On this site, what makes a good question?

1 Answer 1


A good question

  1. Don't make it about you or your personal circumstances. We can't give legal advice, and your question will often just be better if you take the time to think about the more general legal issue you want to learn about.

  2. Write your actual question as a single sentence in the question body. Usually, the actual question is best placed at the end. Sometimes you'll need a bit of setup, but that setup usually need not be more than a short paragraph. You might think it's hard to phrase your question simply, but even extremely complex Supreme Court cases can be phrased in single sentences.1

  3. Your question in the body should be consistent with the question title. Answering one should roughly answer the other. The title can be a simplification — a rough approximation — but it shouldn't be totally different from the phrasing of the question in the body. The question that appears in the body can re-state the title question to keep answer authors focused on the ultimate goal: a good answer to the question.

  4. Avoid making assertions about how the world is or what the law is. The more you try to tell us how things really are, the less you're asking a question.

  5. A hypothetical is sometimes useful for seeing how your question would be answered in a particular, imagined case. For example: "Assume these facts about the world are true: [a list of facts]. Then, under law X, can/must Y happen?" Hypotheticals should only assume facts not law. A hypothetical might be the entire question. Or a hypothetical might be a specialization of a more general question that you asked.

  6. If you edit your question, try not to just add material. Instead, replace material. We don't need to see a growing history of "Edit #1, Edit #2, etc." If you've re-thought your question, re-write your question. Avoid edits that make an answer to your original question invalid.

  7. Regardless of any of the above, questions don't have to follow a formula. Don't get scared off. If you read the above, and roughly understand the guidance, we'll do our best to understand your question, assume good faith, and help you improve it if necessary.


This question, while not explicitly following the above guidance, is a good question. Paragraph 1 is the main question. It has a bit of setup. Sure, it says some things about the world, but they are uncontroversial, and can be accepted as true with no consequence or even treated as a hypothetical. The question itself is a single sentence. It matches the title. Paragraph 2 is more like a specialization, another hypothetical, or a rephrasing. It is superfluous, but only barely.

This question is okay. The setup is a link to another site. That can be improved by summarizing whatever was needed from there in a sentence here. The question is a single sentence that matches the title. It could be improved by asking whether a certain consequence follows or what consequence would follow from a certain set of facts. Right now, it just asks whether cake design "falls under" US copyright law, which we've assumed is asking whether cake designs are given copyright protection.

This is one of our highest voted questions. It asks two questions. This isn't ideal, but they are both short and so closely related that second can be seen as a direct follow-up. The second paragraph is unnecessary and I think the question would be improved by removing it.

1. For example, look at question presented Respondent's brief in Nelson v. Colorado: "Does a criminal defendant have a constitutional right to an automatic, unqualified monetary judgment against the State for amounts paid pursuant to a conviction that is later invalidated?

  • Community: Please help me make this a good answer!
    – K-C
    Commented Mar 25, 2017 at 16:07
  • This is good stuff! We should probably incorporate into our help pages. We might also reference or incorporate content from this similar meta post at Worldbuilding.
    – feetwet Mod
    Commented Mar 27, 2017 at 17:53
  • 1
    I don't quite agree to each of the points. Regarding 2. I usually follow the idea that the question in one sentence goes to the title, details go to the body. 1. "Don't make it about you or your personal circumstances. [...]" Of course I could introduce some artificial abstract scenario in such a case but what for? If the motivation for a question is because I encountered a specific situation why not refer to that? This is not about "legal advice" but about an estimation of people who are familiar with the matter. Of course all responsibility remains with the questioner.
    – a_guest
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 22:02
  • 1
    I don't agree with 4. at all. Giving relevant background is essential in my opinion. Pointing to existing law which might apply to the relevant case is helpful because it might build the basis for an answer. Regarding 5. I don't see why it was necessary to introduce a hypothetical case. The more specific an example is the easier it is to grasp. Whether a given example still reflects the actual point of the question remains as a responsibility for the questioner (or whoever comes up with the example). Judges who base their decisions on law also deal with "real" cases not hypothetical ones.
    – a_guest
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 22:07

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