Occasionally people ask questions like:

Is it polite if I do/say X?

Sometimes these questions are closed (the reasons for closure are often varied) and sometimes they are left open. In my mind, these two example questions are very similar; they both ask if a certain action is polite, and they both tell us the specific culture for context.

Should politeness questions be on topic? If so, what should the requirements be? I am not asking about these 2 questions specifically, but looking for a general discussion about these types of questions.

  • 3
    Your second example is from August, long before we closed those questions automatically.
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 17:44
  • 1
    @Catija when did that change, though? I'm having trouble finding any policy on meta about it.
    – Em C
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:48
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    @EmC It's more that we realized the questions are purely opinion based. Additionally, adjudicating whether something is "polite" or "rude" doesn't really solve a problem. If we say it's polite (or rude) we can't control the response of the other party or whether they will react as we expect. Many of these questions asked us to judge if something that had happened was polite and (if so) why did someone take offense... there's not really a question we can answer there. It's better to focus on how to do something in a way that's less likely to cause offense, since we can't possibly know.
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:54
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    @Catija okay, well I think this is still a topic worth discussing, don't you? Usually when decisions like that are made, there is some sort of discussion to back it up. Not that I disagree with the decision, just that I think we ought to hash it out or at least have some sort of official stance that we can see.
    – BlackThorn
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 15:23
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    This meta post deals quite a bit with questions about politeness. I think it's worth discussing further as this question is linked directly in the help center
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 1:22
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    @Catija I would think that politeness and rudeness are absolutely interpersonal skills, in fact, many multinational companies teach courses to their employees who will be dealing with different cultures. Much of it is not subjective. Address a German with "du" instead of "Sie" and see what happens.
    – user4548
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 18:21
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    Related... where I explain it: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/2350/… Possibly duplicate? Does it answer your question?
    – Catija
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 2:56

1 Answer 1


(Taking notes from the comments here...)

No, questions asking "Is this polite?" should not be on-topic

These questions are primarily opinion-based. That is, it invites answers which are justified simply by saying "Yes, that seems polite to me" -- but then someone else can just as easily say "No, I would be offended by that", which is equally valid as an answer.

The help center even explicitly states that questions are off topic which:

  • ask us to adjudicate “right” and “wrong” in a situation or whether something is rude/racist/sexist/[insert other discriminatory terms]. If you are having a dispute with your spouse or coworker, we are not going to settle the dispute for you or give you points to argue. Focus your question on resolving your issue, rather than whether there is an issue or not.


If it can be answered with some level of objectivity and reputable sources, then it is more of a question of understanding established norms, and can be edited to make that clear (and should include enough context to be reasonably scoped).

The question A server in a restaurant got offended when we addressed him as "Uncle" is a good illustration of the differences. Right now it includes both types of questions:

Is this correct or we were wrong in thinking so? How should one address servicemen/servicewomen in the restaurant in a proper way?

The first sentence is asking users to judge the situation: was this polite? You can see how the answers give varying opinions whether the OP was impolite or the waiter was overreacting. Simply hearing a "yes" or "no" from random internet users is not very useful in developing any skills, which is what we're all about!

But, the second sentence is asking about cultural norms: what is the proper way to address waiters in Germany? The answers addressing this part are useful and can be applied in future situations. They are also more objective because they can be backed up by personal experience or references, which is another hallmark of a good answer.

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