I don't want this to come across as some whiny "wah wah I can't take the downvotes" post, but I am honestly perplexed why Font/Fount of Information received not one - but two - downvotes. As there were no accompanying comments as to how it could be improved, I'm hoping for some constructive feedback here.

This question does not show any research effort. It is unclear or not useful.

The post contains my research. The NGram and dictionary seemed to contradict each other, and although there were a couple random "Bob's grammar blog" posts about it, none seemed to offer any conclusive answers from a reputable source.

As for usefulness... if I (as a native-speaking semi-pro writer) am not sure if there are reasons to use one over the other, and cannot find a definitive answer, surely the answer might be useful to someone somewhere? It wasn't even a hypothetical exercise; I came across it as I was writing about my toddler being a 'font of new words' and wasn't sure if it should be 'fount' instead.

This is my second question that has received a puzzling number of downvotes. I'll be the first to admit that neither would win any 'insightful question of the year' awards, but they were both meant as good-faith efforts to ask a decent question and contribute to the site. So just color me confused as to exactly what our standards are.

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    Downvotes are always puzzling, Lynn. But here's an upvote for you, and I'll leave you with this hoary admonition: "Never attribute to malice what may be adequately explained by stupidity or ignorance."
    – Robusto
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 13:45
  • @Robusto - Thanks. It wasn't the votes themselves I was concerned with, but more the worry that I was missing the boat somehow with the questions.
    – Lynn
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 15:32
  • @Lynn: As an extension to Robusto's sound (but cynical) advice, consider the (also cynical) proposition that people who downvote without giving a reason are probably more likely to be stupid/ignorant/hasty. So you can safely consider their downvotes are worth less in relation to your self-esteem, which means that even though the signings question currently has a net 0 (+3 and -3), that's really a positive zero. Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 20:03
  • 1
    Lynn: I know not from whence that font of downvotes originates, but I upvoted that question long ago. I perceive no missed vessel.
    – J.R.
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 20:15
  • I get some puzzling downvotes on this site myself. usually the regular users will put a comment explaining why they're downvoting, but there are many cases where it's difficult to figure out what is motivating the downvoters.
    – user31341
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 4:52
  • 1
    Now I see a puzzling number of up votes for your first question.
    – Noah
    Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 7:08
  • @FumbleFingers There are also users who down-vote a question because they think it is not useful, or it doesn't show any search; that is what the tooltip for the down-vote button says. Would you add a comment saying why you think a question is off-topic, when you vote to close it as off-topic? Even if you do that, commenting about the reason for closing a question is not done all the times. Does that mean users who vote to close without saying why are ignorant?
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 6:12
  • @kiamlaluno: That's rather an overstatement of my position. As I'm sure you realise, I personally am far more likely than the average closevoter to post an associated comment. Does that mean I'm less ignorant? Of course not - more likely it's just that I'm more garrulous than the average. Anyway, my comment was just a tongue-in-cheek way of suggesting to Lynn that she could reasonably consider equal numbers of positive and negative votes as representing a net favourable reaction. Do you seriously disagree with that proposition? Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 13:51
  • @FumbleFingers I was referring to, "people who downvote without giving a reason are probably more likely to be stupid/ignorant/hasty." It's not an overstatement; it's rather a statement about down-voting not meaning anything about ignorance, or stupidity, as any thing that is subjective.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 14:17
  • @kiamlaluno: I don't really know what you mean. It seems pretty obvious to me that by inviting Lynn to consider the proposition that probably anonymous downvoters are more likely to be ignorant (or hasty), I'm talking about at most a slight tendency. Which you're taking issue with on the grounds that anything which is not black-and-white is by definition "subjective" and therefore inadmissible for comment. Sorry, but I think your position is pointlessly tenacious/tendentious. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 14:35
  • @FumbleFingers So is your position. What you said about down-voting could be said also for up-voting, as both can be driven by ignorance. Voting is surely subjective, as everybody has a different opinion of what is clear, or not useful. (See the tooltip for the voting buttons.) Also, you didn't prove that down-voting is slightly, and tendentiously driven by ignorance, nor that it happens more frequently than with up-voting.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 14:56
  • @kiamlaluno: I never remotely suggested that downvoting is more likely to be driven by ignorance than upvoting. You've only to look at the most upvoted questions of all time to see that it stretches the imagination to suggest they represent the "best" questions on ELU. Maybe all those upvoters are thoughtful people with very flexible imaginations, but I kinda doubt it. Personally, I'm a great advocate of Sturgeon's Law (I just happen to believe at least 91% of anonymous ELU downvotes are "crap" :). Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 16:16
  • @FumbleFingers Bad votes are still bad, whenever who votes leaves a comment, or not. Would you feel better if you get a down-vote with an explanation that doesn't really explain what is wrong in your post? I doubt it.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 17:17
  • @kiamlaluno: If by bad votes you mean downvotes/closevotes in general, I disagree. So should you, since about 20% of your votes are -ve (as are about 30% of mine). If you simply mean downvotes which don't "really explain what is wrong" are "bad", that's exactly what I have been saying all along. In which case it's reasonable to say that since many/most/all such downvotes are "bad", we can reasonably consider them to be worth less than "good" votes (both up and down), which don't have that shortcoming. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 18:40
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    @kiamlaluno: I think we all have to accept that sometimes people just disagree, and that's all there is to it. I do find it frustrating if I genuinely think I'm right and someone else is wrong. But presumably that "someone" is thinking exactly the same (only with the roles reversed! :). If I'm honest, it's not really the "anonymity" that bugs me so much as not knowing why someone disagrees. I'd support a "feature request" allowing people to make "anonymous" comments when they downvote/closevote. Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 23:02

2 Answers 2


I happened to upvote the question, in spite of a few concerns about its wording and presentation. These concerns include:
• The referents for many of the pronouns in the question are unclear upon first reading.
• The question being asked is not clearly stated. The post never explicitly asks whether font and fount differ, and if so, how and why they differ.
• The desired context for comparison of font and fount is too briefly and obliquely implied, not stated clearly.
• The text offers little support for the are they really wholly interchangeable alternative.

Perhaps some reader was upset by the bald offering of the alternative hypothesis as if it's true, or perhaps was annoyed by vague referents for pronouns. But such things seem not enough to trigger a downvote. In general I agree with Robusto's advice to “Never attribute to malice what may be adequately explained by stupidity or ignorance”, but because in the present case stupidity and ignorance seem inadequate to explain a downvote, malice – or at least unfriendliness – seems likely.

  • 1
    Voting is always subjective: Just see the tooltip for the voting buttons. What somebody finds useful, or clear is not always explained with ignorance, or stupidity.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 6:24
  • @jwpat7 - Thanks for the constructive feedback.
    – Lynn
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 22:04

I don't see any reason to downvote this myself, but is two really 'a puzzling number'? Sometimes posts attract unjustified downvotes; sometimes posts attract unjustified upvotes. Personally, I see this as the way of the world; a formal inquiry into the former (I see Lord Justice Leveson is free at present) would logically also have to look into the latter.

  • Well, as someone who only downvotes when a question is egregiously poor, two is puzzling to me. Perhaps my viewpoint is skewed. It's also the ratio -- +4/-2 and +3/-3 were not exactly encouraging indications of overall quality :)
    – Lynn
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 15:18
  • @Lynn Remember what the tooltip for the down-vote button says: "This question does not show any research effort; it is unclear or not useful." Somebody could think the question is not useful, and down-vote it. It is rather subjective, as voting it is. It could be that who down-voted read too much questions about a spelling variants s/he doesn't find strange. Two down-votes are definitively not a puzzling number, though.
    – apaderno
    Commented Dec 31, 2012 at 14:18
  • Ignore the downvotes. I always do; they're -- as noted -- puzzling, and rarely helpful. Besides, who cares? Voting doesn't determine anything here. Commented Jan 1, 2013 at 3:03

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