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Common accepted online resources

Are there certain rescources that are discouraged from being used on this site? Is Wikipedia/-tionary not valid? Are there certain dictionaries or text books that are prefered over others?

I ask because I don't want to find the perfect answer to a question only to see that it's from Wiktionary and then have every one not consider the answer valid, etc.

Any advice?

(also I tried to search as best I could for a similar question, so sorry if it's a duplicate)


  • 4
    Indeed, a possible duplicate of Common accepted online resources, and on the main site, What are your favorite English language tools?. Also related, What is Wrong in Strunk & White's “Elements of Style?”
    – RegDwigнt Mod
    Jul 12 '11 at 23:07
  • I can't do anything right on this damn site, can I? Jul 13 '11 at 4:04
  • 3
    @OghmaOsiris Asking questions that have already asked is not considered wrong; it's not your fault if you don't know all the questions already asked because joined a site later than other users. Still, duplicate questions are marked as duplicate to redirect the users to the question already asked, to avoid that users interested in the answer must read in different places, and that users who can answer provide an answer already reported in the other question. That is the reason it is always automatically reported the duplicated question.
    – apaderno
    Jul 13 '11 at 11:45
  • If closing a question as duplicate would be a way to punish who asked a duplicate question, then there would not the need to report which question has been duplicated; there will be just a message saying that the question has been closed as duplicate.
    – apaderno
    Jul 13 '11 at 11:46

I am a new user, and am already finding a large number of very big chunks of text taken directly from other sites. People are doing this instead of coming up with their own, unique explanation for their reasoning - which seems counter-productive to what the website is supposed to be about, which are different opinions from different people not a cut-and-paste, google-searched reason for why something is the way it is in our language.

I guess that would mean that I am personally voting for a turn towards a trend of not consulting so much with a website for an answer, but more for verification that the advice you are giving someone isn't incorrect before you put it out there.

  • 3
    Let me first tell you that I tend not to do that and that I perfectly understand how you feel. You think something along the line of "this is unfair this guy googled up the OP's question, cut and pasted the 3rd link from the top. Job done and he hoards 10 upvotes for this". But on the other hand 1/ some questions have found an academic answer long before EL&U existed, 2/ The answer is probably better worded and thought over in sources like wikipedia. 3/ If you cite an authoritative source, your answer cannot be considered as just your personal invention (e.g. etymonline). Jul 16 '11 at 7:14
  • @Alain Pannetier Absolutely! Although this is far from a popularity contest, maybe I am wrong in my thought process. I figure that if I can type words into a search engine than anybody can, there is nothing special about me in that sense. I guess my thinking when drafting my answer was that if an individual has come to EL&U it is because he/she feels they have exhausted all the more basic sites we can all go to for answers, and is therefore looking for more...not what they have just found online themselves, but a deeper conversation of the minutia as well.
    – Rachel
    Jul 18 '11 at 21:15

There aren't any particular resources that are actively discouraged but the trick is to understand exactly what the resource is telling you. NGrams, for instance, is unfortunately easy to botch in an answer.

Wikipedia and Wiktionary are good examples of how to field a quick question about the definition or difference of a word but for heavy etymology questions I would be skeptical of its authority. It may provide a good hint that leads to a more informative answer but, in and of itself... maybe not.

Urban Dictionary is another good example of a resource that can be extremely helpful but is not necessarily authoritative.

The short answer to your question is as such:

Any resource can be used to arrive at an answer (even your own experience!) but you are expected to know and address the purpose and shortcomings of those resources.

When in doubt, use and quote a resource you find helpful and then back it up with another resource. The more information you find, quote or link, the more confident your answer will appear.

  • I won't compare Wikipedia with Urban Dictionary. There's a much difference of quality between them. For one, Wikipedia is constantly reviewed.
    – Theta30
    Jul 13 '11 at 17:22
  • I wasn't trying to compare them. I was using them as examples of different types of references. Sorry for the confusion.
    – MrHen
    Jul 13 '11 at 17:51

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