A recent question asked

Is it valid to use "We will be pending for her return" instead of, for example: " We look forward to her return"?

I was going to vote to close but then I noticed a comment that said

Please upvote. To VTCers...if you cannot find duplicate please do not close for "lack of research". Just ain't fair.

I don't understand this. Has something changed on ELU? Is it no longer required to show what you've tried and where you got stuck?

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    While there's nothing wrong with a personal appeal to others about the disposition of a question, there's certainly nothing binding about such an appeal either. It's purely a matter of opinion. Everybody has the right to vote as they see fit. (Strangely, I just provided an answer to that question rather than voting to close it . . .) Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 5:22
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    @JasonBassford - Does that mean you were a bit on the fence? What pushed you over the edge to answer instead of voting to close? Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 5:23
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    I thought it was a great question. Just look at how much I put into the answer—most of which was running through my head before I took the time to type it out. I think that anything that prompts that much thought is a good question. Whether or not the text of the question could be expanded (probably) is something else. But I think it served a purpose. I was also (again) annoyed at the number of votes to migrate it to ELL. (As with some others recently.) I thought it was complex enough (the heart of the question) for it to stay at EL&U. But that's also just my opinion. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 5:26
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    There's no drastic change that has happened regarding our close reason for lack of research.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 11:28

3 Answers 3


Well, ain’t this a turn.

Nothing on the site has changed; but maybe I have. I am usually being called to task as an overly enthusiastic VTCer.

I am the original commenter quoted from that post, and I think we could have handled the question better. When I said “unfair”, I guess what I meant to both the site and the new contributor.

Although we are a Question and Answer site, our main purpose is not really to help out users; that is secondary.

In case nobody has looked at it recently, the "Tour" says:

English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's built and run by you as part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A sites. With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage.

The original question was interesting and could have done with some research, but I did not see any invitation to the OP to review the site guidelines before it was foisted upon ELL, which BTW, also has a requirement for basic research.

The usage was unusual, and although from a learner, thought-provoking. There were long-time users who found the question sufficiently interesting to post comments, as well as one real answer. I only converted a comment from a distinguished user into a community wiki answer, based on the suggestion of another long-time user.

There is a minority of users here who strongly oppose posting answers "in comment", and I am one of those often guilty of that “offense”, especially when I think that the question, although still deserving of a good answer, will probably get closed.

I believe that the most important activity on the site is asking questions: a single good question can gather a lot of good answers.

I was trying to find a mid-ground somewhere in between closing a question for lack of research (which I do a lot) and migration to ELL (something which I almost never do.)

I think we should have fixed the question on EL&U. We could have done a better job communicating our requirements. It is possible that users mis-intrepreted this post.

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    I also take issue with the inability of users to migrate to EL&U from ELL. There are a lot of mighty fine questions over there that probably belong with us. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 19:37
  • Thanks for expanding on your comment. I like to make rescue edits, myself. What sort of rescue edit are you envisioning? (You wrote, "I think we should have fixed the question on EL&U.") // With regard to your comment here, I have a suggestion. It is okay to be inspired by a question you see at ELL and post it at ELU in order to add to the canon. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 19:57
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    Yup @aparente001...that would seem to be a reasonable course of action...gotta think about it, but one of my private beefs with the site is the inability to migrate from ELL to here, and the necessity to cloak a good Q in terms accepted by the site so that it doesn't get DVed or closed. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 19:59
  • Hmm. Have you tried a custom flag on the question, and/or posting at ELL Meta? Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 20:01
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    Nope...once again, I need to investigate. Thank you for your direction. But I think maybe take the ball and run with it is the best course. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 20:01
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    Please ping me here when there are some partial results to look at -- thanks. // What sort of rescue-edit could have been done for this particular question? I'm always up for improving my rescue editing skills. Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 20:19
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    déjame pensarlo It took me almost all morning to come up with this answer. @aparente001 Commented Jul 19, 2019 at 21:16
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    There is nothing wrong with reframing a question found on ELL into a question that is suitable for ELU and posting it. Migration is for questions that are off-topic on the site they’re being migrated from. A question isn’t off-topic on ELL because it’s interesting. Presumably a learner asking on ELL would like the question answered for someone still learning English, and not for a serious English enthusiast. The ELL mod team does migrate some questions to ELU when flagged, although usually we like the author of the question to be the one asking for it to be moved.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 12:20
  • If something was migrated to ELL and the ELU community feels like it shouldn’t have been, we can migrate it back. We just need some confirmation of some sort that the question won’t be migrated back just to get closed again.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 12:25
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    "our main purpose is not really to help out users; that is secondary." - Eh... It's like with all preforming arts: you don't play for posterity, you play for the live audience. SE's ultimate goal is for posterity, and to be good fodder later, it must be good fodder now. Asked and answered as asked. otherwise it's all just noise.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 1:00

I agree in principe with Casabel's answer around this quote from the help center:

With your help, we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage.

In practice, however, this isn't something that the community seems to work toward and it's not what this site is for. After all, to be a complete repository of knowledge on a language requires starting with the basics. But as I've been told, quoting Dan Bron in a comment last month:

It is not general purpose, the audience was mooted and clearly identified: linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. IE word-nerds, people invested in studying English qua a language. The idea that it’s “general purpose” is precisely the myth that we have to quash, and also convince Google’s SERPs to quash thorough diligent curation and prevention and removal of “general purpose” Qs, and encouragement of interesting, deep questions. Like the LanguageLog and similar blogs for lovers of English as a language.

These two are somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, you can aim to build a complete reference work. On the other hand, you can serve an expert audience that wants to delve deeper into the language and its facets.

To combine the two is like putting toddlers and university graduates together with the idea that they can learn from each other. It's nice in principle, but it's not efficient in practice.

I'd say you have to choose between the two, do you want a broad audience or do you want a specialised audience? Now, I say that's the question but as pointed out by Dan, it's already been decided from the get-go.

As such, I think it's good to migrate to ELL if a question fits or can easily be made to fit their question requirements. Otherwise, it will have to be closed here.

I don't understand this. Has something changed on ELU? Is it no longer required to show what you've tried and where you got stuck?

Personally, I wouldn't focus too much on research but shift the focus to standards. If the question is too basic then it should be closed or diverted to ELL and otherwise it's fine here. And the bar for what's basic could be determined by community consensus.

For example, if the average high school graduate in an English speaking country can be expected to answer a question sufficiently then it's not on-topic here. If it goes beyond that in level or in depth of investigation (while showing research that the basic aspects are understood) then it's a good addition to our repository of questions.

That way, the focus shifts from question quality to overall quality (of the question and possible answers combined).

  • “Too basic” is not listed anywhere as a reason a question is off-topic. It’s also way too subjective to be useful. Questions that are what I assume you mean by “basic” are better closed as general reference, or for lack of research that would have easily answered them. The research and citation requirements are critical in separating the serious enthusiast from the idly curious. Setting the bar high will help the focus of the site, but it will drive some folks off. Enforcing standards usually does. It requires a consensus I don’t think we have though.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 21:03
  • @ColleenV yea, by 'too basic' I mean general reference. The thing is, something can be general reference while someone has looked a lot (but in the wrong place). On the other hand, a good and interesting question may not have a lot of research (especially when trying to self-answer). As such, the research requirement doesn't really do it for me, it'd be better to focus on whether it's general reference or common knowledge or something actually interesting to the target audience. Indeed, that's a bit subjective, but so is closing for lack of research now (as many won't get closed).
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 21:14
  • As I said, we lack the consensus as a community to enforce question quality standards that would focus the site more on serious English enthusiasts. Showing wrong research is not the same thing as showing no research. Encouraging poor quality or low effort questions by engaging with them because they're interesting undermines the purpose of the site, which is to build a reference maintained and curated by a community of experts. We're all volunteers and participating should be fun, but we shouldn't ignore what makes SE uniquely useful. The community has an obligation to moderate content.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 23:58
  • @ColleenV that's pretty contradictory. By that logic you wouldn't entertain low-effort but interesting questions which (combined with an answer) would be an improvement of the site. Yet, you would entertain basic, ELL level (perhaps?) questions if they show some research. That's one way to go, but it's basically throwing the fun and useful part out of the window.
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 0:03
  • @ColleenV Especially what you call uniquely useful comes, I think, from a contributor writing something particularly useful or interesting. Whether that's under a well-researched question, a poor research question or as a question itself has little bearing on it (imho).
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 0:05
  • Posts are not what makes SE unique. If writing answers is what floats your boat, there are thousands of other sites where you can post useful answers. It's fairly obvious to me that I'm not going to be able to communicate my point (especially since I still have no idea what distinguishes a "basic" question from a "not basic" question). Tell you what, if you come across a "basic" question by someone fluent in English with high quality research that you think shouldn't be on EL&U, ping me with a link.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 0:15
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    @ColleenV that's not really my point. I mean to say that good questions can be good regardless of prior research by the asker. For example, your question here would be alright without the second paragraph. Sure, your research improves it further, but it's the question that's more important. As for bad questions, there are many, and adding research doesn't necessarily improve them. Take any low-quality question, add some research, and it's probably still a low-quality question. ;)
    – JJJ
    Commented Jul 23, 2019 at 0:53
  • And my point is that one way to push the focus of ELU toward deep questions that delve into intricacies of interest to serious English enthusiasts is to raise the standards for what constitutes an acceptable question, but that we don’t have the community consensus to do it. I don’t think my question would be a good question for ELU without the 2nd paragraph. Even with that paragraph it’s a mediocre question at best. The research demonstrates that I’m fluent in English and that I am engaged with the question. It’s not about the “goodness” of the question but the level of discourse.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 24, 2019 at 16:00

The question has been silently migrated to ELL.

It makes sense to me that it would be a good fit there.

The author of the comment about it not being "fair" to close the question here at ELU has unfortunately not participated yet here. For now at least, based on the discussion that has occurred here so far, I conclude that there is nothing unfair about closing questions of that type here at ELU.


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