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Should syntax error questions be closed as too localized after being answered?
Should questions where a problem arose from a typo be closed?
Are questions solved by fixing a typo or basic syntax error “too localized”?

Scenario: A user is coding (and is a newbie) and got stuck on an error which is because of a syntax error for example:

$sql = 'SELECT * FROM dealer WHERE id="'$id.'"';

and then user just ask question: Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_VARIABLE sql query.

now what the problem with type of question is that

  1. they are too localized, since it's not possible (possibility is <<<<<<<) that somebody else is facing the same problem in which they forget to put . at same place.
  2. these are not constructive since languages have error reporting. We just need little attention to understand it and solve it.
  3. And the worst seen is that there are 50*14 questions there with above point I mentioned.

Now my question is: should I (and is it appropriate) to vote to close and delete these question?

  • 7
    If you ask me: loyalkng.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/flamethrower.jpg (ie. vote to close as "too localized" is probably the right way to go.)
    – Pekka
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 16:58
  • Most of these don't really need to go through the close process. A moderator should just go through deleting them. They are 100% useless.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:17
  • 2
    Too bad flagging them often results in "helpful" and the question still being there :P @animuson
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:18
  • WSOiN += Stack Overflow is not a compiler
    – gnat
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:26
  • @PeeHaa Are you being serious that we don't close these? We should be. Have an example?
    – casperOne
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:31
  • 2
    @JollyOldSaintNicholas helpful, helpful, helpful.
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:32
  • @PeeHaa The first two were closed before you flagged it (looking at the history). Don't understand why the third one wasn't closed, but that's fixed now. Feel free to @ me in other situations where this might happen. I can't handle all the flags, you know.
    – casperOne
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:42
  • 5
    @PeeHaa The third example you linked is the kind of question which, instead of getting a close vote, often gets a "what have you tried?" comment. As a community, you need to decide whether or not you're going to continue to allow these highly-localized troubleshooting questions, because that's what people are asking on Stack Overflow all the time now. It's become a code troubleshooting site.
    – user102937
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 17:46
  • 1
    Deeming syntax errors as too localised is like EL&U turning away grammatical errors. Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 18:43
  • @JollyOldSaintNicholas Thanks for your help.
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 20:31
  • 5
    @RobertHarvey I can only speak for the PHP part of the community (but I'm pretty sure most people will think the same) and the fact that SO becomes more and more a personal troubleshooting site / Google results fetcher only helps degrade the overall quality of the site. And imho there is nothing to decide regarding this, because as far as we care those type of questions simply do not belong on Stack Overflow and we will do whatever we can to keep the site as clean as possible (and we are more than grateful for the help we got from the mods).
    – PeeHaa
    Commented Dec 25, 2012 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


Speaking specifically to the context of your question, we have:


This code compiles (or parses) fine, but I expected the following output, apparently -10 == 10

... or ...

I'm trying to work around this known parser / compiler bug/limitation, but I'm still making it mad. Because I did [x], I was sure I'd get [y]. I'm still getting [z], why?

Otherwise, the candidates are:

Too Localized:

Why do I have a syntax error here, at line 14? (or maybe) Here is the link to my site and nothing else that actually helps any future visitor match their problem to mine.

Not A Real Question:

Why does this wall of code not work? (and / or) Please download this giant archive, compile it and tell me what's wrong.

Not Constructive:

What idiot decided that the language should not support the above code?

Off Topic:

Where can I download a foobazzer that doesn't suffer from this error?

In the event that an example can't be found from the above list, use your best judgement. Answering the question if you can is up to you, prior to casting a close vote or flagging it for our attention. A polite comment telling the user why their question will likely be closed, along with what they can do to improve it is also appreciated. Ultimately, do whatever you have time and inclination to do, just be polite and helpful, even if that means casting a vote and moving on. If all you have is a syntax error, editing is probably not going to save the question.

We have to be able to assume that the user is at least, a programming enthusiast. Unless the question states extraordinary circumstances, this type of question is usually an artifact of poor or no research. Just try and reach out to the user a bit when this happens, if you have time and can do so constructively.

I hope this clears it up :)

  • 1
    it clears everything ...thankyou Commented Dec 26, 2012 at 3:57

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