The 'usage' part of EL&U is still not well-defined, and I read the FAQ and searched all of meta (citations 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Which of the following distinct types of 'usage' are/ are not allowed?

  1. Established usage
  2. Written usage
  3. Regional usage
  4. Colloquial usage
  5. Usage in email
  6. Usage on social media
  7. Verbal usage

Second, for each of those types, what sources can be used to document usage, and isn't this context-dependent? In particular, if we rely on dictionaries or style guides, we can only address 1, 2. So what sources do we use for 4.? (Not dictionaries, since they are lagging indicators by ~1-40 years) For 6. Social media, is it ok to cite a Twitter or Facebook search? How would we even find reliable contemporary sources for 7. Verbal usage at all? other than academic citations? And how would we resolve which one would be the most authoritative?

The about page claims "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat." On the face of it isn't even true for 3..7, since it implies there must be unambiguous authoritative reference(s) to resolve all questions asked on EL&U. So: what's the answer?

(Motivated by comments on sources to support whether 'hand in'/'hand-in' can be a noun, which as I already commented can't be resolved by Google N-gram, Google Book Search or any other online resource I'm aware of.)

  • 2
    Related rant: I have personally found many references to NGram to be commonly misused and distracting. Even worse are basic hit counts using Google searches.
    – MrHen
    Oct 14, 2013 at 16:31
  • @MrHen: NGrams is controversial for obvious reasons, but COCA +) allows search by POS and includes audio transcripts but -) is restricted to American English and doesn't seem to have references to articles on the internet. We could always semi-manually process the output from NGrams. Anyway I'm asking here about how we define types of 'usage', a much broader question than any single source. Ya think the site's scope would have been defined by now ;-)
    – smci
    Oct 14, 2013 at 16:39
  • 1
    Spend some more time here, look around meta. TL;DR - All are 'allowed' (I'd prefer to say 'all are -acceptable- usages and more'). Yes, the sources are context dependent: for some a dictionary, for others introspected judgement.
    – Mitch
    Oct 15, 2013 at 2:39
  • @Mitch, did you miss the part: The about page claims "This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat." So, the about page is wrong, the site's scope definition is wrong or missing, and the lists of canonical resources are wrong, incomplete or missing. After three years, isn't it time to sort that basic sort of thing out? This stuff actually needs to be defined - to reduce confusion and increase adoption.
    – smci
    Oct 15, 2013 at 9:10
  • 1
    How is that 'about' statement a sign of problems here? There very well may be problems with ELU but scope and reference are not them. You haven't addressed the fact that you haven't spent much time here, so how could you have much idea of how the community has handled things already?
    – Mitch
    Oct 15, 2013 at 11:08
  • 2
    @smci The "not a forum, no chit-chat" rule applies to the structure of the main site: ask a question, get an answer. It isn't disallowing questions about chit-chat or forum language. Oct 15, 2013 at 12:53
  • 2
    All of those are valid usages, and that's why a lot of questions here get peppered with requests for more details or clarification. The onus is on the O.P. to clarify the scope of the question; ideally, the possible usages being asked about aren't left to conjecture.
    – J.R.
    Oct 17, 2013 at 22:02


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