In an answer to a recent ELU question, two images of ngrams were included without live links to the ngrams site. I believe that links should be included because it's desirable to be able to try variations of ngrams searches without having to start from scratch typing in all the words. (Note, the answer was updated with links during its first hour.)

Is it reasonable, or not, to downvote a question because of missing source links? (Or, more particularly, missing ngrams links?)

Note, I'm not suggesting leaving out images. With images included, ELU answers remain intelligible even if linked sites disappear, and that is good reason to include them, distinct from another important reason: rapid and accurate transfer of information.

  • 2
    Wouldn't it be more constructive to just request the links instead of downvoting?
    – Mitch
    Dec 30, 2011 at 19:21
  • 1
    Well, the request should elicit the edit, but even if it doesn't, having the graph is still a good thing, and not having a link...yes, that's annoying but not a terribly negative thing. I think it's up to you; for me a negative vote would be downvoting the entire attempt at using ngrams, which I think should be encouraged (I use down voting rarely and only for really annoying things).
    – Mitch
    Dec 30, 2011 at 19:32
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    @Mitch I've done that before -- requested links, no downvote -- to no avail. So, it's "less negative" but not "more constructive". Example: 26 October comment [This comment should precede Mitch's just previous] Dec 30, 2011 at 19:38
  • If I am aware of the source used, I usually try to edit in the correct source link (for example, if someone has left off a link to a dictionary or an article they paste from) and comment to that effect, trying to gently hint or coach the OP into the way many of us like to do things. If the post is otherwise useful and clear, I try to be forgiving about matters that seem to me mostly stylistic, and not downvote for them. On the other hand, if this is what, to you, pushes a question or answer over into being unclear and not useful, I certainly don't think it's wrong to downvote.
    – aedia λ
    Dec 30, 2011 at 20:56

1 Answer 1


As long as the ngram is shown in the answer, I don't see any reason for down-voting an answer. I would not say the answer is less useful, if the link to the ngram is missing.

If the link is missing, you can still edit the answer, and add the link; after all the block containing the suggestions for editing says:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links
  • always respect the original author

What would you do, if the answer contains a chart built with data contained in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, or the British National Corpus?

  • I can understand OP's wish for a "one-click" route to go and play with the parameters himself, in the case of NGram charts. But I hardly think it's in the same league as, say, making contentious statements without quoting authoritative sources to back them up. Which in any case people do all the time here on ELU. At least we can all access NGram charts - unlike OED, or some features in COCA. Jan 3, 2012 at 22:26

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