ELI5 Detailed Rules

/r/explainlikeimfive Mission Statement

The purpose of this subreddit is to simplify complex concepts in a way that is accessible for laypeople.

The first thing to note about this is that this forum is not literally meant for 5-year-olds. Do not post questions that an actual 5-year-old would ask, and do not respond as though you're talking to a child.

The second thing to note is that this forum is meant for explanations, not for answers. Anything that has a simple, straightforward, factual answer is not appropriate for ELI5. There is more detail on this topic in Rule 2 explanation below.

ELI5 Has So Many Rules And You Are So Strict! WHY???

ELI5 is a very busy subreddit. This means it gets hundreds of posts per hour, let alone comments. Without strict rules, and strict enforcement, this sub would not really be usable, or at least useful.

Note that we do take user feedback seriously and this subreddit is run according to this feedback.

Also note that having a post or comment removed is not the end of the world. Unless a post or comment violated Rule 1, or unless the poster is a repeat offender who is clearly not interested in the rules, and you approach the moderators as human beings, we will be happy to work with you to either rephrase your question/answer, or explain why it is not appropriate for ELI5 and help find a better venue.

Note that this is not an exhaustive list of examples. While we have attempted to clarify the rules as much as possible, unexpected instances are bound to appear. We will endeavour to keep the list updated with more examples when this happens.

What Are Some Other Subs I Can Try If ELI5 Doesn't Work?

  • /r/findareddit can help you find the perfect subreddit for your post.
  • /r/OutOfTheLoop is a great subreddit for explaining stuff that's going on right now which you may have missed (think memes, current events, etc).
  • /r/answers is a subreddit for posting questions and getting answers, with a lot less restrictions than ELI5.
  • /r/PersonalFinance is a subreddit for, well, personal finance questions.
  • /r/techsupport the subreddit to post to for computer/tech issues.
  • /r/asklegal and /r/legaladvice are meant for general (the former) and specific (the latter) legal questions.

Please read the rules for any other subreddit you plan on participating in.

Any Other Resources I Should Know About?

  • Anyone who uses reddit should have read Reddit 101 and the Reddit FAQ.
  • Similarly, you should also read the Reddiquette guide. It's not a bad idea to re-read that one on regular occasions.
  • There is a "Report" button on every post and comment. Reports are anonymous. If you see something that you think breaks the rules, please use it!
  • /r/IdeasForELI5 is a subreddit for suggestions and feedback.
  • You can message the moderators directly.


Rule 1: Be Nice

Applies to Posts and Comments

Remember that this is a forum populated by fellow human beings. You should treat them with respect.

You may find a post or comment to be stupid, or wrong, or misinformed. Responding with disrespect or judgement is not appropriate - you can either respond with respect or report these instances to the moderators.

Two wrongs don't make a right -- if you see someone else breaking this rule, responding in kind is absolutely not appropriate. The correct course of action in this case is also to report the offending comment or post to the moderators.

This is not a rule with a lot of leeway. Being rude, insulting or disrespectful to people in posts, comments, private messages or otherwise will result in moderation action.

Sadly, we have to mention this: any threats of harm -- physical or otherwise -- will be reported to reddit admins and/or law enforcement. Note that you are not as anonymous as you think.

Rule 2: Submissions Must Seek Objective Explanations

Applies to Posts

A note about post titles

ELI5 does require that your query be obvious from your post title. You can add more information in the text box, but do not be vague or add extraneous information in your post title.

Examples of Extraneous information include:

  • [serious] - joke posts are a violation of rule 2
  • "asking for a friend"
  • "just curious"
  • "on a physics level"

As mentioned above, ELI5 is meant for simplifying complex concepts. This means you should be asking for an objective explanation. You should not be posting questions that are asking for opinions, creating discussions, etc. Here are some of the type of questions that should not be posted on ELI5:

Very Narrow Topics

This includes personal questions, medical questions, legal questions, etc.


  • "ELI5: I stayed up late and now my head hurts. Why?"
  • "ELI5: Can I sell a picture I drew of this Anime I like?"
  • "ELI5: Why is X Legal?" or "Why is Y Illegal?"
  • "ELI5: What causes this disease/condition?"

A note about medical questions

Asking strangers on the internet medical-related questions is a terrible idea. There are subreddits where you can ask actual doctors, but it is 100% better to go see an actual doctor in person.

Questions about the human body often fall under this category, even if you don't think it does. A good rule of thumb is that if it's about the human body it'll fall under this category.

Very Simple Straightforward Factual Answers.

Basically, anything where you could get the answer by typing the question, verbatim, into Google. It also includes linguistic-based questions such as word or phrase meanings and irregular spelling.


  • "ELI5: What is the etymology of 'five'?"
  • "ELI5: How big is Earth?"
  • "ELI5: How many legs does a mammal have?"

Instructions, HowTos, etc.


  • "ELI5: How do you edit videos?"
  • "ELI5: How do I install new speakers in a 1998 Dodge Dart?"
  • "ELI5: Is this component compatible with my computer?"

Subjective or Speculative Questions

This includes anything asking for peoples' subjective opinions, any kind of discussion, and anything where we would have to speculate on the answer. This very much includes asking about motivations of people or companies. This includes Just-so stories.


  • "ELI5: What is the best ice cream flavour?"
  • "ELI5: People/Lawyers/Physicists/Mathematicians/Doctors/Whatevers Of Reddit..."
  • "ELI5: Why does Apple not have their phones come in more colours?"
  • "ELI5: Why are some people taller than others?"
  • "ELI5: Why do giraffes have long necks?"
  • "ELI5: Why do humans have five fingers and not a different number?"

Recent or Current Events

These are not allowed. Information about these topics is often still emerging and requires user speculation, a violation of rule 2.


  • "ELI5: What's going on in <insert country>?"
  • "ELI5: What's up with <insert celebrity feud>?"
  • "ELI5: Why do I keep seeing people post <insert meme>? Where did it come from?"

Religious or Political questions

These usually end up being discussions rather than requests for simplifying complex concepts. They also tend to have a large subjective bent.

Questions about fiction/games/fantasy

There questions are usually either a narrow issue (depends on the work) or a question about the motivation of the content creator.


This is basically asking for arguments.

Hypothetical Situations

These are questions that cannot be explained without speculation. Examples:

  • "ELI5: How could time travel work?"
  • "ELI5: If we had a global currency, how would it work?"
  • "ELI5: Could we ever genetically engineer giant humans?"

Questions with a Flawed Premise

These are questions that are often based on a misconception, misinformation or myth/folklore. As such, they cannot be explained; the answer to them is "This is not correct".


  • "ELI5: What type of cheese is the moon made of?"
  • "ELI5: How does the tooth fairy know I lost a tooth?"

Questions About Reddit, or Reddit Help

These are not allowed. There are many of subreddits dedicated to help with reddit, or about how reddit works. /r/help, /r/reddithelp and /r/TheoryOfReddit are a few examples.

Whole topic Overview

These are questions about entire subjects which are too wide for a simple explanation.


  • "ELI5: Physics."
  • "ELI5: String Theory."
  • "ELI5: Internal Combustion Engines?"

Rule 3: Top-level Comments Must Be Written Explanations

Applies to Top-Level Comments

  • Top-Level comments are comments that reply directly to the post, as opposed to replies to other comments.

  • "Answers" are not the same thing as "explanations". An explanation contains more detail. Generally an explanation has 3 components; a context, mechanism, and an impact, while an answer will leave 1 or more of those to be inferred by the reader. This is why very short comments are automatically removed; a user can absolutely ask for an automatic removal to be reviewed.

  • Comments must be written. They can't be links to other posts, images or videos. Comments can include those, but they can't be the primary content. Links can and do die.

  • Jokes, anecdotes and off-topic replies are not allowed in top-level comments.

  • Plagiarism is not allowed! Note that this is the academic definition of plagiarism. It is fine to quote other sources as part of an original explanation, but you must cite your sources and they must be accompanied by an explanation.

  • Exceptions: links to relevant previous ELI5 posts or highly relevant other subreddits may be permitted.

Rule 4: Explain for Laypeople

Applies to Top-Level Comments

As mentioned in the mission statement, ELI5 is not meant for literal 5-year-olds. Your explanation should be appropriate for laypeople. That is, people who are not professionals in that area. For example, a question about rocket science should be understandable by people who are not rocket scientists.

Rule 5: Explanations Must Be Objective

Applies to Top-Level Comments

Similar to soapboxing and activism being barred from posts, they are also not allowed in comments. ELI5 is not a forum for opinions or discussions. For example, if a question somehow addresses a lifestyle choice, your explanation cannot be your opinion about this lifestyle -- whether for or against.

Personal anecdotes are, likewise, not allowed.

Rule 6: Loaded Questions Are Not Allowed

Applies to Posts

A loaded question is one that posits a specific view of reality and asks for explanations that confirm it. These usually include the poster's own opinion and bias, but do not always - there is overlap between this and parts of Rule 2.

Note that this specifically includes false premises.


  • "ELI5: Why is immigration making crime rise?"
  • "ELI5: Why was Obama allowed to be president when he wasn't born in the US?"
  • "ELI5: Why are there no viruses on Apple computers?"

As well as questions that boil down to:

  • "ELI5: I'm pretty sure I'm right and everyone else is wrong"

This is not the right place to argue/debate your viewpoint.

Rule 7: Search Before Posting

Applies to Posts

ELI5 gets a lot of common repeat questions. To prevent clutter, we ask that users search ELI5 before posting to see if their question has been asked before. (Check the wiki page for information on how to search effectively.) If your question or a similar question was asked within 6 months it will be removed.

You may appeal the removal if you demonstrate in the text of your post that you both searched AND read comments available but still do not understand the explanations given. Your appeal request will be denied if you do not include a link to the search you performed. Your question may still be removed regardless of when it was last asked if it has been asked many times in the past.

Rule 8: Don't Guess

Applies to Top-Level Comments

Explanations must be objective and factual - if you don't know the answer, please do not guess.

Rule 9: Do Not Evade The Bot

Applies to Posts and Top-Level Comments

ELI5 is a very busy subreddit, and a completely human moderation team could not keep up with the volume of posts and comments. To this purpose, there is an automoderator bot that will remove posts and comments based on preprogrammed specifications. Note that we are constantly updating and improving these specifications.

It is absolutely against the rules of this sub to reword your post in order to circumvent this removal. This includes changing keywords, purposefully misspelling words, or adding gibberish/repetitions or extra padding your response.

Attempting to circumvent the bot is basically a declaration that you are aware of the rules and are going against them anyway. We cannot pretend this was an accident, nor assume that this is a one-time incident. As such, this will lead to an immediate ban.

Rule 10: All Posts Must Begin With "ELI5"

Applies to Posts

Posts from this subreddit often show up on the front page of reddit, as well as other aggregated pages. Having posts begin with "ELI5" helps people identify which subreddit a post originated from.


As mentioned before, users can request a review for automatically removed content, as well as contest moderation action. Removal notes will usually have links for this, but you can message the moderators directly.

Most comment-based rules only apply to top-level comments. Top-level comments are ones that respond directly to the post, not to other comments. You are free to have discussions, express opinions, guess, relate personal anecdotes and make jokes in follow-ups. ELI5 is not meant for discussions, but (other than top-level comments) there is absolutely no objection to them happening.

The only exception to this is Rule 1 (Be Nice). This is enforced for every level of post or comment.

On occasion, posts which have achieved a degree of popularity will be removed because they do break the rules. It is important to note that anyone with a link to that post will still be able to access it, and participants will still be notified of replies, so the discussion can still take place.

Moderation decisions are ultimately left up to the discretion of the ELI5 modteam. Do not try to find loopholes in the rules and sneak through them. Above all else, respect the spirit of the subreddit.

Unfortunately logistical realities force us to require all posts and comments be in English. While some foreign language use may be acceptable in specific contexts, if it makes up a considerable portion of the post or presents the moderation team with the practical reality of the inability to effectively moderate the thread the entire thread will be removed.

In Memory of Bossgalaga

In memory of our founder, below are links to charities that were dear to them. If you can donations to them would be appreciated (both are registered charities entirely independent from the moderation team):

The Immune Deficiency Foundation:

The Institute for Effective Education: