Imagine someone has a question about physics, say “How can I figure out the acceleration due to gravity?”
A physicist answers with “You can throw a bowling ball from various floors of a multistorey building.” The physicist knows in their head the experiment they would perform. It’s so obvious to them that they skim over the details and say what they see to be the key points, and assume that the person asking will figure the rest out.
The problem with this is that a non-physicist has asked the question, and they don’t know the details that the physicist skimmed over. If they did, they maybe wouldn’t have to ask the question. Thus, the person asking the question is little better off than they were before asking.
Now imagine this is a single word request:
Word for staring wide-eyed at a TV
I saw my son staring wide-eyed at the television. His face looked so comical to me. Is there a word to describe such wide-eyed staring?
I’d like to use it like “My son was staring at the TV last night, it was so funny to see.”, but I don’t like staring because it doesn’t emphasise his wide-eyed-ness.
Is there a word that would better describe what I mean?
And then there is the answer:
I think you’re looking for goggling.
Now you and I know that is a good word for the situation, but is it a helpful answer?
If you’re wondering, then let me tell you: it’s not. The Stack Exchange system itself will parse it and flag it as “low quality” and it will garner a comment from a moderator or other concerned member and then, if no improvements are made after a week or so, it will be deleted.
Yes, the asker now has a word to fill their gap, but the answer does not explain why goggling is fit for the purpose. The asker has no context to decide if this answer is the best fit, and no way to generalize the word to fit other situations.
Why is that important? The thing to remember is that the person who came here looking for an answer is unlikely to already know the answer. You don’t get many people who go around wondering “how many people know the word goggling?” (And I suspect most of those who do are crossword designers.)
If someone doesn’t already know the answer, then the details are important. When you suggest a word for a given context, you need to explain why it fits the context so that when they try and use it in the future they have a grasp on how the word works and what its connotations are.
I know many of you might complain that they should look it up in a dictionary. We’re a site for serious English language enthusiasts, after all.
That is irrelevant. An answer needs to be complete.
However, to entertain that idea for a moment. Most of our users are not serious enthusiasts. Most people come here looking for an answer and leave with one, without ever posting anything. That is the beauty of Stack Exchange.
That is why it is so important to leave a complete answer. With only half an answer, people will only half understand how to use a word.
So what does a better answer look like?
I think you’re looking for goggling. It’s from the verb *to goggle*, which means to stare at something with your eyes wide open and an amazed look on your face.
Instantly this answer is a lot more helpful. By adding a definition the answer now gives a clear explanation why the word is suitable. Also note that the definition isn’t from a reference. When giving the explanation a reference can be useful, but if you have your own way to articulate the meaning, then that is fine, too.
If you do use a reference it is essential to cite your source. If you copy and paste without citing your source the answer will be deleted as plagiarism. With a reference the answer would be:
I think you’re looking for goggling. From ODO, to goggle means:Look with wide open eyes, typically in amazement
The important points to remember:
- You are writing an answer for someone who doesn’t know anything about the word you’re suggesting.
- An answer needs to explain the word in order for it to be useful.
- If you are copy/pasting a definition you must cite where you got it from.