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I frequent the Electronics Stack Exchange and try to edit questions often which need a little bit of clean up.

I am puzzled by a couple of recurring patterns by question authors:

  1. failure to capitalize "I," the personal pronoun (even though they capitalize the first word of sentences), and
  2. failure to place spaces before opening parenthesis, or around other punctuation.

Some examples (from questions I've edited):

  • "up to 1.3V-ish if i dont hook them up to the controller..."
  • "I prefer the simplest way(i wonder if its by pre defined software)"
  • "I am curious to know about why cant i have controller which has more than ISR and also ,instead of interrupts at timer overflow,why cant it interrupt at its period match."

I find this kind of sloppy writing frustrating and often difficult to read. I realize that most of the authors of these questions are not native English speakers, so I expect some grammar issues, which I'm happy to try to improve.

Forgive my naivety, but are we simply attracting people of a language or culture where punctuation and capitalization are not used, making these concepts difficult for people to grasp? I believe we have a large percentage of India natives based on usernames.

Is there any way to improve the quality of these posts other than editing? It would be nice to educate somewhat, and I feel editing questions go unnoticed by the author, and creates busywork for the rest of us.

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    I couldn't agree more that it's dispiriting to see so many posts from people who lack basic knowledge of (or respect for) the English language. As a rule of thumb I reckon 90% of all ELU posts including uncapitalised i (or starting with the word so, another bugbear of mine) should probably be on ELL. It just seems daft for people at that level to be worrying about the finer points of language. But there's always the remaining 10% - plus I suppose case switching is probably more awkward on all these increasingly common mobile devices. – FumbleFingers Oct 23 '13 at 22:34
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    I've seen some posts where "I" was capitalized when the first letter (word) of a sentence, but not when it was in the middle of the sentence. I assumed the person was typing on their phone, which auto-capitalizes the first letter of a sentence. I've left comments before, but it can be hard to walk the line between polite exhortation and snarkiness. – J.R. Oct 24 '13 at 11:15
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    I actually don't see an overwhelmingly greater incidence of this with foreign speakers than with native. You can tell someone who's not fluent in English from other aspects of their writing. I find mobile devices to be the single largest contributor to sloppy punctuation and capitalization (including today's laptop keyboards as a less severe but nonetheless error-prone input method). And then of course you have just sloppy/careless/indifferent people who type this way regardless. – John Y Oct 27 '13 at 1:43
  • This question might be more appropriate on Meta.SO, since I think it is applicable to all SE sites and not just English. – Kit Z. Fox Oct 28 '13 at 12:31
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    I'm Indian and live among "India natives" and I don't see them not capitalising "I" in normal parlance. I actually agree with @JohnY that it has more to do with keyboards in mobile devices. – Mohit Oct 28 '13 at 16:37
  • @Mohit Thanks for adding your input, I wasn't sure if it was a language/culture difference or not. I didn't want to suggest that it was a product of any particular culture unless there actually was some language difference. Mobile devices do seem to be a major underlying cause. – JYelton Oct 28 '13 at 19:46
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This is a bit of a cheeky "answer", but maybe we could change the tag on this question from "discussion" to "feature request"...

Can we have a pop-up warning whenever uncapitalised i is used in the Ask Question screen?

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    Heh, that might actually be a good idea. I wonder if people would actually heed the recommendation. – MrHen Oct 24 '13 at 0:23
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Forgive my naivety, but are we simply attracting people of a language or culture where punctuation and capitalization are not used, making these concepts difficult for people to grasp?

I see punctuation and capitalization going downhill across the board, so I don't think it has anything to do with the types of people we're attracting. I also don't think it has anything to do with native vs. non-native speakers.

I would attribute it to a combination of dwindling education and a general laziness about grammar/punctuation that is at least abetted by (if not outright caused by) communication on mobile devices.

Is there any way to improve the quality of these posts other than editing?

Well, there's always FumbleFingers' cheeky feature request. :) Some sort of notification when one's post has been edited has been bandied about as another feature request, which would also increase visibility. The browsers have as-you-type spell-checking, but a grammar checker is probably a bit much to hope for. Otherwise, I think you're probably doing the best you can by editing.

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    Well, grammatically speaking, we're a pretty broad church here at ELU (I guess we have to be, since there are so many aspects of usage where "correct/acceptable" varies between speakers). But considering the site is about English, I think it's only reasonable we should expect question and answer text to avoid the worst excesses of "let it all hang out". As you say, if the posters can't or won't do that, we either have to do it ourselves or settle for a shabby-looking site. I actually did one single letter i myself earlier, but I think those with lower rep can't do single-letter edits. – FumbleFingers Oct 28 '13 at 3:17
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    I feel like I am probably being nit-picky, but I really enjoy the quality of answers on ELU because most people who answer here care about the readability and structure of language. You'd think engineers in electronics would be meticulous as well, but obviously not. – JYelton Oct 28 '13 at 19:48
  • I know that the site notifies you about proposed edits to your posts, i.e. edits from lower-rep users - I just got such a notification this morning. I don't off-hand remember if it notifies you about edits that don't need approval, but it would be kind of strange if it didn't. – Marthaª Oct 29 '13 at 18:28
  • @Marthaª: I think you always get notified of edits. If not, how would you know your pearls of wisdom weren't being tampered with? – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '13 at 5:46
  • @FumbleFingers - See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/202359/… – Lynn Oct 31 '13 at 21:01
  • @Lynn: oic. I hadn't realised there was a "threshhold" for how much of an edit it needs to be before the original author gets notified. I kind of assumed making a couple of single-letter changes from "i" to "I" would represent a gentle nudge to the OP, but apparently not. – FumbleFingers Oct 31 '13 at 22:09

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