I think that a significant portion of the angst around closing questions is caused by forcing reviewers to select one reason that must cover why a question is unsuitable for a site or why answers to a question should be disabled until it can be improved and also provide relevant, actionable advice for how to fix the problem if it can even be fixed.
I would like an easier way to give authors more customized advice when I vote to close a question that I think could be improved, and I don't want to have to make up advice for questions that can't be salvaged. I think the first choice I should have to make when voting to close a question is whether I'm closing it because it is completely out of scope for the site (or otherwise unsalvageable), it is a duplicate, or it has issues that make it difficult to answer well.
Once I've indicated that I'm closing a question I think is unsalvageable, or it is a duplicate, I just follow the current workflow. If I've indicated I think a question could be brought on-topic, I tick one or more short bits of advice for improving the question from a list that contains the current "generic" reasons like "needs more focus" and may include items that have been customized for the site. The list should also include a box for leaving a comment. Only one item is required to be ticked, but more than one could be selected.
Often closed questions that are salvageable have multiple issues with them that, if corrected, would help the post get a better reception. Currently, we have to lump all related issues into one general close reason, and if there are issues that are in two different close reasons, we have to choose one or another. For example, on ELL we close a lot of questions with this reason:
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.
The "Details, Please" post covers a lot of general situations and it's not always clear to the author what part of the pages of advice in that link apply to their question. Sometimes we need to know the source of the text they're asking about (more context) and sometimes we need to know what the asker already knows about the meaning of a particular word (What did you find when you looked that word up in a dictionary, and why didn't that help?). Sometimes a question that got closed as "needs more focus" also "needs more details", and narrowing the focus so that it only asks one question isn't enough to make it on-topic. That one question also needs more context.
An added benefit is that some of the advice could cover things that will help a post be well-received by the community instead of just advice for how to bring the post on-topic.
Here are a few examples of the type of feedback I am imagining in addition to the more general "needs more focus", etc. feedback:
⧠ Word requests should include an example sentence showing how you would like to use the term.
⧠ Please don't post images of text without transcribing it. See this post for more information: Why are images of text, code and mathematical expressions discouraged?
⧠ Explain what you already know about the topic of your question and what you've already done to try to find an answer to your question. If you looked in a dictionary or did a search, what terms did you look for and why didn't that help?
⧠ Include the source of the text you are asking about or include more information about where you found that text. Some English questions are impossible to answer without knowing the context the word, phrase, or sentence appeared in.
⧠ Posts should be written to the best of your ability in standard English. Avoid slang, textspeak and emoticons. Do your best to use correct capitalization, punctuation and spelling.
Why not just leave a comment?
- Making it easy to provide specific constructive feedback may increase the likelihood it will be given.
- Comments are character limited, and formatting is very basic. A list of predefined advice for the most common problems a site sees could be refined by the community to be clear and easy to read.
- Comments are a maintenance problem. We have to go back and flag them as "no longer needed" once the author has addressed the issues they describe. If a comment covers more than one issue, it's got to hang around until they're all addressed.
- Comments are not anonymous and can be an invitation to engage in a discussion that the person providing the feedback might not want to have.
- We may want to make the advice given to an author on how to improve their post private.
- Giving advice in a comment takes effort, and sometimes I don't want to roll the dice on whether that effort will be wasted.