During review I come across “question” posts that don't actually contain a question. In some cases the question is implied in a statement. In either case it would be better to have an explicit question.


  1. Mandate at least one question mark per question post (outside of quotation and pre-formatted listing environments).

  2. Notify users of this requirement when they fail to comply with a short explanation, possibly with a link to “How do I ask a good question?”.

If (1.) is too strong, as a variant we could remove the mandate but still do (2.) and ask question authors to confirm that they don't want to use a single question mark.


This is no sure-fire way to reject non-question question posts but it serves to direct the attention of question authors as to the lack of an explicit request and guide them to use Ask Ubuntu as a Q&A site as intended.

I'm not trying to enforce “proper punctuation”; that undertaking would be entirely in vain. Instead I would like use the absence of even a single question mark as an indicator that the author didn't ask an explicit question because they are unaware of or misunderstood the Q&A model of AU/SE.

  • 2
    not a bad idea. at least a pro-forma comment or something in the faq would be good. – RobotHumans Jul 2 '17 at 19:21
  • 4
    Good idea, but I'd go for (2) only. Just think about the user who wants to ask how to remap his broken question mark key... No, seriously. I still think a red warning should be enough. Strict bans can block false positives in reasonable cases nobody had in mind when designing them. – Byte Commander Jul 2 '17 at 19:51
  • Also, we should have questions not be just a code block. – Kaz Wolfe Jul 3 '17 at 20:44
  • Sadly I'm afraid mandating proper punctuation will be about as successful as mandating proper spelling, proper grammar, and logical thought processes. I suppose it would be nice to automate #2 as I've lost count of the times I've suggested that a member read that. :-) – Elder Geek Jul 3 '17 at 22:50
  • No misunderstanding on my part, your question is clearly about punctuation. I'm sorry if my comment wasn't clear to you. – Elder Geek Jul 5 '17 at 12:49
  • I'm sorry if the content of your post confused me. Let's see. perhaps it was "Mandate at least one question mark per question post" If you still believe I've misunderstood what you said, feel free to clarify your post. – Elder Geek Jul 5 '17 at 20:54
  • @ElderGeek: Clarification added. See the last paragraph. :-) – David Foerster Jul 5 '17 at 23:12
  • Why "at least one question mark?" Too many and the post will likely be voted closed as too broad. (unless it's a case of a stuck ? key or overuse on a single question. You'll note that there isn't a single question mark in your question, only in the title. I agree with @ByteCommander on this one. :-) – Elder Geek Jul 6 '17 at 2:36
  • @ElderGeek: If you really want to nit-pick I can spell out the details just for you: obviously a question mark in the title would be enough. Many question marks may be a sign of a too broad question but that's a different issue. Often multiple questions can actually clarify or narrow down a topic. And then there's are people who use 7 question marks to terminate one question… – David Foerster Jul 6 '17 at 7:16
  • @DavidFoerster It's not my intention to nit-pick as you say. You have my apologies if I've somehow offended you. I think when I said overuse on a single question that covered the "people who use 7 question marks to terminate one question" I agree that many question marks Doesn't guarantee that a question is too broad any more than the lack of one makes a question impossible to understand. – Elder Geek Jul 6 '17 at 14:05

A strict mandate would not be effective and would possibly be harmful for the reasons pointed out by @ByteCommander in this comment.

My gut reaction is that I could certainly get behind the idea of automating notifying users with a short explanation, with a link to “How do I ask a good question?” as I've lost count of how many times I've encouraged a user to do just that, however in order to make that determination I'd have to actually read the question and at least make an attempt to understand it.

This is a task that's exceedingly hard to do programmatically as humans are still better as sifting through this stuff than code is. There are a number of related questions on how to handle these non-questions on meta.stackexchange.com and after sifting through them I think the most related example is Should non-questions be rewritten as questions? I understand that it's more fun to answer questions than to play janitor and attempt to improve posts like you describe, but it's a necessary task.

In situations such as you mention here, what I try to do is at least point them toward https://askubuntu.com/help/how-to-ask and if I think I get the gist of it, take my best shot at converting it to a question and drop a comment suggesting that the OP revise it if I've misinterpreted them.

While on the surface it appears that using the absence of a single question mark as a trigger could be useful, I think the number of "false positives" could easily outweigh the usefulness of such an approach. For instance the statement "I can't set my script as executable" has no question mark, and clearly isn't a good question but it's pretty clear what the problem is. I don't think we'd have a problem pointing them in the right direction.

  • I'm less concerned about posts that contain an implied question (which can be edited to an explicit question if so desired) and more concerned about posts that don't. I encounter many posts that describe a situation but it's completely ambiguous what the author is even trying to achieve (e. g. "I tried to install Ubuntu and now I can't boot Windows."). – David Foerster Jul 6 '17 at 7:21
  • I'll agree that that might be considered a bit vague and one might be tempted to close as unclear. A better approach IMHO would be to point the OP to one of the posts covering the topic such as askubuntu.com/questions/221835/… or better yet askubuntu.com/questions/493612/how-to-reinstall-grub – Elder Geek Jul 6 '17 at 14:10

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