I just answered a question about labels and cross-referencing: Is babel breaking my labels? The OP thought that the use of babel with Russian captions may have caused the cross-referencing to be lost. However, this was because of an incorrect order in using \caption and \label.

Similar problems to this has surfaced before:

So my question is: If a problem/question turns out to be a possible duplicate after it was successfully answered, should it be merged (by voting to close) with other similarly answer questions?

Voting to close, however, only has 5 options to choose from:

  • exact duplicate: This question covers exactly the same ground as earlier questions on this topic; its answers may be merged with another identical question.
  • off topic: Questions on TeX - LaTeX - Stack Exchange are expected to generally relate to TeX, LaTeX or related typesetting system, within the scope defined in the faq.
  • not constructive: This question is not a good fit to our Q&A format. We expect answers to generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise; this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion.
  • not a real question: It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form.
  • too localized: This question is unlikely to ever help any future visitors; it is only relevant to a small geographic area, a specific moment in time, or an extraordinarily narrow situation that is not generally applicable to the worldwide audience of the internet.

The easy answer could be: "None of the above options are valid in this case (since the others are not exact duplicates and I doubt whether it is too localized), so there's no need to close." This might very well be the case, since the above options should be considered more rule-ish (firm) than guideline-ish (less firm), otherwise more-than-expected gray-area questions might be closed than is necessary. However, I find the only motivation for closing a problem/question as a possible duplicate is to merge posts (a combination of questions and answers) which, in this case, might be true.


On a side-note: Even though the exact duplicate (firm) option when voting to close is the only one available for duplicate questions, a question that has been closed as such a duplicate only receives a possible duplicate (less firm) stamp.

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure whether I disagree with Jake on this, or it's just that I'm not sure what he means by "solution" in his first sentence.

For "close as duplicate" I would aim for the following: it should be that if the questioner had come across the first question then they wouldn't have asked their question.

My point is that often different problems turn out to have the same actual solution, but that the problems themselves are distinct. As a silly example, I would not close "How do I get an alpha in my document?" as a duplicate of "How do I typeset an integral sign?" (though I probably would if it were a "beta") but I would close it as a duplicate of "How do I find a mathematical symbol?".

The problem with this criterion is that it requires a judgement as to what a particular questioner would have done. So actually I modify it to what "a generic TeX-SX user" would do (and probably a generic new TeX-SX user).

If this criterion is not reached, it is still possible to link questions very clearly. There are lots of "see also" comments, and "Have you looked at ...?" comments which clearly indicate that another question is very closely related to the current one. If, as in this case, the questions are almost but not quite duplicates, one can even put a link in the question itself as a comment to future readers. For example, the question Using TiKz to draw cobordisms was pretty close in intent to Topological Quantum Field Theory diagrams with pstricks or tikz and anyone finding the first would probably be looking for the second, but the actual questions weren't duplicates.

In conclusion, the software isn't the only way to solve this issue. The most important thing is to ensure that everything is clearly linked so that people finding the question are led to the best place to get help.

  • 1
    I was thinking of the questions Werner linked to: For all those questions, the answer was "Put your \labels after your \captions", but the initial problems were "I get subcaption numbers instead of figure numbers" and "I don't get any numbers for my references". The answers vary in detail (Seamus wrote a really nice one), so the questions would profit from being clearly marked as referring to the same issue, so people who come across it through one manifestation also read the answers to the others.
    – Jake
    Oct 11, 2011 at 12:36

I like to think of "Close as duplicate" to mean that they are duplicates of each other in terms of their solutions.

It's been stated before that there is merit in marking questions as duplicates that are differently worded versions of each other, because it increases the "target size" for people searching for the problem. In my opinion, this merit also exists for questions that aren't just differently worded, but at first appear to be different problems altogether and then turn out to be different manifestations of the same issue. Marking these as duplicates will have the same positive effect of combining the different ways you can arrive at a certain solution.

  • 4
    Also note that we very rarely merge questions, so both will remain 'around'.
    – Joseph Wright Mod
    Oct 11, 2011 at 7:10

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .