Here's what the closed-as-duplicate message looks like:

marked as duplicate by johndoe1, johndoe2, johndoe3, johndoe4, johndoe5 May 5 '55 at 5:55

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Or something like that. Anyway, 'has been asked before' implies that the other duplicate is older, while apparently the most relevant one should be left open, and the other one closed as duplicate. That means the newest question may be the one left open, and the older question marked 'has been asked before' with a link to a newer question.

That doesn't look consistent. It seems like we could change it with a more accurate message. I'd try to think of one to propose, but that's not really my area of expertise.

I know it isn't a big deal, but it bugs me.

  • 1
    @iStimple given that current guidance says to favor when "new question is a better question or has better answers", I would say that using "before" is sort of misleading (I regularly have to refer that guidance at meta and in comments to people who erroneously treat "before" as the rule of dupe-closing). I'd prefer to see it changed to something more neutral, like "already asked" or even simply "asked" or something like that
    – gnat
    Aug 24, 2014 at 7:15
  • 5
    In fact this also doesn't seem to fit to SE's policy of looking at the answers instead of the questions themselves to judge if something is a duplicate (a policy I don't support so much, but that is a different question). So even if the duplicate question is older it doesn't need "ask this question" at all. Aug 24, 2014 at 10:45
  • 1
    I agree, and although my experience is limited, I've been thinking about wordings to suggest. First, can you tell me if the OP of the duplicate sees a different message than the readers, as it says in the first answer on this question? Feb 9, 2015 at 22:28
  • I don't think you should ever downgrade an earlier question based on what happens later. If you are going to do stuff like that, simply remove the dates from everything. We don't change history in science or academia, we preserve it. It goes without saying that later things had better be more correct, comprehensive or something of an improvement, or there is no point in doing anything. This does not invalidate peoples' earlier work, or there would be no point in doing anything.
    – user291305
    Apr 4, 2017 at 16:15
  • 1
    @OOO I'm not sure how that opinion is relevant to this particular post (which points out an inconsistency).
    – Frank
    Apr 4, 2017 at 16:19
  • How about replacing that "has been asked before and already has an answer" by "has either been asked (and answered) before or has a more recent variation (with answers) which is considered as more relevant"? If that makes sense to you, I'd be happy to transform this comment to an actual answer ... Apr 7, 2017 at 21:26
  • @Pierre.Vriens sounds too long to me, if anything better have the message dynamic: if dupe target is older have it as it is now, if newer have the "has a more recent variation (with answers) which is considered as more relevant" as you suggested. If you also agree feel free to take it and post as answer. :) Apr 7, 2017 at 21:56
  • The close reason does not say "ask a new one"... it may have when this was posted but it doesn't any more. This goes completely counter to the current recommended practices of what to do when a question is closed as a duplicate.
    – Catija
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:14
  • @Catija yeah, that was from when the question was asked. They did change that much, which is good
    – Frank
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:17
  • @ShadowWizard just in case you didn't notice (I doubt) ... I just posted my final "release" of my answer (including 4 scenarios now) ... Apr 11, 2017 at 13:08

3 Answers 3


How about this?

A question similar to this one exists.

The wording seems ambiguous enough for it to fit both scenarios. If this doesn't work out, I do quite like Shadow Wizard's idea to have a dynamic message that changes based on the date the non-duplicate question was posted.

  • What about closing as a duplicate of another (better) unanswered question
    – Frank
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:52
  • @Frank Using the word better implies that the closed question was in someway bad.
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:53
  • @Frank Also, why the downvote?
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:53
  • Your example only works if the duplicate to remain open has been answered. You can close an unanswered question as a dupe of a better written unanswered question (if of course they are duplicates)
    – Frank
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:55
  • @Frank edited to fix that.
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 19:57
  • "Ask a new question" goes against the standard recommended practice. The close reason has been changed since this question was asked and that part has been removed.
    – Catija
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:18
  • @Catija what does the new close vote reason say?
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:19
  • "This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question."
    – Catija
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:21
  • @Catija edited to reflect that.
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:38
  • 1
    Except that's not correct English.
    – Catija
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:40
  • @Catija haha, thanks for pointing that out. It's been fixed +1
    – fi12
    Apr 10, 2017 at 20:40

The current phrasing is a bit different from what it was when this question was asked:

This question was marked as an exact duplicate of an existing question.

I think this phrasing is fine, so I'd say this is ". This may not completely get rid of the cognitive dissonance of an older question closed as duplicate of a newer one but it's certainly better phrasing than it was. It's simpler and doesn't lead to confusion if the question isn't answered (as it can occasionally be closed as a duplicate without the duplicate being answered).

I suppose that, if we want to be even more clear, we could replace "existing" with "another" -

This question was marked as an exact duplicate of another question.

On a side note, I'm glad that the "ask a new question" phrasing has been removed - if we already have one question from them that's a duplicate, we don't need a third that will possibly also be closed as a duplicate... which we will again tell them to ask a new question to clarify their question... it's a never-ending spiral of duplicate questions.

We should be telling them to edit their current question to clarify (preferably before the question is even closed in the first place) - which should make it clear why it's not the same as the existing question and have it reopened. The goal of closure is to edit and reopen - if it can be edited. Or, if it can be caught in time, to edit before it's even closed!

The guidance here on MSE supports the edit to clarify practice:

Someone flagged my question as already answered, but it's not

Instead, go back through your question and reword it a little. Maybe add a sentence or even just a few more adjectives. Also say something like

I have read [title of other question, linked to it] and it's helpful, but doesn't address [whatever].

This should be phrased in a way that makes sense even when the close votes are all gone, and is generally best in the body of the question, not as a comment under it. Not all close voters read the comments.

  • No idea what the deal is with these notices but it's not consistent... see this which was closed a few hours ago and still has the "asked before... ask a new question" wording.
    – Cai
    Apr 10, 2017 at 22:45
  • 1
    @Cai sounds like a question for MSE :/
    – Catija
    Apr 10, 2017 at 22:45
  • Figured it out... questions closed as a duplicate that already have an upvoted answer get the "asked before... ask a new question" notice; and questions closed with no (or non-positive scoring) answers get the "exact duplicate" notice. No idea what the reasoning for that is but it's been asked already
    – Cai
    Apr 10, 2017 at 23:36
  • If this was true at some time, it isn't any longer. The current text is "marked as duplicate by [...] This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please edit this question to explain how it is different or ask a new question." May 3, 2018 at 9:52

Option A - A static message for both cases

Replace the "has been asked before and already has an answer" by "has either been asked before (possibly with answers also) or has a more recent variation which is considered as more relevant (possibly with answers also)"

Option B - A dynamic message, based on which case it is about

IF dupe target is older
  IF dupe target has answers
  THEN has been asked before (and already has an answer).
  ELSE has been asked before (but no answer).
  IF dupe target has answers
  THEN has a more recent variation (which already has an answer), considered as more relevant.
  ELSE has a more recent variation (but no answer), considered as more relevant.

However, to prevent the message might become inaccurate later on (when the dup target was unanswered at first, but later on did receive 1 or more answers), the suffix between "(...)" has to become dynamic also (i.e the correct string needs to be added the moment the message is rendered).

With the above logic in place (to make it a dynamic message), IMO you covered pretty much every possibility. Except that you might want to further refine the actual wordings of each of the 4 cases (sorry, I'm suffering ESL, aka I'm not native English ...).

PS: credits to Shadow Wizard for the QA-review of my draft version I first posted in my comment below the question.

  • It's good t remember that you could close an unanswered question, as a duplicate of a more clear, better written unanswered question
    – Frank
    Apr 8, 2017 at 12:50
  • @Frank sorry but I don't fully understand your prior comment, can you retry somehow please? Apr 9, 2017 at 19:08
  • Your messages are only.suitable when you're closing ad a duplicate of a currently answered question. Wouldn't work if you close an unanswered question as a dupe of a better unanswered question.
    – Frank
    Apr 10, 2017 at 2:00
  • 1
    @Frank: That does only happen on metas or when closing a user's question as a dupe of another of their questions, but it's worth considering. Apr 10, 2017 at 3:12
  • @Frank : you think my further improved question could work? Sorry I needed some time to digest what you were really trying to say in your prior comments ... Apr 11, 2017 at 12:57

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