I realize that there was previously a discussion on whether questions of politeness are on topic. However, recently there have been some questions such as this one on replying to a favor, this on replying to "what's up", and this on reminding people to reply to email. To me, this is like asking the users of EL&U to write a quick paragraph or phrase for them. It could be considered helpful to future users, but they sometimes seem to ask for writing services.

For example, in this question, the OP gives two sentences and then says "I can't think of any other ways to say this". Despite his apparent effort, he is asking for users to come up with a phrase for him. This isn't a question of "correct my sentence", but it comes close.

Would these be considered on-topic "questions from those learning English" or does it venture too far into proofreading or something else off-topic?

  • I think the answer is that there's no specific answer to this but that it depends, and that the judgement can be made with existing principles: Is it a question of translation or correct my grammar...then probably not. Is it a question of is this wording appropriate for this register, or what register is such a wording appropriate...then maybe so.
    – Mitch
    Commented Aug 22, 2011 at 17:21
  • @Mitch That seems like a pretty answer (it depends and should be judged on a case-by-case basis) you've dropped here in the comments. ♪
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2011 at 10:34
  • Worth looking into Interpersonal Skills
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 4:55

1 Answer 1


I too seem to be noticing an increasing number of "What do I say in this situation?" questions.

On the whole I dislike them, because I think they're more about social etiquette than language as such. The problem is compounded by the fact that most people know perfectly well what they would say, and many are more than happy to post that as an answer.

We haven't yet plumbed the depths, but I fully expect someone to ask a question along the lines of "I really like my girlfriend and want the relationship to continue. But she keeps talking about getting married, and I'm not ready for that. What word should I use when explaining [to her] what kind of relationship I want?"

I wouldn't have such a big problem with that example if it were to others rather than to her (implied or explicit), but I still wouldn't be keen. I think it would be better if more people actively participated in voting to close (or re-open) questions of this type, and stated their reasons. This would give all of us a better feel for the general attitude of community members who have the rep to cast such votes in the first place.

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