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First: I realize there has been a lot of discussion of the reasons for closing, and I haven't followed most of it, so I apologize for any redundancy here.

That having been said: Here is an example of a question that I think everyone will agree should be closed, and to which none of the close reasons seems to apply. It's not a duplicate. It's not out of the mainstream (except insofar as it's "out of the mainstream" to post without giving a minute's thought to what you're asking.) It's not engineering. It doesn't belong on another site in the StackExchange network (or anywhere else for that matter). It's perfectly clear, it's not too broad, and it's not primarily opinion-based. (And even if were unclear, I wouldn't want to choose that option, because it entails inviting the OP to clarify the question and come back, which is not an invitation I wish to offer.)

The closest fit I can find is that this is a homework-like question that shows no effort. But that doesn't really seem to fit either.

It seems to me that a substantial fraction of the questions I vote to close are uncategorizable in pretty much the same way that this one is.

So my immediate question is:

What reason should I check when voting to close a question like this?

My longer-term question is:

Would it make sense to offer "This question appears to be off-topic" as a reason for closing, without forcing the voter to choose from a submenu of choices that don't really fit? (I realize that one can enter a custom reason, but really, "this question appears to be off-topic" is all I want to say.)

Again, I suspect, but do not know, that my second question has already been discussed to death. But what is the answer to the first question?

Edited to add: It appears that the example I chose is not quite as egregious as I'd thought it was --- the OP seems to be envisioning a mirror mounted on the car, whereas I thought he was envisioning a mirror mounted on the road. So this is an imperfect example, but the phenomenon does occur, and often.

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  • $\begingroup$ I really like your longer-term solution - but it of course remains unclear to the person who asked why his question was closed; which is something one might want to avoid if one is interested in educating users ... $\endgroup$ – Sanya Apr 17 '17 at 14:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Sanya: MathOverflow offers "This question appears to be off-topic" as a reason for closing, without sub-choices. I use it often --- usually in response to users who don't seem terribly susceptible to education --- and I'm not aware that it causes much in the way of this kind of problem. $\endgroup$ – WillO Apr 17 '17 at 15:03
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Your immediate question

What reason should I check when voting to close a question like this?

has an immediate answer: You should use a reason that tells the user why you are voting to close their question. If none of the pre-formatted reasons fit, then you can still write a custom one, and that's precisely what that custom field is for. There's a crucial corollary here: If you cannot write down the actual reason why you want to close a question, don't close it.

You say that you

[I] realize that one can enter a custom reason, but really, "this question appears to be off-topic" is all I want to say.

but...I don't believe you. There is something you want to say - you have a rather strong opinion on this question being off-topic, and you've got to have a reason for that. Maybe you feel you have no nice way of expression that opinion? Try. For instance, we have discussed closing for insufficient effort before, and while we never established a consensus on whether or not that's a valid close reason, some users nevertheless use it (users with sufficient reputation can see the variants of "I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because of insufficient research effort." used here), there are around 20 uses of that over the last 90 days.

Lastly, let me comment on this:

And even if were unclear, I wouldn't want to choose that option, because it entails inviting the OP to clarify the question and come back, which is not an invitation I wish to offer.

While I can sort-of understand the sentiment, that's not what we do here. Everyone who gets a question closed is in principle welcome to come back, improve it, and become a productive member of the community. Your personal prognosis for a specific question or user is irrelevant, we generally assume good faith. It's easy to think "this user posted crap once, they won't ever get better", but...sometimes they do. And often they don't, but there's no reason to condemn them in advance. If they keep asking malformed low-quality questions, the automatic restrictions will kick in relatively quickly. If they don't keep asking malformed questions, the problem is solved anyway. What would we improve be being as actively discouraging as you seem to want to be?

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  • $\begingroup$ Regarding your last paragraph: "Often they don't" is a reason to condemn them in advance. It might not be a compelling reason,and it might be overridden by the fact that "sometimes they do" --- but in the presence of imperfect information, one runs the risk of making a mistake no matter what one does. It is a bad thing to discourage someone who might come back and make a positive contribution. It is also a bad thing to encourage someone who might come back and clutter the site with another bad question. I am in favor of giving some benefit of the doubt, but there are limits. $\endgroup$ – WillO Apr 17 '17 at 15:54
  • $\begingroup$ @WillO I personally do not look at a user's page ever when assessing a question. Whether they have 0 or 100 previously closed questions is irrelevant to me. I can examine the question as it stands, and if it is not appropriate for the site, I vote to close with the understanding that if it is improved, I would vote to re-open. $\endgroup$ – JamalS Apr 18 '17 at 10:57

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