This question relates to the wider theme of a lot of ELL questions being asked here. Meta discussion here: What kind of questions do you want?

For example this is the current state of this question: Is there an expression or word to describe a person who does something that is unnecessary?:

Is there a word or words that describe a person who:

Do something that is not important or unnecessary and
Do not do something that is important or necessary.

Preferable that the word can be fill inside the following blank.

Ali is a ____ person. He always does not get his priorities right. He always do things that is not important and forget to to do things that is important.

The use of 'do' instead of 'does' is glaring, as well as 'Perferable that' instead of 'I would prefer' or similar, 'forget' instead of 'forgets'.

It seems apparent that this OP does not have a good grasp (though not awful) of English.

The question could be easily edited to to tidy it up, and the question would remain good.

However should we be doing this? It could be seen to be tolerating ELL questions.

  • This question addresses one aspect of your question. Commented May 14, 2014 at 5:16
  • 9
    I think we should correct significant errors in an OP's text. Apart from anything else, I see no reason why most questions on ELU should be treated any differently depending on whether they're asked by a non-native speaker. Therefore we should seek to discourage people from providing trivial answers to trivial questions just because oftentimes that's all the non-native querent is interested in. We all like to be helpful, but the place for that level of help is English Language Learners Commented May 15, 2014 at 18:00
  • 1
    If the underlying question is interesting, then go ahead and fix it up.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 27, 2014 at 13:09

3 Answers 3


"Should we be doing this" is really a rhetorical question at this point. We have been editing posts for grammar, orthography, word choice, and brevity for years now — not just on this site, mind you, but on all 100+ sites of the network. There are badges for editing. You would never get them if every post was flawless to begin with. And if anything, on a site that is all about language, we should be editing more eagerly than on Photography or Gaming, say.

I don't think this can be misinterpreted as tolerating ELL questions. The language, orthography, and formatting of a question are completely orthogonal to what the question is about. An on-topic question that fails to use a single article anywhere is still an on-topic question. Conversely, "What does spouse mean?" got closed and deleted, even though it was asked in impeccable English.

(And of course there's no shortage of native speakers who can't string two letters together, much less words. Try labelling them ELLs, then report back with just how fat a lot of good you receive in return.)

With all that said, edits do mean an additional workload, so OPs are expected to learn from them. "Consistently low-quality contributions" is a reason for suspension.

TL;DR: If, as you say, a question can be easily tidied up to remain good, then go ahead and do just that. If no amount of editing can salvage it, don't waste your time and vote to close. Then the burden of editing it into shape is squarely on the OP.

  • Good answer overall. I'd like some clarification on one point, and perhaps challenge you on it: Consistently low-quality contributions surely cannot be grounds for suspension for normal users; otherwise we'd end up with a dormant mass of members who are afraid of contributing anything at all.
    – rath
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 7:54
  • @rath: if a user posts consistently low-quality then they are probably not a 'normal' user, or at least not ones that we'd prefer to have. Shouldn't you want people who are not learning to do better quality to be dormant?
    – Mitch
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 13:39

What to do about good questions, that have bad grammar/poor english

Fix them.

Be careful not to change the meaning of the question. If the bad grammar/poor English are part of the question case, then obviously that part stays.


I am not saying I totally disagree with RegDwight but I think there is indeed a difference between this site and others.

This is the only site that requires a mastery of basic English.

I understand those that believe that if a person has a good question then it should be asked. Yes, if it can be asked correctly. Often the person asking the question is guiding the answering process. If they cannot be trusted to write a very basic question (I have pretty low standards for this) then how can they be trusted to answer questions, guide the question along, and pick an answer that actually answers the question.

Show me a person with no grasp of grammar, spelling, or English in general, and chances are you will see an accepted answer that is confusing at best. I used to try until it became a game of guessing what the person meant and that is just a waste of time.

If you asked a basic html question on SO with a bunch of nonsense and errors it would get downvoted and closed quickly. I am not sure why this should be any different. Since it is English that the site is about there needs to be an effort made from the OP.

So there will be the obvious questions that are just horrible. They should be closed. The grey area is harder to deal with. If it is just some simple spelling errors or a couple of typos, sure help clean them up. But if the sentences don't make sense then how are we even sure they are asking the question we think we are answering?

  • That's why we have the closedown vote "unclear". Questions which are written in very poor English should not be edited unless 1) One or more answers have been posted and upvoted 2) You can see that beneath the bad grammar, poor word choice etc. the question has potential. (That's how I do it anyway)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 7:37
  • "This is the only site that requires a mastery of basic English." - I don't think so. Most sites are intolerant of poor English. But Here at ELU we are at least tolerant of questions that are interesting as long as they are understandable. It's answers that have poor execution (whether by native speakers or language learners) that are not tolerated well.
    – Mitch
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 13:42
  • 2
    @Mitch Answers? Have you seen some of the upvoted answers lately? You are assuming that the people answering have a good grasp of English. There are several people that frequently answer that have just learned English and are often far off on their answers. On most sites this would take care of itself (imagine someone spewing nonsense javascript code). But then we have I am guessing just as many non-native English beginners that are voting as those with a firm grasp of the language. Commented May 19, 2014 at 13:51

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