Difficulty reading cursive lettering has been closed, citing:

Questions asking for translations are off-topic unless prior research effort is clearly indicated; we're here to help you learn, not provide a bulk translation service.

The question was not a translation request, despite being tagged as such by the poster. We seem to have no established tag for handwriting/cursive in either English or Russian, so using the nearest existing one is understandable, but should not count as self-incrimination.

Handwriting deciphering requests are not translation requests—not only in essence, but also in the means available to find the answer on one's own. Dictionaries and machine translators are amply available for looking up words with a known spelling. On the other hand, nothing short of a specially attuned neural network can help you with handwriting, absent a human who can make out the handwriting in question.

It does help other learners insofar as it demonstrates the scope of individual variety in handwriting, which is sometimes highly unintuitive, in a way that static or automated online resources are not able to provide. This is the handwriting that the question concerned:

handwriting in question

Мюсновеиий? Шосиовешй? A native speaker will recognise the whole word without having to resolve the individual letters—and even a native speaker might struggle with Московский written in this way if it occured in a context less obvious than the name of a major street in a major city. I can quite imagine a learner's dismay—as someone who used to occasionally have to sort through MiniDiscs labelled in handwritten Arabic. I can get behind the request for human assistance here.

From a formal standpoint, the asker may have failed to "indicate prior research", but in this case, it would only have made the question look messier. Handwriting deciphering always involves a leap of faith at some point (with native speakers, it's just a very short and confident leap), and not every learner has the means to even find something to leap to.

  • 1
    I see the merit in your point and in fact do support it, but let's keep it non-personal. Thanks!
    – Quassnoi Mod
    Apr 13, 2017 at 17:26

3 Answers 3


So OK, I will be very much obliged to a wider feedback and some other answers except mine, but so far a ay has passed and nobody answered, let me try to answer.

The main goal of this site is to help Russian language learners by providing a constantly growing database of high-quality questions and answers that help to achieve that goal.

I believe that asking to translate a snippet of written text falls under already existing category of asking for translation because it exactly what it is - somebody does not understand what is written and ask it to be translated.

If one will ask me to define what separates good question from a bad one in a single word that word would be reusability. Roughly, with good questions there's a high probability that one will google exactly the same question and will find an already existing answer. There are a lot of examples of such questions - like questions about rare cases (locative, vocative, etc.), like questions about usage of specific grammar constructs and so on.

Just like you've mentioned, handwriting is somewhat quite specific and literally any individual has it's own specific handwriting peculiarities. It's indeed a non-trivial problem but the non-triviality of the problem does not makes the question neither on-topic nor widely applicable.

Example of questions on handwriting that are off-topic:

  • I can not master reading Russian cursive т - are there some visual patterns I can learn to find in text to make it easier.

An example of off-topic question:

  • In my grandpas garage I've found following graffity, it looks strikingly Russian to me. Can someone translate it to me?
  • Now I see, thank you. Reusability is an angle I didn't consider when I perhaps should have. Indeed, for specific requests, one always has things like the broad Russia category on Yahoo Answers, and I see how my argument about the un-googleability of handwriting questions works against me once you question if un-googleable things belong on Russian SE at all. Sorry for having been too quick to see formalist moderating where, no matter if I agree or not, it was definitely something more nuanced and pragmatic on your part. Apr 14, 2017 at 18:10

I thinks there's a bit more to it. There can be different questions on hardwiring, some could be off topic, some may not be.

For example, "I found this note, what does it mean?" Is clearly of topic. It's asking for translation and doesn't add much value to the site.

At the same time "While trying to read some handwritten text, I can't decipher some words. Can someone show them typed?" Even without additional effort shown, this is a valid question. It doesn't ask for translation, but for an explanation, showing that the asker intends to do further work with the answer. This type of question, i believe, is on topic and does have reasonable benefit.


I have to disagree with @shabunc. Though reusability is good it's not the primary concern. We try to give knowledge which is not usually paid for. Handwriting belongs to that.

You must log in to answer this question.

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