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[Before asking this question here on Meta, I did search for duplicates. There are similar questions, but I found no exact duplicates. If they do exist, please direct me to them, and I will delete this question. I did find this: "This question appears to be off topic because it is better asked on ELL." It provides excellent discussion, but I'm still looking for consensus or a more concrete answer. I find that I'm tending more often to use comments to answer questions because I am concerned that if I go ahead and provide a formal answer, more established users may downvote it because the question itself was too simple and not appropriate for ELU.


I just commented on this new question: "What's the difference in (sic) could and will in the future?" The author of the question provided a sentence using each word and asked about the difference in meaning. The sentences were "Will it happen?" and "Could it happen?"

My first step was to search for a duplicate question. I found questions about differences between future and conditional verb forms, but nothing that referred specifically to "could" used in this way.

My next step was to answer the question. Instead of writing an answer, I chose simply to write a comment, because I had a doubt as to whether the question was off-topic for ELU.

I'm rather new to the site and have this doubt fairly often. Are there any objective criteria I should be using to decide whether to go ahead and answer fairly simple questions like this one?

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    The quick and easy litmus test is: would a native speaker know the answer intuitively?. If so, the person asking is best served by the ELL community, as they are experts not only in English but in English pedagogy. And it’s likely they have a canonical dupe exposing the answers to such questions in detail. – Dan Bron May 3 at 13:29
  • If that was all the question asked, I would write a comment asking for more detail and context. If it really was a matter of ignorance, it's not even something that would be appropriate at ELL either (don't fall into the trap of blindly trying to get things to ELL); I would vote to close it for lack of research (using a dictionary). Of course, for anybody who isn't able to vote to close, just leaving a comment to that effect would work too. On the other hand, nuanced versions of that question could belong on this site. But not without more explanation research. – Jason Bassford May 4 at 20:13
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    Every time you answer a question here you run the risk of being downvoted. In general you would hope that the downvote was because your answer was inadequate or faulty in some other way. But on occasion a good answer will be downvoted because the downvoter feels the question belongs on another site. Or because the downvoter has found what they consider to be a duplicate and doesn't think the question should be answered at all. That said, Dan Bron's test is useful to bear in mind if you want to avoid downvotes on answers to questions that clearly belong on ELL. – Shoe May 5 at 7:19
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    @Rattler. I was responding to the statement in the question: "...I am concerned that if I go ahead and provide a formal answer, more established users may downvote it because the question itself was too simple and not appropriate for ELU" with the comment that established users may indeed downvote such an answer - and they may downvote for other reasons too. I have no answer to the question about objective criteria, and presumably no-one who has read the post has one either. That's why I endorsed Dan Bron's suggestion. – Shoe May 5 at 14:58
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    If you're new then you missed the whole ELL is not ELU's trash can thing. As I understand it, migrations basically don't happen, and you shouldn't suggest that they do; just close for lack of research if appropriate. If it isn't inappropriate, there isn't a valid close reason. At that point it's up to you to 'waste' time answering questions that the DV squad will hit you up for. – Mazura May 7 at 5:51
  • This question is basically for moderators; the only people who can migrate. Do y'all want flags (OP can't even close vote...) from a 1k user suggesting a migrate from ELL to ELU? Or from any level rep user for that matter. – Mazura May 7 at 5:56
  • Re. objective criteria. I'd only ask you to question your motivations. For posterity, consistently wholly only objectively? (that's hard when it's 'gamified') Are you a good troll or a bad troll? What do you call someone who is addicted to a Q&A website? – Mazura May 7 at 6:03
  • Having to add "(sic)" is a pretty good indication imo that ELU wouldn't want it migrated just to close it as a dupe. Note that the current wording for the close reason is This BELONGS on another SE site (according to your link, most do not). - "better asked", aka "[go learn how to English]" isn't in the vernacular anymore. – Mazura May 7 at 6:21
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    @Mazura, I'm disappointed in your suggestion that I may be a troll. I'm trying to respect the parameters of the site. I enjoy participating and am learning a great deal from doing so. Obviously -- yes, I think it's obvious -- I want to respect the practices of the community, rather than push against the boundaries of what is appropriate. If an answer of mine is downvoted, I'd rather it be because it's inadequate or incorrect than because it was inappropriate for me to provide an answer. As one user wrote recently, "We should avoid bloat." – Isabel Archer May 7 at 6:24
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    See the last line of the answer I linked (everyone's a troll). Nothing personal; just my view. – Mazura May 7 at 6:26
  • Glad to hear it. I did find @DanBron's response helpful. My goal here was to check whether my reflex to choose commenting rather than answering in cases like the one I described was more or less a good one. It sounds like it probably is. The site has been around for a long time, and I am new to it. I'm discovering that there are a lot of duplicate questions, as well as a lot of questions that native speakers would not need to ask. Occasionally, however, the "why" behind the answers to the latter is interesting to pursue, or to learn about when others pursue it. – Isabel Archer May 7 at 6:36
  • @IsabelArcher It’s also a rule of the site—all of Stack Exchange—not to answer questions in comments. Sometimes there are efforts to remind participants about this. One view is to comment helpfully but vote to close poor or simple questions. But you need to answer some questions to get the points you need for other actions. Many questions have been asked and answered before, sometimes well or brilliantly, sometimes not. – Xanne May 9 at 23:21
  • Some people comment because they don’t want to go to the trouble of quoting a source and providing a link. Answers are supposed to be referenced or documented, not merely opinion; on the other hand, a pure cut and paste job is not considered a great answer. But what you want is an up-vote and a green checkmark from the poster. – Xanne May 9 at 23:32
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    I find @DanBron’s comment interesting. Those of us who are native speakers and have worked with the language in our professional lives know instantly when something is wrong and (usually) how to fix it—but not necessarily why it’s wrong, or how to explain it. – Xanne May 9 at 23:39
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    Finally, more and more questions are not only being asked but answered by quite apparently non-native speakers; the answers may be downright wrong and may in themselves be far from standard written English. I sometimes answer such questions just to provide a more reasonable answer that at least parses, as I think such answers are bad for ELU and a disservice to those seeking help. – Xanne May 10 at 2:26

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