of flags - maybe raise the bar for flaggable posts. Perhaps wait to see if the OP makes some edits that would improve the post. In any case, as long as your helpful flags count is high and you don't have many rejected flags then the user acting on the flag will realize that it was a mistakenly flagged. Unless this happens a lot I don't think it is such an issue.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:25
  • I'm more worried about the moderator not necessarily knowing enough about the subject matter to realize the flag was bad, and closing it with improper justification. Not to imply that moderators don't know their stuff, but not everyone is an expert at everything. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:30
  • 1
    @Lix, optimistic but good point none the less :) Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:39
  • 1
    With all the possible typos one could make for the same code snippet, imagine how much questions we could have, if those questions would not be closed as too localized.
    – avpaderno
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 11:00
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno yeah, I gather by comparing the score of the Q and top A that this is assumed to be fairly obvious / common knowledge. I just wanted to be sure. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 11:07
  • 1
    Sigh, so they closed it with another wrong reason. Hopefully it will get reopened again, it's beyond my power now. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 7:06
  • 1
    @ShadowWizardSaysNoMoreWar I agree. This is about the current "Caused by Typo" close reason, written when too-localized was used. Since it has its own tag it can be closed as "No longer reproducible". But it still leaves a problem, this Q and this one seem to be the most upvoted on the subject of the Typo close reason on MSE, but in order to keep them open they should be updated to current standards.
    – bad_coder
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 7:17
  • 1
    This issue should be addressed in the closing reasons FAQ, and these sections of the FAQ: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/11474/… meta.stackexchange.com/q/11474/282094 - but it seems not to be documented anywhere. --- Probably also a reason to delete, not just close.
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 8:37

3 Answers 3


I think "too localized" would be appropriate in such a case... A simple proof-read of the code by the OP would have prevented the issue - point it out to them and VTC.

It is possible however that this one small spelling mistake is not the only problem with the code - one should also consider the same code without the mistake and try to see if a problem still exists. Sometimes the error could have been caused by the OP rushing to post the question.

The only reason I can see for leaving a post like that open is that other people can see how embarrassed the OP was and they'll make an effort to proof-read their own code before posting :)

An important thing to note is that these posts should not be edited to fix the typo!

  • 3
    Proof reading aside, this guy's obviously not even looking at any log output, or he'd have his problem pinpointed immediately. Every typo question I've seen has been like that. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 8:00
  • Perhaps a comment regarding debugging advice would be appropriate as well. But you are right - these types of posts should not be here - If the OP took a little bit more care they could have been prevented.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 8:02
  • 1
    I think a downvote would be appropriate, too. Seeing that such questions are the embodiment of the downvote-tooltip. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:30
  • Very true, @B - Also not to forget to undownvote after the user corrects the issue - if it validates it ;)
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:34
  • 2
    This is the optimal solution; I honor most too-localized flags raised based on typos, especially on old questions, as soon as I see them. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 18:20
  • @TheCommunity often this is true, but sometimes typos can lead to cryptic error messages.
    – Jeff
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 22:39
  • 3
    Since the close system was overhauled, "too localized" isn't an option anymore. Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 16:01
  • Stack Overflow has a specific close reason for such questions under "Off-Topic -> Other": "This question was caused by a problem that can no longer be reproduced or a simple typographical error. While similar questions may be on-topic here, this one was resolved in a manner unlikely to help future readers. This can often be avoided by identifying and closely inspecting the shortest program necessary to reproduce the problem before posting."
    – ale
    Commented May 9, 2018 at 16:02
  • @ale - yep, this was added ~2 years after this question was originally asked :)
    – Lix
    Commented May 10, 2018 at 7:08
  • But...sometimes they are insanely useful to people tracking down the same error message, so I don't think a policy of "close on site" is necessarily appropriate....
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 15:28
  • Perhaps update wrt. the close reason? But without "Edit:", "Update:", or similar - the answer should appear as if it was written today. Commented Jun 29, 2022 at 9:45

Yes, spelling mistakes and tiny syntax errors are frequently closed as too localized. Usually, the people who posted answers will not vote-to-close out of fear of losing the reputation they gained. I almost always need to flag these for moderators because no one else votes for them. I think the general majority just don't look hard enough to see when questions are too localized or not.

  • 1
    Yeah, I can't VTC anyway so I've just been flagging away =/ Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 8:04

There is one instance where they should not be closed - if they are exceptionally well documented, including the specific error that the typo gave them. Others will have similar problems in the future, look up the error issued, and have one more thing to check when nothing else helps because they'll keep overlooking the spelling issue.

I don't believe we need a community policy to close such questions, mostly because some users will close them blindly without taking into account that some of them will still be worthwhile.

  • I do not agree - if a question is too localized, it does not matter how much effort was put into the post and documenting the errors. I fail to see how one person's spelling mistake will be beneficial.
    – Lix
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 14:25
  • 3
    Actually, I sort of agree, on the condition that the correct version for the typo'd thing is especially confusing/misleading, like for instance the "correct" version itself is actually misspelled (think HTTP REFERER, also seen it happen in some private APIs). Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 14:38
  • Apparently at least some mods agree with this. I custom flagged a typo question and it was rejected with "This is declined because while they did make a typo, they include code, the error, and a lot of good stuff people can google for if they have that problem." Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 19:54
  • IMO typo questions with well documented error messages can be insanely useful to followers...
    – rogerdpack
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 15:27

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .