Takeaway: If you can't change the way people are applying this, can we change the semantics? Possibly reword to "Not a valid question." You add a single char, but eliminate all confusion.

The vast majority of items I see closed as "not a real question" are indeed real questions. A google search [site:stackoverflow.com inurl:questions "closed as not a real question"] turns up many examples.

Ask yourself, "What is a question" and then attempt to defend the idea that it's acceptable to violate all reason and logic by suggesting interrogative statements aren't real questions. By definition, there can be no more realness to it.

Maybe I'm just being a bit pedantic, but I can't stand little things like this. Bad questions are just as much real questions as good ones.

I don't think this is a problem with SO's model, or the close option itself. I think this is a problem with the users (those doing the voting), and not being properly educated. After all, this close-reason has a purpose, for shutting down things like:

Unix is 40 years old. (August 1969 ) Happy birthday ! :)

That is a proper application of "not a real question."

Given that this appears to be an epidemic across the entire community, how exactly can it be remedied? How can any issue this wide-spread be remedied?

3 Answers 3


Newer users seem to sometimes misunderstand what NARQ means, seeing it as an accusation that their honestly-asked question is somehow insincere, when really it just means that the question wasn't well-formed. I see this particularly on non- and less-technical sites, but search most meta sites and you'll find complaints about it.

This is not (just) a semantics issue as suggested in another answer; this is a user-experience issue. Regardless of what we meant, some of our users are misunderstanding.

I suggest changing "not a real question" to "unclear question". That fits well with the description that follows:

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.

Most NARQs I've seen are genuine, poorly-formed questions from sincere askers; for trolls and other insincere askers we already have "not constructive". "Unclear question" invites the user to fix it; "not real" sounds like we've already given up on it (especially since newer users don't always understand that closing can be temporary).

  • I might also add a subtitle, saying something like "Not a real question as we define questions on the Stack Exchange sites". Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 19:12

It's shorthand for, "Not a valid question on <insert SOFU site here>."

You're looking to start a semantics argument. A ton of those are closed because they're something like, "My code is broked. Can you fix it?" with nothing else. There's no amount of editing that I can do that will fix that question. Ergo, it's not a real StackOverflow question. Close-->Not a real question. Done.

This is different from "not programming related," because it may very well be programming related. But the question may also be, "Why does my brother hate PHP?" Sure, it's a real question, but I don't know your brother, and I can't tell you why he hates PHP. That example borders with subjective and argumentative, but you get my point.

I feel like "not a real question" could be changed to, "Dude, WTF?" and we'd all be better off on the semantics arguments. Hell, maybe that's my suggestion:

Change "not a real question" to "dude, wtf?"

  • 3
    Then say "Not a valid question." You're not exactly saving a ton of chars there. And you're making it semantically-consistent with the its primary application.
    – Sampson
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 13:35
  • 1
    You can do without the "...on <insert SOFU site here>" since the context clear - after all, you're on the site :)
    – Sampson
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 13:37
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    Meh, maybe not. I still like "dude, wtf?". I think that's the best description that we can give it.
    – Eric
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 13:39
  • While I agree, it may not be appropriate for front-end use ;)
    – Sampson
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 13:40
  • Isn't "not X related" for questions that don't belong on the site? I thought "not a real question" was for posts that aren't questions. Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:24
  • @Kyle: "Why does my brother hate PHP?" or "My code is broked" are both programming related. However, they're "dude, wtf?" questions through and through.
    – Eric
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:42
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    I still think "not a valid question" has greater chances of being implemented than "dude, wtf?" :)
    – Sampson
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:43
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    @Eric, tell you what. If they change it to "not a valid question," I'll make you a special greasemonkey script that changes it to "dude, wtf?" :)
    – Sampson
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:44
  • I actually like the "Here's my code, fix it" questions. They're an easy source of rep. Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:46
  • @Brad: When they don't post code? Eric no likey.
    – Eric
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:50

"Not a Real Question" is a bit of a misnomer. What it should be is "Not a Real [stackoverflow|serverfault|superuser] Question".

The sites all have a focus on questions that can be answered. Most questions that are closed as NARQ are generally very subjective questions that could never generate any one real objective answer.

  • I thought that's what "not X related" was for - to indicate that the question does not conform to the topic of the site. Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:22
  • Well, take SO for instance. Not Programming related would be for a question that was clearly not programming related. Not a real question would be for a question that had to do with programming but was still not a valid question for the SO paradigm.
    – EBGreen
    Commented Aug 25, 2009 at 14:26
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    "Not a real [site] question" would still be a bad name that would overlap off-topic questions.
    – Jacob
    Commented Dec 30, 2011 at 19:11

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