I know that the PSQ discussion is without end, but this is different.

Frequently and consistently, at least in my experience, questions come across marked "URGENT" or "help urgently needed!"

Almost surely, the questions show little to no actual effort, and there is at least a moderate correlation between the user using the term "urgent" and also demanding full step-by-step solutions. Most of these users don't stick around, and add nothing to the community once their deadlines have passed.

Now, an argument against closing PSQs is that many perfectly good non-homework questions can be written as a PSQ. Fine.

But I cannot think of a situation other than homework -- or in the worst case, literally posting from the bathroom DURING an exam -- for marking any question about mathematics urgent. Indeed, most of those problems marked urgent? They were solved hundreds of years ago. And if the question isn't urgently needed for schoolwork, then what for? Is a terrorist holding a gun to your head, demanding to know the eigenvalues of a $3 \times 3$ matrix? If so, you have internet access! Use it to flag the police!

Quite frankly, the OP's lack of preparedness is pretty far from our problem. Surely, poor planning is problem requiring a solution, but it is not a mathematical question at all.

I know that "You had fifteen weeks to learn this material why are you attempting to learn it in the last 8 hours before the exam?" isn't currently a reason for closure, so in its stead, could we perhaps simply use "off-topic"? Or maybe it's better to use "Unclear what you're asking," because frankly I often cannot tell whether the users need genuine help with mathematics or with life choices.

So, can we start closing these questions, in hopes that it will discourage this behavior?

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    $\begingroup$ Related: Should we retitle posts whose titles contain “interesting”? $\endgroup$
    – MJD
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 16:40
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    $\begingroup$ It seems that only 6 of the current 285,288 questions contain the word “urgent” in the title, so I conclude that any further discussion of this point would be a complete waste of everyone's time. I have voted to close it for that reason. $\endgroup$
    – MJD
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 16:44
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD That search excludes all the posts that have variations such as "urgently" and "urgency" in the body as well as the title, of which there are 11 in the past week alone. And it excludes questions that were closed/deleted for alternative reasons, which I can think of two in the past 24 hours. $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 17:06
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    $\begingroup$ Often instead of "urgent" we find "exam" + "tomorrow" or similar. My preferred reaction is to take a breath and come back to the question a day later, if at all. $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2014 at 17:15
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    $\begingroup$ "Urgent" or "Urgently" in the title or in the body of the question are a clear signal (albeit not the one these OP imagine). As such, one might consider they are useful. $\endgroup$
    – Did
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 18:20
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    $\begingroup$ @MJD: How many had the word "urgent" (or some related phrase) in the title/body and then it was edited by someone? $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @Arkamis: Perhaps we can add a closing reason "Bite the bullet" or something. :-P $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ @user147263: I'm not so sure about that. Questions with "urgent"-like words tend to gather quick votes, both down- and closure votes. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ While we're at it, I want suspensions for people who bleat "Am I right?" at the end of every sentence. </rant> $\endgroup$
    – rschwieb
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @rschwieb That's so annoying, am I right? $\endgroup$
    – Emily
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 19:57
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    $\begingroup$ Although this really annoys me when I see it, I think it's extremely localized. Virtually all of the questions phrased like this are already low-quality, and are closed rather quickly. I don't see that this is a serious issue. $\endgroup$
    – user61527
    Commented May 23, 2014 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ @HagenvonEitzen, that's why I proposed a ban (volutarily selected by the answerer) to the asker/low-reputation users in general for, say, 48 hours. Thus you can answer in good concience, knowing it won't help the Do-my-homework-for-free-and-fast (much). $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ We can give them a link to another question marked urgent and tell them to first help there :) And to stop posting the irritating virus word and its family members... $\endgroup$ Commented May 28, 2014 at 5:37
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    $\begingroup$ I would be fine with just banning questions which do not contain "thank you" or "please" :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 2, 2014 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ The word urgent is now a part of regex detecting the titles that likely need an improvement. In other words, consider it banned. :) $\endgroup$
    – user147263
    Commented Jul 27, 2014 at 21:32

3 Answers 3


I know it is possible to ban comments with certain phrases (e.g. StackOverflow bans comments along the line of "what have you tried?"), so I would assume that it is possible to do the same for posts.

However: As much as I hate "urgent! plz help!!1!" posts, we need to consider the ways in which "urgent" may appear in a legitimate form. For example:

A message saying "You could not post because you used a banned word" would just irritate the (legitimate) poster because they don't know what to delete. But, a message saying "you could not post because you used the word 'urgent'" would just result in the illegitimate posters using a synonym for urgent instead.

Thus, I do not think banning "urgent" is a good strategy.

Instead, perhaps we could just have a little warning pop up, saying "Warning: This site is not a way to get your homework done quickly. If you insist on urgent help, your question will not be well received."

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    $\begingroup$ How would the system know when the question does not show effort? Low-quality post? Close vote counts? $\endgroup$
    – user122283
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting that SO blocks comments like "what have you tried". Does anyone have a link to the blog post or meta discussion where they decided to add that feature? $\endgroup$
    – Jack M
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 21:02
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    $\begingroup$ @JackM Just realized that I never responded to your comment. Here's the meta discussion. Better late than never, right? :) $\endgroup$
    – apnorton
    Commented Dec 12, 2014 at 2:27

I don't think that banning words is either effective or desirable - as anorton pointed out, people can just replace the 'bad' word with a synonym; is it any better to have "plz help very soon" rather than "plz help urgent"? I'd rather judge the questions based solely on content, and edit if possible to remove words that people will find objectionable.

In the end, I don't at all object to the use of the word urgent, but rather to the fact that most of the questions that have "urgent" in the title are already low-quality copy-paste posts that should be closed anyways.

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    $\begingroup$ I prefer "Urgent plz", because the Urgent Plaza has a wonderful wishing fountain, and a wonderful view of the "Calculus Failure of Our Lord" cathedral. Not to mention an excellent coffee place with just the perfect espresso. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Commented May 24, 2014 at 13:09

I agree that using "Urgent" in a title or post is poor etiquette. But the philosophy of this site toward imperfect questions is to edit to improve them, if that is feasible. It's possible that the asker doesn't realize this is annoying to others (if they did, they'd probably avoid it, since after all they want their question answered). And closing isn't designed to be a punishment.

There is also a tendency for questions using "Urgent" to be of generally low quality ("do my homework for me"). But I think we should separate this from the word itself.

I propose:

  • If a question uses "Urgent" but is otherwise a reasonable question, edit (or suggest an edit) to remove the offending phrase. You could also post a comment advising the asker that such phrasing is considered rude.

  • If, aside from using "Urgent", you find the question unclear, not useful, poorly researched, uninteresting, or generally don't care for its tone, downvote. That's what the downvote is for.

  • If, aside from using "Urgent", the question has such serious problems that, in your view, it isn't appropriate for the site at all, flag or vote to close.

I don't think it's worth trying to forbid the use of the word in the "Ask Question" interface. As anorton mentions, this doesn't seem likely to be effective, and is rife with unintended consequences.


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