Before answering to any question, I usually check out some resources to make sure that my answer is a trustworthy one. Of course, I do this about those questions that I'm not 100% sure about their response. But I've seen a lot of examples that some people based on nothing try to reject the things I post according to reliable resources.

Do you think this is a place for giving our own personal ideas and intuitions of the English language rather than stating some published facts and information?

3 Answers 3


You should always try to cite sources or data for your answers, even for subjective ones.


Great subjective questions insist that opinion be backed up with facts and references. Opinion isn’t all bad, so long as it’s backed up with something other than “because I’m an expert”, or “because I said so”, or “just because”. Use your specific experiences to back up your opinions, as above, or point to some research you’ve done on the web or elsewhere that provides evidence to support your claims. We like you. We want to believe you. But like wikipedia itself, {{citation needed}}. And good subjective questions make this clear from the outset: back it up!

And if you can't, (as Robusto noted) then just make the best case you can.


@Jeff and @Robusto both make excellent points. I’ll add two other suggestions:

  1. If there’s any disagreement among answerers, then sources become much more important. An unsourced answer with ten upvotes and no dissenting comments is still useful: a reader can see there’s a community consensus that it’s correct. Two unsourced answers disagreeing with each other are little use to anybody: a casual reader has no way of knowing which to believe.

  2. When you can’t base an answer on published sources, be explicit about what you are basing it on. “In my experience, tractor can be used as a verb.” is more informative, accurate, and honest than “Tractor can be used as a verb.” More details, within reason, make it even better: “In my experience (growing up in Saskatchewan in the 70s), …”

(NB: example for illustrative purposes only; as far as I know tractor is not used as a verb in any dialect of English.)


Citations are always useful, and responders are well advised to include them if they can. But the question has to be one that can be answered with a citation.

Some of the questions we get on English.SE can't be answered that way, often ones involving "how a native speaker would say" a thing, or "what did so-and-so mean" by this phrase. In those cases, the usual Google searches turn up nothing or everything, and unless you have access to a large library of reference materials, it's simply impossible to offer a citation for every response.

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