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Occasionally a question gets asked that is approximately of the form:

I have this problem, what should I do?

or

I have this problem, should I do X?

These are then closed as opinion based, reworded into something like

What are the advantages/disadvantages of doing X?

before being reopened. Which seems to me like a lot of effort (a full round of closure votes, an edit, and reopen votes) to get a question that is effectively asking the same way, using more words and less clear language. Seemingly just to get rid of the word "should", like it is a red flag for opinion based answers. This praxis has been met with some grumbling from members of chat, and I think it is time we take this discussion properly.

The only historic example I have been able to retrieve is this (unanswered) meta question. (I'm sure others with better memory/search mojo than me can find others.) I was now prompted by this more recent question, but I know this has happened to more questions.

So, does using the word "should" in a question make it inherently opinion based and so is effectively taboo to use in a question? Or can we take "should" to mean "what are the advantages/disadvantages of" and so answer questions without going through the close cycle to homogenise it with other questions?

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the title alone. (And I agree with your general take on this) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 13 at 1:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am getting the idea that we should make that other question a dupe of this question, per HeyICanChan's comment under that question. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 13 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Since that other question will likely never be answered, and any more general answer should probably belong here instead anyway, I'm down with that. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 16 at 7:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NathanS I made a VTC on that one. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 16 at 10:54
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The problem is not with the word “should” per se, but it is a warning sign of an opinion based question, and it does tend to encourage people to answer with opinions and not facts.

“What should I do” is often found along with a complete lack of criteria for an answer. “I could play a bard or a ranger, what should I do?” These questions are put on hold for the OP to explain what their criteria might be for a best answer.

“What are the advantages/disadvantages” is the minimum possible copout to use to get a question reopened. It’s saying “I still am not thinking clearly about this problem at all, so I want to make the question objectively answerable but not in a way focused on helping me, just general info-dump discovery.” Which, if that’s where you’re at, I guess it’s OK. And it’s a lot better to have an answer comparing and contrasting bard/ranger benefits than answers saying “ranger is better because bards are losesauce huh huh.”

However, it’s a lot better for the poster to use the opportunity to figure out what exactly they are really asking and define better criteria, e.g. "Is a bard or a ranger a better battlefield control spellcaster?" or "Is a bard underpowered combat-wise compared to a ranger?"

It's also OK to just leave the question closed, if what they are really asking is “I just want validation that it’s OK to play a bard” (as, to be honest, some of these querents are really asking). This is a place where we should be guiding the OP to refine their question not refining it for them, as changing their question into a different question just to get it reopened helps no one. If someone really is asking for an opinion, their question should stay closed, not modified into something they're not asking so we can answer it for internet points.

Sure, we as answerers can mentally transform a “should I” question into a more rigorous form. But many will not (opinion based answers are still a plague upon this site) and the additional conflict, mod activity, downvotes, whining about downvotes, etc. around questions getting a bunch of pure-opinion answers is a worse outcome that just having clear standards in the first place.

And once you’ve had a question closed because it’s asking for opinions, ideally you learn, and then when you ask more questions you think more about how to ask them in a way that’s not asking for opinions. So sure, their first question may be closed then opened, but that’s not a waste of effort if it influences later behavior.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I now have a new slang term - *losesauce. Thank you (Filed under "new words I learned today" ) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 13 at 13:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Agree. It seems to me that if we have a policy against guessing the system a question is asking about (which can be very clear from context), we should practice a very light hand when it comes to reframing the basic question. @Kor : And I picked up the term "Internet hug of validation" so we've both been enriched today! \$\endgroup\$ – Rykara Aug 13 at 16:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Many times +1 for this answer. My favourite part is: "This is a place where we should be guiding the OP to refine their question not refining it for them, as changing their question into a different question just to get it reopened helps no one. If someone really is asking for an opinion, their question should stay closed, not modified into something they're not asking so we can answer it for internet points."; my 2nd favourite is: "the additional conflict [...] around questions getting a bunch of pure-opinion answers is a worse outcome that just having clear standards in the first place." \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Aug 16 at 8:04

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