Many questions on MO are not formulated as concisely as they could be. I would propose a limit of characters (to be discussed, say 500 characters), and you can "buy" more space by sacrificing some of your reputation (say, 500 more characters for -20 reputation).

Silly proposition? (Probably yes, but not having thought about it a great deal, it makes sense to me.)

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    $\begingroup$ Odd proposition ... . In the spirit of your question -- why not rather limiting the number of questions a user can ask in relation to the number of well-received answers they have given? -- E.g. #questions - #answers $\leq 250$ or so? $\endgroup$
    – Stefan Kohl Mod
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ If an average word is 5 characters, and a picture is worth 1000 words, then the 500 character limit would permit only one-tenth of a picture per question. How would Joseph O'Rourke cope? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 21:17
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    $\begingroup$ LOL ok, I see it was a very bad idea of mine... Sorry for the traffic jam, folks $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


I'm sorry, but this idea seems completely wrong to me. Not just because 500 characters (less than a comment box) is too parsimonious, but because most questions could actually stand more in the way of setting context, motivation, descriptions of what the OP has tried, rejected, and so on.

There are some users who frequently add a lot of padding to their posts; of course this is not to be encouraged. Usually conciseness is a virtue. But the point is that users should do whatever they can, within limits of reason, to smooth the way for others to provide meaningful help.

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    $\begingroup$ In connection to this it might be worth mentioning that providing background and motivation is explicitly mentioned in the FAQ post How to write a good MathOverflow question? (And massively reducing number of characters would certainly make this much difficult.) $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 6:58

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