Our questions deal with interpersonal interactions.

It would naturally be a bad idea to bring up the real names of the persons involved when writing a question. Some OPs overcome this using friend, friend's friend, person A, person B etc. which is difficult for us answerers to use. It's also taxing us when it comes to using gender pronouns like he, she.

I have, in some cases, requested OPs to add placeholder names like Alice and Bob, or whatever they see fit. Although that may not have improved the questions much, it would make it much easier to understand who's who and what's what in the question. It will aid comprehension, that is.

Should we encourage users to use placeholder names more often? Do you find any harm in letting this be a thing here?

  • 7
    All I recommend is no A, B, C or X, Y, Z people. We don't name people with letters and this isn't Math SE.
    – user3169
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 0:00

3 Answers 3


I was very impressed with one user having already made this a habit (to use fictitious names, with a generic pattern), also specifying that where gender is not central to the issue, the fake name used may not reflect the actual gender of the person. Take a look at the profile page of this very wise person here: Anne Daunted

Using generic fake names while clearly indicating they are placeholder names meant to protect the privacy of the persons involved is eminently sensible and could easily be encouraged as 'good practice.' This makes the interpersonal problems more human and stimulates our EQ (compared to using Person A, Mr.B, etc) while also avoiding the possible legal issues of inadvertently naming real persons.


If you want to use these names - or any others, real or made up - feel free.

If by "encourage" you mean "require". - No.
If by "encourage" you mean "edit in". - No.

We have a lot to worry about right now -

  • location
  • details
  • answerability
  • topicality

I really don't think we need to top that off with asking or telling people to give names to the people that they are talking about.

If the person answering want to use names in the answer, great. But right now I think we have bigger things to get fixed than this. If someone has a post that doesn't meet our general requirements, we should be focusing on quality before what I consider a cosmetic issue.

  • 1
    Catija is very right to note that this is not currently a high priority matter, @NVZ, but there is no harm at all in posting a comment 'encouraging' members to consider using placeholder names rather than generic expressions. Alternatively users can assign placeholder names for 'friend's friend' or 'the annoying man on the train' while writing an answer. Example: Let us just call that annoying man on the train 'Mike', for convenience sake: now, the next time Mike asks you to give him the window seat, you can say "sorry Mike, I'll keep this seat today," firmly but politely etc, etc, etc. Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 1:03
  • Surely it's not a high priority, which I suppose I noted by saying "although (this) may not have improved the questions much". But it will definitely improve convenience and aid comprehension. By encourage, I mean not force it down their throats, but mention in the comments that doing this would help. Not a priority, anyway.
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:02
  • @NVZ If you just want to make comments, you've already done that at least once that I saw. Is there a reason for this question?
    – Catija
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:05
  • @Catija I wanted feedback if my such comments are useful or harmful as a whole in the context of this community. That is, if this meta shows a consensus that it's useful, then probably others can take this up as well. Nevertheless it won't overtake any other mandatory requirement for questions, that is location, details, answerability, topicality.
    – NVZ
    Commented Aug 15, 2017 at 2:08
  • Hello, Catija. It's been a month now. We are having the separate metas for the topics you mentioned: location, details, answerability, topicality, etc. So, can you update this answer in some way? :)
    – NVZ
    Commented Sep 23, 2017 at 19:36

After naming the persons in my question and being confused for the very names I made, I suggest us to have some name mnemonics:

  • Brian for boyfriend (or any main male character)
  • Grace for girlfriend (or any main female character)

My intention is to keep the name short and coherent with the roles. If we make this a custom we can reduce the relearn phrase in every new question. Friends of Brian and Grace will be assigned by OP's preference.

See more:

  • 3
    Might be difficult to get everyone to follow this new naming system.
    – NVZ
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 11:42
  • just a food for thought
    – Ooker
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 12:22

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