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One of the problems that keeps coming up is that many first time users of the site ask questions that are either

Other sites on the network have interstitial advice pages for first timers that appear after clicking on "ask a question" but before getting to the page for inputting the question.

For an example see the meta meta advice page.

We can have one too! The Powers That Be are ready to go ahead, but need a little bit of input from us.

In the section above the "Search and Research" section we can put a site specific message. What should it be?

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    Yesssss! I’ll write up an answer this weekend. – Dan Bron Sep 13 at 10:28
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    May I strongly suggest that the wording be comprehensible to speakers whose third or fourth language might be English. Let's KISS! – Mari-Lou A Sep 13 at 11:04
  • We already have a “How to ask” section in the Ask page, don't we? – user067531 Sep 13 at 13:45
  • @user067531 Yes, there is a side bar with links to further information, but this would actually display the information in full and be a deliberate extra step before someone can ask a question (for new users) – Matt E. Эллен Sep 13 at 13:56
  • Can you give an example of the page on some other site? That meta page you linked to is just from their help centre, I'm pretty confident most people won't look there before asking. If it's anything like the wizard on SO, that would be helpful, but it's not clear if that's what you're talking about. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 13 at 14:50
  • @JJJ the page I linked to is the one that will be displayed when you try to ask a question on meta meta (if you're new). So you can see ours as it is now. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 13 at 15:11
  • @MattE.Эллен wow I didn't know ELU had one. I'd say it is a lot of text, if I had a question I'd be tempted to just click proceed. ;p – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 13 at 15:30
  • @JJJ we have one, but it's not active :D Once we decide on what we want to put in the customisable bit, it'll be activated – Matt E. Эллен Sep 13 at 15:32
  • Unluckily I agree with JJJ, it’s a lot of text and I’d probably just skip it as a new user, but hopefully it is just the two of (lazy) us. – user067531 Sep 13 at 15:37
  • @user067531 I tend to be very lazy, but then so are those who the message is for. After all, it's not to target users that were going to post a well-researched question, it's for those one-liner askers who wanted an answer yesterday. Making it interactive like they did on Stack Overflow helps, it's more visually engaging and requires some input to proceed. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 13 at 15:57
  • @JJJ - I think that for a NNS the page represents more a “barrier to entry” rather than a welcoming sign. But that’s probably the intended desired effect. – user067531 Sep 13 at 16:04
  • @JJJ I agree with both of you that the people we’re targeting with this message are the ones who are least likely to read or adhere to it. No matter how much we throw it in their faces. The key of it is we now can throw it in their faces AFTER they post LQQs, saying “you read the rules before hand”, and cut off all the whining about being unfair, etc. The signs on the door says “no shirt, no shoes, no service”. – Dan Bron Sep 13 at 16:05
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    If you think the text on this page is too long (like I do) consider supporting my request here to allow the whole page to be customized. – Laurel Sep 13 at 16:44
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    I think we need a wizard. See english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/13233/112436. – aparente001 Sep 15 at 2:31
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    @JJJ Clicking on that link... no. I suspect that the pronoun/mod dismissal/exodus kerfuffle quite took any wind out of Q/A curation sails. – Mitch Oct 16 at 19:56
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In EL&U, the problem is not that the standard Stack Exchange advice for writing good questions isn't appropriate. It's that some visitors don't have enough patience or enough facility with the language to wade through all that advice. I suggest:

  1. help visitors decide quickly whether EL&U is the best place to ask their question; and

  2. since we can't offloaded the boilerplate to a separate page and then link to it from "Tips for writing good questions", add a horizontal dividing line to help visitors better identify the bite-sized portion above the line.

Here's the existing text:

Welcome to English Language & Usage Stack Exchange!

We’d love to help you, but the reality is that not every question gets answered. To improve your chances, here are some tips:

(lengthy Stack Exchange boilerplate)

Consider stating the intended audience for this site, and linking to Stack Exchange communities that are more suitable for common questions that are off-topic on EL&U.

Welcome to English Language & Usage Stack Exchange!

This is a site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts.

Related sites:


Tips for writing good questions:

(lengthy Stack Exchange boilerplate)

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    I agree the existing text is too long, too detailed, too technical. – Xanne Sep 15 at 9:49
  • Only half tongue-in-cheek, I feel like adding to the first paragraph, "If you are one of those, welcome!" – Andrew Leach Sep 15 at 20:51
  • Good stuff, but you might want to change ESL students and teachers to language learners and ESL teachers. That way it's clearer to students unfamiliar with the term ESL. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 16 at 12:10
  • @JJJ I considered that, but it lengthens the explanatory text without really adding much to what the name of the linked site already conveys. – Lawrence Sep 17 at 14:16
  • Yea it's pretty clear from English Language Learners already. Does ELL also do questions from native speakers still learning the language? If so, you could even drop the ESL part altogether. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 17 at 14:21
  • @JJJ I think it's for all English language learners. But dropping ESL just leaves "students and teachers", which is too generic. Adding "... of English" is misleading in the sense that it would then subsume EL&U topics. I think "ESL ..." adds just about the right nuance. – Lawrence Sep 17 at 14:26
  • (1) Does everybody know what “ESL” means?  It seems to be that I learned it fairly recently.  I wonder whether people whose first language is something other than English would be more or less likely to know it.  Why not just say “people learning English, and their teachers”? (2) Intuitively enough, the name of “writing.stackexchange.com” is “Writing Stack Exchange”, not “Writers”. (3) Consider adding Linguistics SE, Literature SE, and maybe Language Learning SE. – Scott Sep 25 at 4:52
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    There haven't been many votes on answers, but it's been a while and this is most popular, so I will submit this if there are no immediate objections. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 25 at 14:49
  • @MattE.Эллен I’d be happy to incorporate Scott’s suggestions regarding the other related sites. – Lawrence Sep 25 at 15:00
  • @Lawrence yes, that sounds good. – Matt E. Эллен Sep 25 at 15:02
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    @Scott Thanks. I've incorporated your comments into my answer. – Lawrence Sep 25 at 15:23
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    @MattE.Эллен Done. I considered adding the flip-side to Andrew Leach's comment ("If you're not one of those, try these..."), but I think the links are eye-catching enough. We want to keep it short. And where we can, sweet. :) – Lawrence Sep 25 at 15:26
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    EFL and ESL are technically different things. When I teach English in Guatemala, it is EFL. If I am teaching English in the US to immigrants, it is ESL. @ColleenV – Cascabel Sep 25 at 19:53
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    The interstitial is live – Matt E. Эллен Sep 27 at 14:40
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    @MattE.Эллен Woo hoo! For those who would like to check it out, here's a link. – Lawrence Sep 27 at 14:49
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Here's my suggested text:

If you're learning English as a second language, please go to English Language Learners [provide link].

Before you ask a question, search for an answer on this site, We have many good answers to questions already asked!

Also look up words and phrases in on-line sources. Tell us what you learned and why you still have a question. It also helps if we know where you're coming from—some context.

Here are some links for looking things up:

[Three dictionary links (not including Lexico or OED), one phrase finder, one etymology]

We don't do proofreading, test prep, or homework.

If you're a linguist, etymologist, or serious English language enthusiast, welcome!

  • 2
    I like this a lot. Nice and concise. I would just move this sentence to the top: If you're a linguist, etymologist, or serious English language enthusiast, welcome! – jkdev Sep 22 at 1:33

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