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When I read this question about the etymology of rabicó and xuxinha today I asked myself: shouldn’t this question actually be two separate questions? The only thing that connects the two words is that they are both names for the same object, but the histories of those names are most likely independent. So one could have an answer for rabicó, but not for xuxinha, or vice-versa.

Then it occurred to me that I too posted two questions in one: this one about gatos and gralhas. It’s the exact same issue: both words mean a “typo”, but it should be possible to explain the origin of one word without having an idea about the origin of the other.

These are all hard questions too. So it is a lot more likely that we get answers if each question deals with one word only.

More generally I wonder whether any issues that can be answered independently should be asked in separate questions.

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I think it's fine to have related questions in the same post. People can post partial answers, but if both questions are about the etymology of synonymous words, then it's likely that potential answerers can answer both questions (or at least find something useful to say).

Also, readers would likely be interested in answers to both questions.

For questions which are related only by coincidence (e.g. question about (1) an unknown word and (2) a grammar point appearing in the same paragraph), it would be better to separate the questions.

  • I do agree with questions related only by coincidence (but feel inclined towards separate questions in the two examples I gave too). It happened to me in German SE. The guys there immediately and unceremoniously deleted the “second” question. – Jacinto Jun 7 '16 at 19:08
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I think there is a case to post independent questions in separate posts even if the questions are related. I’m not advocating the forceful splitting of a question in two against the asker’s will, but just a general recommendation.

In particular in the case of the two questions mentioned in the original post, I think there is no harm in splitting them in two, and there are potential benefits.

No Harm

Earthling discusses in another answer two potential benefits from having two related questions, namely about the etymology of two synonyms, together in one question. I think those potential benefits are real but need not be lost if the question is split in two.

Viewers interested in one question will likely be interested in the other one too. That is quite likely, but we can simply cross-reference the two questions. For instance, “word X and word Y both mean such and such. This other question [link] deals with the etymology of word X; here we are concerned with word Y…”

If you answer one question you may have something useful to say about the other one. In this case you can simply post two answers; or one answer to one question and a comment to the other if you think you don’t have enough for a proper answer to it.

Potential Benefits

Accepting an answer is simpler. We sometimes get two good answers and don’t know which one to accept. With two questions in one this problem is magnified: one answer may give a good account of the etymology of word X and a poor one of word Y, and another answer do the opposite. With two separate questions you simply accept the two good answers.

Viewers can focus on one issue at a time. When there are several answers to one question I like to compare them. Especially when I don’t know much about the subject and cannot properly evaluate or even fully understand an answer, reading them all helps. Generally when the subject is complex or there is a lot of information one needs time to reflect on things; sometimes one wants to go back and forth between answers. It’s easier to do that if each answer is really just one answer rather than two answers one after the other.

Answers will be shorter. Some people, or even most people some of the time, baulk at the prospect of reading a very long answer. Having two answers one after the other compounds the problem. If we have two separate threads instead we can read one now and come back later for the other.

Viewers will feel more encouraged to answer. If we have two questions in one, viewers may hesitate to take on the research to answer them both. Or if they feel they can answer one of the questions but don’t feel confident about the other they may hesitate to post an answer to one of the questions only. We will likely get more answers if the questions are posted separately.

There will be more posts in all. Given the low traffic in our community this is in itself an advantage.

Conclusion

I’m not suggesting we artificially multiply questions. I’m talking about questions like the two examples in the original post: we actually have two different questions in each of them. I have now posted an answer to the xuxinha-and-rabicó question dealing with xuxinha only. If I managed to write and post an ok answer to the rabicó part, wich I don’t think I can, then it really would be two answers, one after the other, in the same post.

To reiterate, I’m not suggesting one should compel askers to split related questions into separate posts. But we could have this as a recommendation. Say, when someone posts two related questions in one, and it looks like the related questions will generate independent answers, we could leave a comment suggesting that it may be advantageous to post the questions separately and, say, direct the asker to this thread.

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