In a comment to a question, I mentioned that I hadn't heard the usage of a specific term as an American. I was told that the comment was not relevant and would have been subject to request for deletion, especially in the context that my not hearing this term is no excuse, ostensibly because it was used historically and in other countries. In addition, my mentioning such apparently implied to the other editor that I assumed that the OP was American. I don't know how this is relevant or extrapolated, though.

I'm not sure how this is subject for deletion, or censure. I'm a native English speaker. If a term or phrase isn't used in America, or at least hasn't been something that I've heard in use in my lifetime, should I not be able to comment that the usage appears awkward in American usage?

In a sub question, as a reaction to this dialog, it occurred to me that regional usage of English may not allow certain types of questions to be answered well within english.SE. Are there any stipulations regarding the proper usage of English within this site if the answer might be regional? For instance, "What is a word for a cylindrical battery operated light source?"

This comment is the particularly admonishing one.

  • Also note that the question is about grading systems which are somewhat artificial and can be different from institution to institution, so not hearing about something doesn't imply that it doesn't exist. You should still be able to make such a comment but its force in this situation is not great.
    – Mitch
    Aug 5, 2014 at 12:41
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    Not that I think it should be grounds for deletion, but your comment does read as rather derisive. Maybe it's just me.
    – Lumberjack
    Aug 6, 2014 at 1:46
  • SrJoven - Wait...where does "deletion, or censure" come in? @choster just said your comment was irrelevant, nothing about deletion or censure. Your reaction seems a bit extreme. I'm not sure I see what motivated you to ask this meta question.
    – Mitch
    Aug 6, 2014 at 1:50
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    @Mitch - It's difficult to read another's intent from a written comment. The OP's comment was harmless enough, and not irrelevant. He felt he was taken to task. I can see why a new user might feel confused and/or defensive, requesting clarification here (the only other recourse being chat). I can also see, though, why he would be challenged with a different perspective. Site etiquette questions are on topic for meta. Aug 6, 2014 at 3:08
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    @Mitch Please see the linked comment at the end of the post: _ is not only irrelevant, but historically inaccurate, and is one I would edit or delete_ (referenced author indicates that this was intended to be self-edited, not moderated, which is a helpful distinction.)
    – SrJoven
    Aug 6, 2014 at 5:42

5 Answers 5


Of course you should be able to comment about your usage and how it differs with what you're commenting on. That is exactly the nuance that is needed, especially here at ELU, where there are many different varieties and regionalisms at play.


It is fine to comment about usage if it is relevant to the question. The comments that you linked to are not particularly related, but it is true that the OP should clarify their question so we can get an idea of what the regional context is, and dialectal differences are not always apparent unless someone mentions that they haven't heard it before.

Per your second question, there are tags for some dialects (AmE and BrE, etc) and if the regional expression is important, OP is encouraged to mention it in the post.


It is perfectly acceptable, when someone asks if "x" is common, correct or easily understood by English speakers, to comment that you have never heard it in AmE. I would encourage you to feel free to post anything you feel is relevant in a comment.

However, comments are also commented upon, and users should feel free to do this as well, especially if their experience is different from yours ("I am British and I hear it regularly.")

I think one reason you met with opposition is that you didn't merely stick to what was relevant. This will come with experience on individual sites.

Comments are supposed to be relevant and helpful. Comments are expected and welcome when they

request clarification from an OP, guide the OP in improving the post, etc.

Though they aren't supposed to be used in this way, comments are often used to

suggest corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post, answer questions or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer, compliment (the OP), criticize the OP or another commenter without adding anything constructive, and argue/debate a point.

This is the reality. As you've experienced, it's sometimes unpleasant or confusing. It can also be inappropriate, and for this reason I would encourage you to become familiar with the reasons to flag posts and comments.


Of course you can comment on usage; I regularly leave such comments myself, and that is one of their uses as others have said. I also apologize if you took my comments as aggressive, as they were not intended to be. I did take specific issue with your comment, not with the concept of commenting on usage in general.

You say

I've not heard an American usage of the 100 point scale at graduation. Usually what's referenced is a grade point average, if at all. The 100 point scale is usually translated to grade letters anyway. This seems awkward.

That is not, in my opinion, helpful to the question. First of all, the 100-point system is indeed used at American institutions, especially historically. So to say that it would not be accepted as an American usage is at best incomplete. Second, the OP is not necessarily American, so what grading system is prevalent in the U.S. is irrelevant for describing usage elsewhere. If I were to ask I heard someone say "ownself" instead of "myself"; is that weird? and someone remarked We don't say that in America, I would similarly pipe up and say It's not weird if you're from Singapore.

When I mentioned editing or deleting the comment, I was making a friendly suggestion (perhaps not perceived as such) that you edit or delete it, not that a moderator would do so, although, as they say, comments are cheap. Literally, they are throwaways; I have had more than a few deleted without comment.

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    It is helpful to understand your intention was for me to self-edit the comment. I was seeking an answer for your presentation that 100 point scale was used at graduation (a distinction that I'll ask in academia.se, I think...) but also, even if historically true, doesn't negate current parlance. But even if I were off topic on the logic of the statement, -- I admit this -- I still felt that the OP's body quote was an awkward statement parsed in English, regardless of region or content.
    – SrJoven
    Aug 6, 2014 at 5:38

Of course, obviously --- and indeed such comments are the heart of the matter.

With language there is never a definitive answer...

Remember the great quoteable from an early intro to the Dictionary that it is "descriptive, not proscriptive..." That's deep and remains true on ESL.

In a sense, every QA on here, is: a canvassing for opinions on "what sounds right" and - in a word - what you have found to be common in your region or experience.

The person who told you the comment was improper, is just silly.

Note that 99% of everything on the internet is just silly, so no big surprise really. :)

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