First, you may want to re-read this meta about phrasing request.

We have agreed that phrasing request is off-topic. However, I believe that questions that asking "how to write" can be made on-topic by specifically making them asking about the guidelines of writing.

These are the recent questions that trigger this meta:

How to write a proper bussiness message to an instagram influencer?

Communication while setting up an informational interview via email

This is an example question that has an answer of giving some guidelines to write the email:

Follow up to informational interview

I believe that a good answer to this kind of question is giving the guidelines of writing, not the draft. Although example of the draft is very likely to follow the guidelines, an answer that only give the draft without stating why the draft is written that way is a non-answer, similar to giving a non-IPS answer and violating "back-it-up" rule.

Second, if you agree that this type of question can be made on-topic, let's focus on the IPS side, not "how this should be worded" or "how this should be stylized". Part of this means that mentioning things to consider (OP's situation, cultural, etc.). "how this should be worded" might be better asked on [Writers.SE]. (Although I'm not sure if it's on-topic there).


Is "how to write" can be made on-topic?

1 Answer 1


I don't think 'how to write' is on-topic here.

Like you said, phrasing requests are off-topic and the guidelines of writing aren't really an Interpersonal Skill as much as a writing/language skill.

If we allow questions based on the guidelines of writing, there will be a lot of questions that can basically be sub-divided into 2 categories:

  • Guidelines on how to write a formal letter/e-mail.
  • Guidelines on how to write an informal letter/e-mail.

Sure, the context will differ (complaints, reservations, thank you's). But the guidelines will remain the same guidelines. I for one learned these guidelines in high school during my language classes, not during the lessons in Interpersonal Skills I also got.

I think the specifics of writing a good e-mail/letter is more a matter of language/writing skills than of Interpersonal Skills. Hence why it is taught in language classes and not in Interpersonal Skills lessons.

I think there's little merit in editing every question into 'what are the guidelines for writing a formal/informal e-mail'.

How many questions do we want that have the same answer:

When you write a formal e-mail/letter, start with your name/address, a polite greeting. Make sure to mention the subject.... etcetera. (Look up 'how to write a formal e-mail on Google for the complete lists).

If we do want to give some guidance to people coming here with such questions, I think we'll need one canonical question listing what a good formal/informal e-mail looks like, and what people should keep in mind. Then, we can close those questions not as off-topic, but as a duplicate of that one question/answer on 'How to write a formal e-mail'. I'm personally not a fan of this since, in my opinion, this is about writing/language skills, not Interpersonal Skills.

  • 3
    This could be a question asked in Writers, however this can be very borderline. Often, these "how to write" questions end up with them wanting us to write an example of one for them instead of learning the technical aspects of what makes one stand out from another. They usually get edited from being "how to write an email to my boss" to "what are methods I can use to write a formal message to my boss to request a promotion".
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 17:32

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