Our questions and answers should strive to be relatively neutral, non-leading and answerable. There are some words of phrases that are highly correlated with bad form and possibly bad content.

For example, Wikipedia has a page dedicated to their "words to watch":

There are no forbidden words or expressions on Wikipedia, but certain expressions should be used with care, because they may introduce bias. Strive to eliminate expressions that are flattering, disparaging, vague, clich├ęd, or endorse a particular point of view.

An example for us is the abuse of the word "really". I am sure that there are many more examples of words and phrases which are not automatically wrong, but that should be used with care and watched over by the community.

What are our words to watch?

5 Answers 5


"Personally", "In my opinion", "In my experience"

We are trying to find conclusive, empirical answers to questions of fact. Personal opinions are irrelevant distractions and personal experiences are unsatisfying anecdotes.

Example: Personally, I don't believe water could be toxic. In my experience, I have never been sick from water.

Sometimes, they may be acceptable as additional "colour" to give additional context to empirical evidence, but the answer should be able to stand on its own without it.

What to do: edit to remove distractions, edit to add empirical evidence, or flag to delete such answers as off-topic.


"Is it true that there is valid, scientific evidence for the claim that..." and variations.

Question titles should be easy to read, and quickly give people a clear idea of whether they want to read a particular question and its answers.

Practically all questions on Skeptics.SE are asking about the truth of a claim, with valid evidence. Asking for that in the question title is redundant. (Asking for it in the question body is unnecessary, too, but not as egregious.)

Example: "Is there evidence that water is toxic?" or "Is it true that water is toxic?" versus "Is water toxic?"

What to do: Edit the title to simplify it.


"really" and its variations: "it is true that...?", "Is... supported by evidence?" and so on.

Example: Is water really toxic? vs. Is water toxic?

What to do: fix by making the question direct.


"could" and its variations: "is it possible?", "can...?"

Basically anything is possible, even if it's only very, very, very remotely so! We are interested in facts, and not speculations. These words tend to invite speculation and lead the answers to a positive outcome.

Example: Could water be toxic? vs. Is water toxic?

What to do: fix by making the question direct.


"why" and its variations: "how come?"

Motivations are off-topic. Also, they are generally quite hard to explain via facts. Such questions tend to invite discussion and speculation or to be off topic. Also, they typically beg the question by implying a fact.

Example: Why is water toxic? vs. Is water toxic?

What to do: vote to close as off-topic.

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