We get a lot of questions which, I expect unintentionally, turn out to be yes-or-no questions. This may occasionally be entirely the best way to ask a specific question, but often a question can be slightly re-worded, to encourage much higher quality, in-depth answers.

A couple examples, based on patterns, but not necessarily specific questions, I've seen on the main site:

Yes-or-No: Is reading children's books helpful in learning a language?
Improved: How can I best use children's books to learn a language?

Yes-or-No: Should I use flash cards to practice vocabulary?
Improved: How can I begin incorporating flash cards into my study to improve vocabulary?

Yes-or-No: Can a crash-course help me learn a language?
Improved: When should I consider a crash-course to learn a language?

Note that these re-worded questions do start to stray toward the "subjective" end of the spectrum, so some care may need to be taken to stay within the "good subjective" range.


3 Answers 3


Though your "question" is technically not a question, I think that it has merit here, but should have some clarifications.

Questions asked on the StackExchange Network (main sites, not the Meta sites) are supposed to have a "definitive" answer[1], and are not just open ended questions. They are also supposed to be engaging enough to allow answers to develop or explain a concept more thoroughly. Yes/No questions meet the first criteria, but not the second. But rephrasing the Yes/No questions can, if not careful, meet the second criteria and not the first.

Perhaps this could be included in the FAQ's section on the page to help people find the balance in asking these forms of questions.

For example:

Q: Are language instruction kits good enough to teach a language to a certain proficiency? [Yes/No; Too narrow]

Q: What language instruction kits are good enough to teach a language to a certain proficiency? [No definite answer; Opinion based; Very broad]

Q: How can I better use Rosetta Stone to supplement/improve my language proficiency? [Not perfect, but succinct and concrete enough to provide discussion, yet not go on endlessly]

  • 5
    Questions on meta aren't always expected to be "questions". As such, answers to non-questions aren't expected to be answers, either. :) +1
    – Flimzy
    Apr 11, 2016 at 18:57

I would say that yes/no questions are not all bad, consider this, this, and this from Aviation and this from History are all pretty good yes/no questions. We should deal with these questions as they come up instead of saying "No" to any of them because there are some pretty good yes/no questions and some others that are only yes/no capable.

  • 2
    1) I actually said "[Yes-or-no] may occasionally be entirely the best way to ask a specific question." 2) This isn't Aviation, and some sites are practically 100% Yes/No questions (Skeptics for example). Their rules don't apply here, either. 3) All but your History question could (and perhaps should) be easily re-worded to be non yes/no questions. At any rate, the answers assumed they were more than yes/no questions ("Are there regulations" was treated as "What regulations exist", for instance)
    – Flimzy
    Apr 12, 2016 at 5:45

I absolutely agree that we should ask specific, open questions rather than yes-no ones. However, I don't think your samples are yes-no, despite their form. Moreover, the suggested improved questions are not really identical with the samples, hence the OP might not get what they really want.

1. Are they really yes-no questions?

Yes, they are yes-no questions if you look at their form. But the askers not expect the answers to be simple yes or no, they are expecting the answerers to explain their choice.

Read more: Ambiguities on yes-no questions in Wikipedia.

2. Will the OP get what they want, if they reword their questions as such?

They might get some, but I don't think that they will really get all what they expect to get. Since their intention are to comparing pros and cons of the method, forcing them to ask a different question will eliminate the overview in the answers. The askers want to know the overview, not only the pros or the cons of the method, or the way the method helps, or the way to maximize the efficiency of the method. Asking if children's books help learning languages is different to asking how the books help.

If we agree that what the OP wants is the overview of the method, which includes: the pros and the cons, the way it works, other tips to use, etc, then I think this is a good question and worth to answer. These small questions should be mentioned in the body of the question. The point is, what title can reflect this intention? Based on my experience in participation in SE, especially in Academia where custom in academia varies a lot, I can't find any better title than an yes-no question. I mean, I have tried to avoid this, but I can't find one. In the sites I participate with, yes-no questions are welcomed like other how or why questions, as long as they provide enough detail to have an objective answer.

  • 1
    Your point #1 is well taken, however, simply rephrasing an ambiguous yes/no question into a non-yes no question tends to solicit much higher quality answers. It also forces the OP to think about what they actually want to know. "Should I use flash cards?" isn't a very good question, even if we give the OP the benefit on their ambiguous yes/no question. And if I answer, I could infer that the OP wants to know why... but I still have to guess as to their actual intentions. If they clarify, by not asking a yes-no question, I needn't make as many guesses in my answer.
    – Flimzy
    Apr 21, 2016 at 14:58
  • I have update my answer, please come and see
    – Ooker
    Apr 22, 2016 at 5:25

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