Sometimes when I post questions on Stack Overflow, I think that the solution to the problem is more complicated only to discover that the solution to my problem was a simple error in syntax.

Does it violate the rules of Stack Overflow if you ask a question that can easily be resolved by a change in syntax such as a misplaced brace or using single quotes instead of double quotes?

Just as a note, not all syntax errors cause compile errors. Sometimes syntax errors can cause logic errors instead.


3 Answers 3


No, but such questions can still get closed because:

  1. They are Too Localized (being only of interest to you and your specific situation), or
  2. They are General Reference (easily answered with a Google search, or by reading the documentation).

The goal of Stack Exchange is to attract experts, and we can't do that if the front page is flooded with trivially-answerable questions. Experts are not interested in these sorts of questions; they are interested in questions that will allow them to share their expertise.

See Also
Optimizing for Pearls, not Sand

  • Item #2 is status-declined; not sure it can count as a reason?!
    – AakashM
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 9:14
  • The close reason was never added, but the principle still applies.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:32
  • Interesting. So 'How to move the turtle in LOGO?' would be considered insta-NARQ thes days?
    – AakashM
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:37
  • You'd have to ask Joel about that, but I'd say yes. The close reason was never added because Jeff knew that software developers would abuse it, using it as a synonym for RTFM.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 20, 2012 at 15:38

No, it's not against the rules. But it might get closed for being too localized.


Well, In order to know whether your question has an easy answer, such as a syntax error, You'd have to already know the answer, and in that case, you probably wouldn't have been asking in the first place.

If your situation actually was against the rules, than It would be possible for the perfect rules lawyer with 100% knowledge of the rules to not know whether or not he was breaking the rules by asking his question.

for the benefit of @Robert Harvey

My logic is very similar to proof by Contradiction, albeit not 100% formal

Step 1: assume the opposite of what you're trying to prove

In this case we assume It is against the Rules to post a question with a trivial answer

step 2. show that the assumption doesn't make sense

If that were the case, then even the Best of rules lawyers would need to know what the answer was in order to know whether their question was within the rules or not. Even if you have a perfect comprehension of the rules, That would not be enough unless you actually had knowledge of the answer

So If the most experienced SO user asked a question that he did not know the answer to, then he would not have the necessary information to determine whether the question violates answer too simple rule.

A master rules lawyer should not be uncertain regarding whether an answer was against the rules, therefore Answer can not be too simple Should not be a rule

  • Your logic seems flawed, somehow.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 21:17
  • @RobertHarvey How does my logic not work? Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 21:18
  • 1
    Whether your question gets closed or not depends on other people's knowledge of the rules, not yours. Having more knowledge about the rules should decrease the likelihood that you ask an off-topic question, not increase it. Otherwise, it's just circular logic, and the center cannot hold.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 21:20
  • @RobertHarvey It's a classic example by proof by contradiction. SO comments aren't rich enough to completely explain it so I've edited the answer for you benefit Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 22:00
  • 1
    Thanks for the explanation, but it seems to be based on the faulty assumption that the close process is somehow based on certainty. It isn't. Were that the case, we wouldn't need a close-voting system; we could simply allow anyone with certainty in their convictions to close a question with a single binding vote. Such a system would only allow the closing of the most egregiously off-topic questions, though; thank goodness we safely close borderline questions all the time, because a checks-and-balances system exists for reopening them, in case an error is made.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 19, 2012 at 22:52

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