This help page uses the word "overt" in the last section title and description. Personally, I have never even heard that word before, and I don't think many of the users did, as it's clearly not that common. More so, there are a lot of users that are not native English speakers.

Can it be replaced with something that is more likely to be known like "obvious" or "outright"?

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    I really don't think that's an obscure word... – Cai Dec 15 '16 at 11:30
  • I really do think that's an obscure word... – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 11:32
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    As you can see here, in Europe, "obvious" is the most used word. There are other continents besides America in this world... – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 11:34
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    @IulianOnofrei Do those other continents also have dictionaries? – Dan Bron Dec 15 '16 at 12:00
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    A malicious user could interpret the current wording as saying that covert self-promotion is OK. I'd like to change the wording to also rule out more hidden forms of self-promotion. – S.L. Barth Dec 15 '16 at 12:19
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    It's not an obscure word at all, it's quite common actually - take it from an English person. If English is not your native language, then you should of course expect not to understand every word until you've learned what each means. But now that you've looked it up, like anyone else can also do, all is well. There's no need to change anything here. – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 12:25
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    @Iullian Do you tend to frequent websites that aren't in your native tongue without a dictionary? That's brave. Or ill-advised. Depends on your point of view. – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 12:45
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    I don't think we should dumb it down, personally. The site is in English deliberately, I say embrace that. Language is a beautiful thing, let's not patronise people by presuming they can't use or learn it effectively. That doesn't mean using a thesaurus on every word, but honestly, "overt" is genuinely in common use in English-speaking places – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 12:50
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    @Clive, I don't think you read help pages to learn langues. – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 12:51
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    I never said or implied that you do. But if you don't know the language, why would you be upset when you can't read it? Looking up the meaning of the word is easy, just do it – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 12:53
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    @Clive, Are you the happiest person when you have to interrupt what you were doing to look up a word that could be not used in favor of a simpler phrase with the same efficiency?Like S.L. Barth said, what's wrong with a simple "avoid promoting your own work"? – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 12:56
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    If I'm reading something in a language that I don't know, then yes, of course I expect to be referring to translations frequently. I don't really see that as negative or positive, it's just a logical inevitability. There's nothing wrong with the current phrasing, it makes perfect sense, and with respect, you're mistaken that it's not a commonly used word - if it ain't broke, don't fix it. – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 13:02
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    Voting on meta usually indicates agreement/disagreement with the suggestion/premise. It's always been that way, nothing's changed except this "main" meta has its own reputation. It's not something you need to worry about, certainly not something that you'll want to assign "hate" to if you want to carry on having a reasonable discussion – Clive Dec 15 '16 at 13:06
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    @IulianOnofrei No, I wasn't bragging, I was responding to your earlier snarking of a typo I made which was not material to my response. – Dan Bron Dec 15 '16 at 14:13
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    Being protected from words you don't know is a pretty sad mindset to have. You should aim to push your boundaries, not reinforce them. – Won't Dec 15 '16 at 14:14

I believe that it benefits language learners and fluent speakers alike for documentation to use the most common of the most precise words that fit the intended meaning. We have had several discussions about simplifying the way we write on ELL.SE, the most recent being Simple English please!. Our community has always settled on not "dumbing down" the vocabulary, but instead striving to avoid idioms, slang, and in some instances, complicated sentence structures.

So there are two issues I think we have to figure out. What is the intended meaning of

The community tends to vote down overt self-promotion and flag it as spam.

and is 'overt' the most commonly used word that conveys that precise meaning?

Overt is defined as 'open and observable; not hidden, concealed, or secret'. It is not in my opinion interchangeable with blatant or obvious, and I don't think we should muddy the waters by trying to change the intended meaning and incorporating covert in there (that's a discussion for a different question).

In my opinion, the community tends to not like self-promotion in general, and tends to down-vote overt self-promotion because they notice it and not because it's overt. I think overt is the correct word to use there, with obvious being the runner-up.

Regardless, I don't think a replacement word is going to add or detract significantly from the message, so my inclination is to stick with the status quo.

  • This was the answer I was looking for: "there is no other common word that fits there without changing the meaning". – Iulian Onofrei Dec 16 '16 at 20:12

I see some benefit in using not-so-common words.

Personally I am not a native English speaker. Stack Overflow and especially this site have helped me to understand and write better English (probably this post gets redacted too, but that doesn't stop me from learning).

The meaning of the word overt is clear from the context, so users that really care about the specific meaning of the word can always use a dictionary, like I just did. And that is a good thing in my opinion. The text is clear on itself, even without (understanding) the word overt, so no harm done.

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    Until now I never realized there was an t at the end of over ... – rene Dec 15 '16 at 12:09
  • @rene, Because that word is not the best choice. – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 12:49
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    You suggest to remove all words that might not be understood? That would become a long list. And more importantly, no one is helped removing all those words. – Patrick Hofman Dec 15 '16 at 13:03
  • Uhm, no, I suggest removing that word, not all words, don't be ridiculous. You think that no one is helped. – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 15:52

I am in favor of replacing the word, but not because of its alleged obscurity.

"Avoid overt self-promotion" implies that it's only about obvious self-promotion. However, covert self-promotion is just as bad - arguably even worse.

I suggest we change it to "direct" or "blatant". There may be better words.

My case for using the phrase "avoid direct self-promotion" is that there is a valid form of indirect self-promotion. If a user writes many good posts, it is supposed to reflect well upon that user. And this is a valid form of promoting one's own.

Maybe we should re-phrase the wording to say, "avoid promoting your own work".

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    The sentence is not about how bad the spam is. It just reads The community tends to vote down overt self-promotion, so it describes community actions taken. Covert spam is harder to track and will often not be downvoted until someone noticed it. – Patrick Hofman Dec 15 '16 at 12:31
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    "blatant" sounds far better. And the last quoted text is the best. No need for dictionary-needed words. – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 12:50
  • @PatrickHofman I believe that "the communty tends to vote down" is meant as a discouragement. I could just imagine a user thinking, "yeah right, I'm going to promote my blog anyway, so there!". Now they know there will be immediate consquences. But promoting one's own blog would still be bad behaviour if people wildly upvoted it. – S.L. Barth Dec 15 '16 at 12:50
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    But then the use of overt is useless. If it is meant as deterrent, they should write The community tends to vote down self-promotion. – Patrick Hofman Dec 15 '16 at 13:01
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    @PatrickHofman I would be fine with removing the word "overt" entirely. My only concern would be what I pointed out in the answer - that trying to write good posts, can also be considered a form of self-promotion. But that's a subtlety that IMO we can safely ignore. – S.L. Barth Dec 15 '16 at 13:09

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