Specificity of questions is already encouraged in the site documentation.

But with MO suffering a plague of "what is your favorite ..." queries, there is a point that apparently needs more detailed negative instructions, and especially for the question titles:

To the extent possible, adjectives used in questions, and especially question titles should have objective or mathematical interpretations. e.g., "Large", "optimal", and "unique", are much better than "nice", "best", and "special".

It may be useful to have a short slogan expressing this advice, such as "AVOID PSEUDO-DESCRIPTORS!".

Also, as a practical matter and advice for editors: deleting all these pseudo-adjectives seems to improve the question titles in every case. It's hard to come up with an example where words like "favorite", "good", etc improve the question.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree wholeheartedly. $\endgroup$ Sep 3, 2010 at 21:53
  • $\begingroup$ The software itself does this to a certain extent. When words like the ones you mention are detected in the title, a warning box pops up saying "the question you are asking appears subjective and is likely to be closed." $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Sep 3, 2010 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ @KH: is it the case for MO (which would mean that "favorites" requestors are deliberately over-riding the warning)? MO apparently needs an FAQ on this at least as much as math.SE does. $\endgroup$
    – T..
    Sep 4, 2010 at 5:55
  • $\begingroup$ @T: Hmm, I have never heard of or seen such a warning on MO questions, and I have asked plenty of them. Now it may just be that, excellent as all my MO questions are, they simply do not trigger this mechanism in the software, but...I'm inclined to doubt it. $\endgroup$ Sep 4, 2010 at 9:49
  • $\begingroup$ It does not appear to exist on MathOverflow, but on all SE2.0 sites, the software will scan the question title when the asker clicks away from it (ie, to type the question body). Detecting certain 'bad words' like favorite, best, etc, will show a red warning box below the title. A title composed only of very common words will receive a somewhat plainer warning. I am skeptical that users who ignore these warnings will take the same advice if presented in the faq. That said, I agree that it's worth mentioning explicitly in the "questions not to ask" section. $\endgroup$
    – Larry Wang
    Sep 5, 2010 at 18:18


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