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Question

If I write a question that has two distinct parts, when should I separate it into distinct questions?

This is a grey area, but one that could use some clarification. When there are truly distinct but related questions, keeping them together might have the advantage of letting readers ponder the set of questions at the same time; on the other hand it would have the disadvantage of requiring both answers in the same post.

Example

Here is a question that I asked with multiple sub questions about distinct transformations.

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  • $\begingroup$ That second question seems to have disappeared; I'm getting the 'page not found' screen when I click the link. I'm sure it did exist as I remember commenting on it. $\endgroup$ – onestop Jan 27 '11 at 11:00
  • $\begingroup$ @onestop david (the owner) deleted it, it is visible to 10k rep users and moderators $\endgroup$ – Jeff Atwood Jan 27 '11 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Jeff Atwood: As I commented on it and someone commented after, it's listed in my inbox when I click the StackExchange icon at the very top left of my screen. I was surprised to get a 404 message when I clicked that. A specific "post deleted" message would help. $\endgroup$ – onestop Jan 27 '11 at 11:50
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In general it is ok-ish to have a question that has two "sub-questions" inside it. If they are strongly related that is probably fine.

However what is not OK, is this:

the kitchen sink question that has three or more totally unrelated questions buried inside it.

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The example question is well phrased: "Here's a list ... I'm looking for feedback." Even so, the list is a little long (an equation is worth a thousand words, right? ;-) and long questions can reduce viewership and intimidate people who might otherwise be interested and qualified to answer.

It would be in the questioner's interest to separate a multipart question whenever

  • The parts are not closely related or
  • Each part requires a separate explanation or
  • The parts are lengthy to state or
  • The parts are highly technical or
  • The answers to the parts are unlikely to build on or refer to each other or
  • There isn't much overhead needed to introduce the series of questions or
  • Two or more parts are likely to require lengthy responses or
  • Two or more parts might generate a long series of comments that are unrelated to each other or
  • Properly tagging all the parts would exceed the limit (currently 5) for the number of tags.

Note that by means of links and tags it is easy to create a trail backwards (and, retroactively, forwards) through a related series of questions.

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