Custom close reasons are a great boon to Stack Exchange sites, allowing the community to provide more tailored advice to site-specific situations. Their big problem (aside from being limited to three by default) is that they are all lumped under "off-topic". This is often confusing.

I suggest that all close categories but "exact duplicate" should support customized close reasons — not just the "off-topic" category.

For example, the recommendation close reason

Questions asking us to recommend or find a tool, library or favorite off-site resource are off-topic for Stack Overflow as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam.

This would make more sense as a child of primarily opinion-based.

enter link description here

Similarly, the "why doesn't this work" close reason

Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers. See: How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example.

This would make more sense as a child of unclear what you're asking.

Similar examples can be given for pretty much any of the Stack Exchange sites.

  • 5
    Agree with the first example, disagree with the second. (IMO, there's typically a clear difference between an unclear question and a question that shows no effort - no attempted solution, explanation of why it didn't work, and no indication of the results expected.)
    – Ken White
    Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 23:37
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    You could call that too broad, or leave it in off-topic. I think that's better left for a future discussion, once this proposed feature exists. Commented Dec 5, 2013 at 23:40
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    "Other (add a comment explaining what is wrong)" not doing it for you?
    – random
    Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 0:02
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    @Michael Do you mean that a close reason that would typically look like this should instead look more like this, by being made a child of "primarily opinion-based" rather than "off topic"? (I made that mockup just from copying some of the opinion-based closure text) Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 0:45
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    @Michael Go right ahead :) Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 0:47
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    @Michael I did some editing to make it clearer what's going on, and changed the title, since I think "All close reasons should be customizable" is prone to misinterpretation. (Our close reasons are already completely customisable, of course - we can close a question for any custom reason we want; see random's comment.) Please check the the changes I made to make sure this post is still saying what you want it to say. Commented Dec 6, 2013 at 2:11
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    "out of scope" fits better since they may be about the topic matter, but not the case of questions allowed
    – random
    Commented Apr 10, 2015 at 0:15
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    Related discussion in the comments at Shouldn't "off topic" be only about...off topic?
    – jscs
    Commented May 15, 2015 at 2:32
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    @Gilles: Can you clarify what sort of canonical answer you're looking for with the bounty? Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 22:44
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    @NathanTuggy For a feature request, I guess canonical would mean coming from SE. Keep in mind bounties on MSE are often more to show that someone cares (for all the good it does) than about getting answers. Commented Oct 1, 2015 at 22:47
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    It seems like this would mostly serve to make it harder to find the custom reason you're looking for. People already get confused between unclear vs. too broad, and so on.
    – user154510
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 0:00
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    @MatthewRead Just how long would it take to go through all of them? Why is this too long? Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 0:03
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    Related request on Mathematics.
    – quid
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 18:05
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    @Brahadeesh Because we are not going to make this possible for other close reasons, but have since renamed "off-topic" to "community-specific reason" which makes the request somewhat moot.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 19:22

4 Answers 4


This would be beneficial on multiple sites and I think it should be implemented where needed, perhaps as an option/toggle controlled by each site's mod community. I don't have a specific solution but I do want to show some additional examples of this issue.

On the sites I frequent, I find this would be particularly beneficial under the "unclear what you're asking" header.

For example, on ELL.SE, one of the Close/Flag reasons is, essentially, "unclear what you're asking":

ELL Close reasons

The third option here is requesting that the OP adds more info to the question so that the other users can better understand what is being asked but the Off-topic reason is much more clearly worded to be specific to ELL than the generic "Unclear" text and includes a link to a great guide on how to ask sufficiently detailed questions.

Similarly, on Movies.SE there is an off-topic reason that is really an "unclear what you're asking" reason:

Movies Close Reasons

The second option here is also asking for more information but Movies.SE has determined that it's important to have the custom text with the link to the ID question help page, so it's stuck over on "off-topic".

There's a nearly identical version of this on Anime.SE, reason four:

Anime Close Reasons


Estimate of site usefulness

Checking through many of the sites I frequent, I see that 25 out of 40 should be able to immediately convert one or more of their custom off-topic reasons into a different custom heading. Another 5 have no custom reasons at all (mostly young beta sites), and the remaining 10 are using their custom reasons solely for designating off-topic questions. 3 of these are using all three of their allowed reasons, and might benefit more from this change, if they are allowed additional custom reasons in total that they can't currently justify fitting in. In cases where more than one reason could be converted, I've chosen the most obvious one to save time.

  • ELL (Unclear): This question should include more details than have been provided here. Please edit to add the research you have done in your efforts to answer the question, or provide more context. See: Details, Please.
  • RPG (Opinion): “Shopping” questions and other recommendation requests are off-topic, but can be asked on any one of a number of role-playing games discussion forums. For more information, see Are Game Recommendation Questions On Topic, Revisited.
  • SO (Unclear): Questions seeking debugging help ("why isn't this code working?") must include the desired behavior, a specific problem or error and the shortest code necessary to reproduce it in the question itself. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers. See: How to create a Minimal, Complete, and Verifiable example.
  • SF&F (Opinion): Requests for lists of works or recommendations are off-topic as they do not fit our questions and answers format. Feel free to ask about people's favorites in chat.
  • UX (Opinion): Questions requesting Icon Suggestions are off topic. While the subject of icons is on topic, there's very little value in soliciting suggestions for a specific icon in a specific context. See this meta post for more information about this topic.
  • English (Unclear): Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. For help writing a good word or phrase request, see: About single word requests
  • Cooking (Opinion): Requests for recipe recommendations are off-topic; everyone has their own favorites. However, if you have a recipe already you can ask for help improving it - just be specific about what you want.
  • Programmers (Opinion): Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic on Programmers. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance.
  • Bicycles (Opinion): Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.
  • SU (Opinion): Questions seeking product, service, or learning material recommendations are off-topic because they become outdated quickly and attract opinion-based answers. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve. Share your research. Here are a few suggestions on how to properly ask this type of question.
  • SF (Unclear): Questions seeking installation, configuration or diagnostic help must include the desired end state, the specific problem or error, sufficient information about the configuration and environment to reproduce it, and attempted solutions. Questions without a clear problem statement are not useful to other readers and are unlikely to get good answers.
  • Worldbuilding (Too Broad): Questions about Idea Generation are off-topic because they tend to result in list answers with no objective means to compare the quality of one answer with the others. For more information, see What's wrong with idea-generation questions?.
  • Code Review (Unclear): Questions must include the code to be reviewed. Links to code hosted on third-party sites are permissible, but the most relevant excerpts must be embedded in the question itself.
  • Academia (Opinion): "Shopping" questions, which seek recommendations or lists of individual universities, academic programs, publishers, journals, research topics or similar as an answer or seek an assessment or comparison of such, are off-topic here. (See this discussion for more information.)
  • Crypto (Opinion): Requests for reference recommendations are off-topic here. For details, see: Do we want “literature recommendations” and similar “list/subjective questions”?
  • Project Management (Opinion): Questions seeking software recommendations are off-topic because they tend to become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.
  • DBA (Too Broad): Tip of the iceberg - the question or comments reveal an underlying issue that would need extensive investigation by a consultant or database vendor support team: issues like this do not fit the SE Q&A model well. For more information see this meta post.
  • Workplace (Opinion): Questions asking for advice on what to do are not practical answerable questions (e.g. "what job should I take?", or "what skills should I learn?"). Questions should get answers explaining why and how to make a decision, not advice on what to do. For more information, click here.
  • Graphics Design (Unclear): Your question appears to be incomplete. More detail is needed for relevant and focused answers to be provided for these types of questions. Please review our font-identification or critique requirements and provide the missing details, so that your question can be answered.
  • Information Security (Opinion): Questions seeking product recommendations are off-topic as they become obsolete quickly. Instead, describe your situation and the specific problem you're trying to solve.
  • Unix & Linux (Unclear): Questions describing a problem that can't be reproduced and seemingly went away on its own (or went away when a typo was fixed) are off-topic as they are unlikely to help future readers.
  • Webmasters (Opinion): Questions asking for recommended external websites, tools, resources, and software are off-topic as they tend to attract opinionated answers and spam. Recommendations for software are permitted on Software Recommendations, but be sure to read their quality guidelines before posting there.
  • Music Fans (Unclear): Questions seeking to identify a song/sample/artist/etc need enough objective detail to be answerable. Please if possible add more detail.
  • Music (Opinion): Questions seeking recommendations for specific equipment are off-topic, because they are primarily opinion based. Instead, describe the required function and setting in which the equipment will be used, and ask what you should look for to achieve that.
  • Chinese (Opinion): Questions asking for learning resources are off-topic as they can become quickly obsolete and are difficult to maintain. We do maintain a list of generally-useful resources for learning Mandarin that you might find helpful.

These sites do not use any custom reasons as yet:

  • Aviation
  • Software Recommendations
  • Community building
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Politics

These sites use some custom reasons, but not all three:

  • Space Exploration (1)
  • Stack Apps (1)
  • Area 51 (2)
  • Astronomy (1)
  • Software Quality Assurance & Testing (2)
  • Freelancing (2)
  • Computer Science (2)

These sites use all three reasons at present, and might want more:

  • MSE itself
  • Physics
  • Mi Yodeya

Out of the sites that could use this, at least 15 could use an Opinion subreason, 2 Too Broad, and 8 Unclear. A large majority of the Opinion-based reasons are for shopping/rec questions specifically, but it's clear that Too Broad is a more effective umbrella in its current state than the other two.

Possible refinement: Collapse singletons

Close reasons with a single child should be collapsed into the parent dialog, so you don't have to select closeunclear what you're askingDetails Please but can just jump right to the single custom reason: closeDetails Please.

The top-level reasons, shown only when there's more than one sub-reason, could be amended to something like this:

  • unclear what you're asking…: It’s hard to tell exactly what this question is asking; it requires additional details or editing for clarity.
  • too broad…: There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format.
  • primarily opinion-based…: Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.

(Their default sub-reasons would remain the same, and sites that don't customize them would therefore look the way they do now. Some sites, such as SO, would want to keep the default sub-reason around as an alternative, while others might not, so an option to disable displaying the default sub-reason would be handy.)

This would also simplify migration: sites by default only have meta migration available, and showing a nearly-empty list there after an extra click in hopes of finding something relevant is somewhat less than helpful.

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    Nice update! Thanks for that!
    – Catija
    Commented Oct 18, 2016 at 2:10
  • Update: Literature.se has a very similar one to SF&F on requests for reading lists. Commented Apr 15, 2020 at 21:05

I have a suggested simplification based on a suspected design consideration.

The design consideration: I've heard SE resist adding more options to menus in the past (for example, migration targets) because of concerns about giving users too many choices. With this change we'd not only be adding choices (which I support; hang on) but we'd be hiding them in second-tier menus where they're harder to find. Some users will not find their way to the desired close reason because they'll guess wrong or, for experienced users, look for them under "off-topic" because that's where they've always been and miss the shiny new stuff under "too broad". And, as we've seen with some existing custom reasons, the categorizations might not be 100% clear.

So let's simplify that. Give sites some number of custom close reasons -- not custom off-topic reasons and custom too-broad reasons and so on, just a flat list. On sites that define custom reasons, add one more option to the close menu, something like this:

mockup with new "some other reason" option

Behind that button, put all the custom reasons. They go in a second-level menu for the same reason the current ones do now: otherwise the menu would be too long. But that's ok, because (a) we tell them there are more reasons and (b) we put them all together.

The sub-menu doesn't need to make room for baked-in reasons like the off-topic sub-menu does, so there's room to have five or six of them without causing brain overload if a site needs that many.

This approach would be easier for users to navigate, easier for communities to create, easier for moderators to manage, and (I presume) easier for SE to implement.


I support the question and want to ask: What if the close reasons are not enough? Even detailing them in a subtext sometimes does not help. Example: the Typographical Error close reason has nothing to do with being offtopic or unclear, yet in Gamedev I asked why the offtopic and told me: "it is because the close reasons amount is not enough". I saw few cases, but saw more than one, when three is not a good number. So my suggestion goes beyond the subtexts and says:

Why not let the moderators create an arbitrary number, as needed, of extra close reasons? Most of the times there will not be a huge amount of reasons, so I don't think this will be abuse-prone.

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    If you look at my answer, you'll see that Anime actually has four custom close reasons. Sites get three by default but can (if they can show the CMs a compelling need) have up to five close reasons.
    – Catija
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 21:35
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    You seem to be right as what I inquired but then... why I had a answer the moderators telling me that close options are not enough and they discussed that topic before? Is that a one-time configuration or can be configured later? Commented May 20, 2016 at 21:39
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    I've posted an answer to your question and it addresses this.
    – Catija
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 21:40

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