I am having a lot of trouble understanding the meaning of paragraphs from articles. Is english SE the right place to ask for help?


I think that posting an entire paragraph, and asking for someone to explain it to you is not constructive or useful to others, and thus off topic. However, if you had a few sentences that you could not understand, you could post each individually. That is, if you don't understand what a phrase means, you could post a question and still be on-topic.

  • What if the paragraph's meaning is particularly difficult to understand? Sometimes a sentence cannot have its meaning divined without the paragraph as context..... – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Aug 21 '11 at 18:16
  • @Mr: The larger the paragraph, the more localized the question is (it is tantamount to translating that particular selection. I think it depends: context of the paragraph about a particular wording in one sentence would be OK as long as that wording is relevant to other situations. If not (despite the fact that the OP often has no way of knowing that) then the question will get down voted or closed as a matter of course. – Mitch Aug 22 '11 at 17:26

Asking the meaning of a paragraph would probably mean answering about the meaning of different phrases contained in that paragraph.
This kind of questions reminds me of proof-reading questions where the OP asks if a paragraph is grammatically correct, and the answerers must hunt for grammar errors.

The FAQ reports the following sentence:

Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much.

The other problem I see with questions about the meaning of a paragraph is that they don't show any research; if the OP made a little research, then he would be able to restrict the question to a particular phrase contained in the paragraph, or a group of phrases.

Asking the meaning of a phrase is fine, and part of the paragraph could be used to give more context. Asking the meaning of a phrase without giving any context would be equally wrong.
Questions about the meaning of a phrase should ask the meaning of a single phrase per question.


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