EDIT

Since the old FAQ links has been replaced with a Help link, this concern no longer applies now that they’ve begun to call it what it is. The question of whether it should be easier to find the actual list of Frequently Asked Questions I leave open for discussion.


The ELU FAQ versus the ELU FAQs

Suppose you come to ELU with a question that you figure is a common one, so you conscientiously check out the ELU FAQ link first before asking your question.

Which of course doesn’t help you at all, since that very prominently placed and named link does not lead you to the list of the most frequently asked questions on ELU. Not only that, but nowhere in that wall of text does it even mention how to find the real FAQ list.

So you go ahead and ask your FAQ, and it gets closed as duplicate — and you get put off the site.

Shouldn’t we fix that?

The thing that is our so-called FAQ link is actually more of an “ELU users guide” or meta-FAQ. It is not the list of frequently asked questions on ELU. This violates the principle of least surprise.

Given how many times those FAQs have been asked, how many dupes to them keep piling up, and how people feel like they’re getting slapped on the wrist when their questions get closed, wouldn’t it be friendlier and more useful — and easier on everyone — if the real FAQ list were a lot easier to find?

I mean this one:

  1. What are your favorite English language tools?
  2. When should I use “a” vs “an”?
  3. How do the tenses in English correspond temporally to one another?
  4. When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?
  5. Is there a correct gender-neutral, singular pronoun (“his” versus “her” versus “their”)?
  6. Do you use “a” or “an” before acronyms?
  7. Are collective nouns always plural, or are certain ones singular?
  8. Are there rules about using “that” to join two clauses?
  9. When should I use “a” versus “an” in front of a word beginning with the letter h?
  10. What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in “‑s”?
  11. When is it appropriate to end a sentence in a preposition?
  12. Are there any simple rules for choosing the definite vs. indefinite (vs. none) article?
  13. When to use “that” and when to use “which”?
  14. What’s the rule for using “who” and “whom” correctly?
  15. Should I put a comma before the last item in a list?
  16. Which words in a title should be capitalized?
  17. How should I phrase a question that must be answered with an ordinal number (e.g., the third prime)?
  18. Pluralization rule for “five-year-old children”, “20 pound note”, “10 mile run”
  19. When do I use “I” instead of “me?”
  20. “A/An” preceding a parenthetical statement
  21. What is the correct way to pluralize an acronym?
  22. What is the rule for adjective order?
  23. When should a verb be followed by a gerund instead of an infinitive?
  24. “My wife and I's seafood collaboration dinner”
  25. “My friends and I” vs. “My friends and me” vs. “Me and my friends”
  26. “Who wants ice-cream?” — Should I say “(not) I” or “(not) me”?
  27. “If I was” or “If I were”. Which is more common, and which is correct?
  28. Regulatory bodies and authoritative dictionaries for English
  29. Which is correct, “you and I” or “you and me”?
  30. When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑s”?
  31. How should I punctuate around quotes?
  32. To hyphenate or not?
  33. Is “staff” plural?
  34. When is the present perfect tense used instead of the past tense?
  35. Framing a question to which the answer is an ordinal number
  36. Why have the subjunctive and indicative converged in Modern English?
  37. “User accounts” or “users account”
  38. Is it correct to use “their” instead of “his or her”?
  39. Which day does “next Tuesday” refer to?
  40. I can run faster than _. (1) him (2) he?
  41. When is a gerund supposed to be preceded by a possessive pronoun?
  42. Why do we say “was supposed to” for “should have”?
  43. What’s the rule for adding “-er” vs. “-or” when nouning a verb?
  44. Which is correct: “has died” or “died”?
  45. When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?
  46. What are some examples of awkward sounding but grammatically correct sentences?
  47. Can anyone provide me with a list of English words that are their own antonyms?
  48. Central Pennsylvanian English speakers: what are the limitations on the “needs washed” construction?
  49. How do you handle “that that”? The double “that” problem
  50. Are split infinitives grammatically incorrect, or are they valid constructs?

What can we do to make that list easier to find? I also think it should be in the format I’ve just given it, not the complicated wall-of-text format that it actually comes in. Just the titles and links, nothing else.

I can’t see any downside for fixing this, and I see considerable potential for an upside.

So let’s do it, shall we?

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I think they already have a decent feature, that being that wen you type the title to your question it shows related questions. It is a good point though that this site has two "faq"s (the one you linked to (frequently asked (user submitted) questions) and the one on the top nav-bar of the page (frequently asked questions about how to behave/use the site properly)) and should be addressed. –  Albert Renshaw Feb 24 '13 at 7:00
    
Yes, that should be easier to find; and it should also be made clear that if a user's question might seem to fit one of those, or is substantially similar then the answer is probably applicable. And your number 35 is actually a duplicate of 17. –  Andrew Leach Feb 24 '13 at 10:15
    
@AndrewLeach Yes, I know about the duplicate there; it’s because I just took whatever list that the other, very hard-to-find link gave me. I kept only the questions themselves, not the other fluff, but most importantly, I did not try to draw up my own list; if I had, the ordering and wording would likely change substantially. The dupe you mention should probably be flagged to be merged. –  tchrist Feb 24 '13 at 14:22
    
Excellent post and list. But isn't your second link (questions sorted by 'faq') the thing that you want? If so, isn't the solution to make that more ... accessible, in the UI? That is, make sure that people scan that list before asking? or have the question auto-suggest order by those faq questions? Remember, people don't like to read, or rather, they just don't. –  Mitch Feb 24 '13 at 23:21
    
Is this now status-completed, with the new about page? –  TRiG Jun 12 '13 at 18:50
    
@TRiG Yes, it is. –  tchrist Jun 12 '13 at 23:00
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5 Answers

I feel stupid. I've been here 6 months - but I never realized until now that there was a list of actual questions most frequently asked on ELU (as opposed to factitious list of questions about ELU contrived for expository purposes).

A couple of possibilities:

  1. a banner across the top of the landing and question pages - there was one of these running for three weeks on ELL inviting folks to meta, so it must be built into the system.

  2. a new 'box' like the Community Bulletin and the Favourite/Most despised tags boxes, with some such text as this:

Already answered?
Save yourself some time and effort. Here are the questions most frequently asked on ELU; or here is a place you can plug in your Search terms and find out whether anybody's already asked your question.

Whatever it is should be on the landing page, the Questions page, and the Ask page.

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Don’t feel bad: I was here more than two years before Reg enlightened me. –  tchrist Feb 24 '13 at 20:50
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I don't see much point in providing a link to questions most frequently asked on ELU if the purpose is to avoid new people asking those same questions again.

They've already got a much better facility (the Search box) to help them on that front, plus the "Ask a Question" input screen makes a fair fist of displaying earlier questions that might be duplicates, based on the words appearing in your new question as you compose it.

If the new question is framed in such a way that the poster doesn't get a clear indication of an earlier dup, I personally think it's no bad thing that it gets posted again. Even if we subsequently close it, the next person asking the same question is even more likely to find an earlier version, and it's no problem if he has to go through one more link if it turns out the one he went to first is the closed one (that probably doesn't have "the best" answer).

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I think anything that points out, especially to newbies, "Hey, guy, you might get an answer quicker by looking whether it's already been answered" will help cut down on duplicates. –  StoneyB Feb 25 '13 at 20:11
    
@StoneyB: Somebody else usually notices fairly early, even if the OP didn't bother with search. But unless it's phrased identically (unlikely), it's worth keeping around - that makes easier for both us and the next OP to find any earlier related question. I don't see lotsa dups as a problem in and of itself. –  FumbleFingers Feb 25 '13 at 20:38
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I'll tell you one reason I like this idea: it's sometimes hard to find a duplicate question using the search box.

Let's assume I have an (already asked) question in mind. (Or perhaps I should say, “a (already asked) question in mind”?) For example, let's pick #20: Should I use “a” or “an” before a parenthetical statement?

I can search for "a an parentheses" – that seems reasonable; however, that search returns over 300 results, and I'm unlikely to find my needle in that haystack.

I'll let others argue about whether this should be called a “FAQ” or something else, but I really like the idea of putting a list of oft-repeated questions in some easy-to-find location.

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It's already in a location. We just need to do the 'easy-to-find' part, since italicized small letters in the overlooked tab bar at the top under the banner isn't really doing it. –  KitFox Mar 12 '13 at 11:19
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I've gone through the FAQs 3x and opened every link (I thought) and stilll haven't earned the badge for reading the entire FAQ page.

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What does "FAQ" mean anyway? Yes, of course, it's an abbreviation of "Frequently Asked Questions", I know, but it doesn't actually mean that, does it? When you visit a website and see a link to the FAQ, you know what it means: it means user guide, it means "these are things we think you ought to know before using the site".

As such, I would say that the FAQ link is appropriately named.

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Um, no, I would never think that. Sorry. I would expect to find the frequently asked questions list behind a tag that said it contained the frequently asked questions list. This one . . . misleads. It is not helpful. –  tchrist Mar 10 '13 at 22:58
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