I just had this question closed as an exact duplicate of this other question, even though mine is about whether to follow the spelling conventions of a speaker when quoting him, and the other is about how to handle grammatical errors and extremely hard-to-understand TXT abbreviations when quoting. Five people with moderator status seem to think there's no difference between asking about grammatical errors and SMS abbreviations on the one hand and asking about differences in spelling conventions (such as being the UK and the US, such as with color and colour) on the other.

The first question asked how to quote something that is both full of errors and very hard to understand, specifically:

lking forward to seeing more gbl etfs

while I asked whether to spell realize my way or the original speakers' way (OR the way an intermediate quoting writer recorded the original speaker's way):

I don't think we even realise it anymore

Not only are the questions very different -- and this is plain to anyone who bothers to pay attention -- but the answers are most likely very different. But even if the answers were the same, the questions are still two very distinct questions. (For example, if I asked how to get from my house to the nearest McDonald's and you ask how to get from your house to the nearest gas station, the questions are still different questions even if both are answered with "go two blocks west and then turn right and go three more blocks".)

Could someone please fix this by reopening my question?

  • 3
    I agree. Voted to reopen. You have 3 votes now (out of 5). Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 16:07
  • It does not take five people with moderator status to close, or open, a question. It only, always, and ever takes exactly one alone.
    – tchrist Mod
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 20:56
  • To make clear what @tchrist said: Every user help moderating a Stack Exchange site, with the tools their reputation gives them. Users who are moderators are the ones with a diamond next to their names. They can close a question with a single vote.
    – apaderno
    Commented Nov 5, 2012 at 11:45

2 Answers 2


I voted to close because the answers provided to the original ("Cleaning up") question covered a range of cases, including the one you posted about. Basically, it depends on what style guide you follow. The answers provided to your question, while not bad, are purely anecdotal (top-voted starts with "In my humble opinion. . .") and seem less helpful than the answers in the original question.

We can take a look at BBC News for an example of a quoted American (source):

"I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realise that life is that gift from God," [Mr Mourdock] said.

Unfortunately, many style guides overlook your exact question, but we can see in practice what news sources do. Short of poring over hundreds or thousands of articles from each outlet, it's hard to tell if they are all consistent, but generally one will use the spelling conventions of their locale unless quoting directly from a text.

Edit: I take issue with the hostility of your "update". I did read both questions, and I'm sure the others who voted did, as well. When I use the "Review" tool on the site, I often choose to "Skip" questions that have received close votes if I have any doubts about whether it should be closed. I prefer to make informed decisions and not simply jump on a "close-voting bandwagon", and I'm sure the same applies to others with closing privileges.

In general, if one were to ask two different questions where the same answer can be successfully applied, then it ought to be considered a duplicate. Regardless, others in the community have decided to reopen the question and I will include an answer there. I hope, however, that this post answers why I, and others, consider your question a duplicate.

  • 1
    I take issue with the hostility of the update as well, because I did read both questions and the answer to the earlier one covered the later question. I can't vote to close twice; but I would if I could.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 16:55
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    @Zairja: I agree that the answers to my question were purely anecdotal, but those are problems with the answers not with the question. If the answers are bad you can down-vote them.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 18:35
  • @Zairja: "In general, if one were to ask two different questions where the same answer can be successfully applied, then it ought to be considered a duplicate." This is simply not the case, and should be painfully obvious. SE sites are organized by question not by answer. Having an overlap in some of the information provided by some of the answers given does not make the questions "exact duplicates". Reread my analogy to asking for directions if my point is still not clear to you.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 18:38
  • @AndrewLeach: you seem to both think that if anywhere on an earlier question's page is information relevant to a later question then the later question is an "exact duplicate". This is clearly false.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 18:45
  • @iconoclast What I consider a duplicate is based on these three criteria. I believe your question falls in the 3rd category ("borderline"). "These are subject to interpretation." As per another MSE question on closed questions, it does not mean that the duplicate doesn't belong on the site – it's to prevent further answers. It helps group very similar questions together (also, done with tagging and linked Q's). Perhaps the "exact duplicate" wording is misleading, but [cont.]
    – Zairja
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 19:12
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    I would liken your question to one where a general answer can be applied. On the one hand, we want to prevent overly broad questions. OTOH, it's unreasonable to have a separate question for every single case of a general problem. A better analogy might be two people asking about the "-ville" ending. Person 1 asks "Why does Brownsville end in -ville" and Person 2 asks "Why does Greensville end in -ville". These are two separate questions where the only overlap is "-ville", but if there was an answer about why town names end in "-ville" then I'd direct both Q's to the same A.
    – Zairja
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 19:17
  • 1
    @iconoclast You have it exactly right: SE sites are organised by question. That means that people may search for a particular question to which they want an answer, and that question points to the canonical answer. That is, there may be many questions which all have the same answer. Don't be misled by the closure reason of "exact duplicate" -- while there are many exact duplicates, a duplicate is not necessarily exact; all it means is that the answer is given at another question. Closure is not a bad thing; it provides a signpost to the answer.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 19:49
  • @Zairja: the 3 categories you refer me to are sensible. Even if my question were in the 3rd category (and I don't believe that it was) then the prescribed action is to edit the tags so the questions appear together. But it is really not even a borderline case because instead of merely subtle differences it has multiple very large differences.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 0:04
  • @AndrewLeach: I would agree with you if the question really were a duplicate. I think "exact" is a poor choice of words, but if we accept that it is not the wording but the meaning which we're concerned about, my question is still nowhere nearly a duplicate, and certainly not an exact one by any means. I have accidentally asked a duplicate question, and I did not object at all when it was closed.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 0:14

A similar thing seems to have happened on “At the clinic” vs. “in the clinic” which was closed as a duplicate of How do American English and British English use the definite article differently?

One of the answers on the "original" question concluded with The general rule is 'in X' for being part of the institution, but 'at the X' or 'in the X' for being physically related to the building.

Although superficially the two questions look quite different, I felt they both covered much the same ground. And since the answer to the second was already present on the first, closevoting seemed reasonable to me.

In that case, it was the fact that the same existing answer could satisfy both questions that led to my decision. That doesn't apply in the particular case raised here, but it does seem to me the second question simply raises a "sub-issue" within the original, that didn't happen to be explicitly addressed by the accepted answer (but where a simple comment would probably have been quite sufficient).

I know I'm not going to win this argument (OP's question has already been re-opened), but I do think it would be better to refine and extend the scope of existing questions/answers so they address a broader range of yet-to-be-asked future questions, rather than constantly creating "near-dups".

TL;DR: Quality over quantity - one good Question & Answer is better than several mediocre ones.

  • But one question is asking about articles, and the other question is asking about prepositions. The fact that one has answers which touch on the other is really a completely different matter, separate from whether the questions are duplicates.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 0:21
  • 1
    @iconoclast: Well, there's no point in repeating ourselves. You think if it's possible to make a distinction between the two questions, they should stay separate. I think if it's possible to tie them both to the same answer, they should be "merged". If not literally merged by a mod, then implicitly by closing one in favour of the other. Whatever - you've won the argument with the community at large, but I just see it as pointless proliferation of closely-related questions. Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 1:14
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    @iconoclast Does quoting in British or American English depend on the quoted or the audience?, which I linked in the re-opened question has considerable overlap. If anything, this should have been considered the duplicate, though I think the answers aren't entirely to my liking. Had I been in your shoes and seen this question, I would've posted a bounty and/or edited the question to ask for further clarification. At any rate, I think the best thing is to link all the Q's (too bad it's not bidirectional) together.
    – Zairja
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 2:00
  • @FumbleFingers: I don't understand why you think questions are bad and should be avoided. It's not as though you have to read them all. Hard drive space is cheap.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 2:12
  • @Zairja: that's much closer, but still different, since it's asking about a conversation between two people who have different conventions. But perhaps with that question it could be considered borderline: category 3.
    – iconoclast
    Commented Nov 2, 2012 at 2:14

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