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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    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
  • @S.L.Barth, I read it at first as "over self-promotion" and then thought is a typo. – Iulian Onofrei Dec 15 '16 at 12:44

I believe that it benefits everyone, including EFL learners, for documentation to use the most common of the most precise words that fit the intended meaning. Choosing a common word that isn't exactly the right meaning simply because it is common is as much a problem as choosing an obscure word simply because it is precise.

We have had several discussions about simplifying the way we write on ELL.SE, including 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 downvote overt self-promotion because they notice it and not necessarily because it's overt. I think 'overt' is the correct word to use there, with 'obvious' being the runner-up. I don't think a replacement word is going to add or detract significantly from the message, so I don't think we should change the wording.

I came across a page describing Stack Overflow Content principles and think it captures fairly well the style of writing that is easier for fluent non-native speakers to understand.

Although this question was downvoted because people disagreed with the suggestion to change the wording, it is useful for people to point out parts of the site where the text might be difficult to understand.

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    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
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    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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