14

It seems like every other question we get has the title "Are these sentences correct?" Either that, or "Is this grammatical?"

Generic question titles make it more difficult to figure out if a question has been asked before. And usually, after you pore over the question like an archaeologist deciphering the Rosetta Stone, the contents make it clear that the content amounts to nothing more than ELL fodder.

I propose that people asking questions on ELU be required to create a title that identifies some specific issue. If they can't do that, it's my opinion that the question belongs on ELL. It isn't our job to edit such questions, and even if it is we don't do it enough. A clear title is a small thing to ask. Closing such questions would help our community avoid wasting time on marginal entries, and it will help as well the people who ask such questions, since it will require them to think about what they want to know, not just bleat that they don't understand! and then dump their ugly messes of half-baked consternation onto our table.

All current mechanics would still apply. If they edit to identify a specific issue, their questions can be reopened. Closing is not a death sentence (remember, we don't "close" questions anymore, we put them "on hold").

Edited to add: This does not mean we should send bad questions to ELL. It is only to suggest that titles like the above are indicators that the OP may be struggling with basic concepts. In any case, questions that are put on hold are not automatically sent to ELL anyway.

Further refinement: A quick search for "sentence+correct" yields 136 pages of results at 50 questions per page. Currently we have about 50,000 questions on ELU. If even half of those results remain open and point to the kind of question I'm talking about, we're looking at ~7% of all questions on the site falling into the category. Even when these results have further specification in the title, it often turns out that one of our users has edited an "Is this correct?" title to provide that information. See this question, edited by @Martha, as an example.

Years later, the 7 percent solution still applies The 7% ratio is holding. We currently have 105,105 questions, of which 14,886 are "sentence+correct" questions. Most of which, obviously, have some form of "Is this sentence correct?" in them. And nothing has been done to discourage such questions.

  • 7
    I'm not entirely sure that ELL is where ugly messes of half-baked consternation should go, no matter what condition the title of the question is in. – Frank Mar 15 '15 at 12:15
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    @Frank No: a bad question should not be migrated. But perhaps Robusto is saying that once the mess is sorted out and fully cooked, the resultant question is actually ELL material and should not have been here in the first place. – Andrew Leach Mar 15 '15 at 12:24
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    @Frank: As Andrew says, I don't mean we should migrate bad questions. Those should be closed until they're improved, if that ever happens. But a hail-Mary title like "Are these sentences correct?" is an indicator that the user is stumbling over basic concepts that are, in fact, more appropriate to ELL. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 12:35
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    I find these questions are already closed about as quickly as possible. I'm not sure an additional rule based on title will get them closed any quicker. Unless you think otherwise, Robusto? – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 13:17
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    @Dan: It's a question of where to place the burden of question clarity: on the questioner, or on the community. I believe it is the responsibility of the questioner to ask a clear question, starting with the title. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 13:38
  • @Robusto [1/2] I'm agreed with that, no question about it. But it seems to me here you are making a aussgestion: that we have a new rule which allows/encourages us to VtC for titles along these lines. My guess is your objective with that suggestion is that questions with these titles will be closed faster than they are currently, or more of them will be closed, in order to motivate the OP to improve his post (as you say, to clarify it), or, failing that, to at least get it off the open questions queue. And I'm fine with all that. – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 13:43
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    @Robusto [2/2] But my observation is that questions with such titles almost universally have other characteristics which make them instantly closeable, and in my experience with the site, they're already closed as quickly as any question gets closed. I'm doubtful that a new rule will get either more of them closed, or any of them closed more quickly. So I'm wondering if it's worth adding another rule. Legislation creep has its own costs and hidden risks. (For example, if we told newbies "Your title is not precise enough; we're closing this question.", they might fix only the title.) – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 13:46
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    @Dan: I disagree with your premise. I see these questions languishing far too long, and even if we were able to dispense with only the "Is this correct?" questions out of hand, we would save a lot of time. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 13:47
  • @Robusto Ok cool. Now we're getting somewhere! Can you add some examples of annoyingly-long-lived "Is this correct?"-style-questions to your post? The strongest case would be made through high-level summary statistics gathered through SEDE, but I'm not sure how you'd go about even constructing such a query in this case (there is obviously no tag for these kinds of unwelcome questions, and you can't search for questions that have been closed as "too broad" because that defeats the purpose.) – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 13:53
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    @Dan: Well, a quick search for sentence + correct yields 136 pages of such questions (136 * 50 per page = ~7400), a large quantity of which are still open. I'm not good at constructing ELU queries, so I will leave that to those who are. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 13:58
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    @Robusto That's definitely worth adding to your question! You'll have to weed out some false positives and the closed questions (and you may want to cut off the long tail before, say, 12 months ago), but this is approaching quantitative evidence that a problem exists and it might be worth the cost of a new rule to address it. – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 14:00
13

Summary

After looking into this in some detail, I now strongly believe in the following proposition

Resolved: The words “correct” and “grammatical” should both be forbidden in question titles.

Actually, just the strings correct and gramma would be better, not full words.

They are almost all proofreading questions with no research and no help to future visitors of this site: they are essentially ELU’s GIMME DA CODEZ!!!! questions.

Look at the data included below and see whether you don’t agree with this assessment.

EDIT: (Incomplete, Best-Case!) SEDE data added to end.


Brief questions asking for yes/no answers virtually never elicit quality answers.

  • Can I say this?
  • Is this correct?
  • Is this sentence right?
  • Is this grammatically correct?
  • Is it correct to say X?
  • Is X the same as Y?
  • Should I use a comma here?
  • Should I capitalize this word?
  • Am I right that X Y Z?

In fact, questions that ask for a one-word answer are often poor, even if they are not seeking a boolean response.

I do agree that questions having “correct” in their title tend to be poor ones. It is hard to rescue them, and often impossible. Questions that have both “grammatically” and “correct” in them are especially miserable.

After looking into this in some detail, I now believe that “correct” should be forbidden in question titles. Also “grammatical” and its variants — like “grammer”.

Data

  1. “adapt the discussion to suit your own needs” <- correct?
  2. “an html link” vs “a html link”, which is correct?
  3. “Ann's friends and herself” — is this correct?
  4. Are the following old English examples grammatically correct?
  5. Are these default questions about events correct grammatically?
  6. Are the sentences below grammatically correct?
  7. Are these questions grammatically correct?
  8. Are these sentences both grammatically correct?
  9. Are these sentences grammatically correct?
  10. Are these sentences grammatically correct?? How to correct?
  11. Are these structures correct?
  12. “Are you kidding me?”- Is it grammatically correct?
  13. “As far as…longer an obstacle.” Is this a grammatically cor…
  14. “Can” or “could”, which is grammatically correct?
  15. Can someone please fix the grammar and punctuation in this sentence?
  16. “Cant fight no more”, is this grammatically correct?
  17. “Cheat legal” - grammatically correct?
  18. Confused about grammar
  19. Correct English: “Get sick” or “fall sick”
  20. Correct English Grammar
  21. Correct grammer for comparison [migrated]
  22. Correct pronunciation of the word “Mature”?
  23. Correct punctuation in song lyrics that aren't necessarily good English
  24. Correct sentence structure and grammar?
  25. Correct spelling: Magic or Magick?
  26. Correct tense for a sentence
  27. Correct usage of “Could” and “Can”
  28. correct usage of “instead of”
  29. Correct usage of “Peace of mind”
  30. Correct usage of possessive.
  31. Correct use of either
  32. Correct use of the word “damage” in this sentence?
  33. Correct use of “wanting”
  34. correct use of yours, possive
  35. Correct verbs in sentence
  36. Correct way of saying a decision has been made
  37. Do all variations of this sentence seem grammatically correct?
  38. Does the word “amen” have anything to do with men? Which is the correct pronunciation?
  39. english grammar, correction of sentences
  40. “Extremely appreciate”: grammatically correct?
  41. Grammatical correction request : Is this a correct Q&A
  42. Grammatical correctness of a sentence
  43. Grammatical correctness of the sentence
  44. Grammatically correct?
  45. Grammatically correct sentence where “you're” and “your” can be interchanged?
  46. Grammatically correct usage
  47. Grammatically correct use of criteria
  48. Grammatically incorrect sentence?
  49. “He have a point” is this correct?
  50. Hello everyone,which one is correct?
  51. How can this sentence be corrected to be more concise and grammatically correct?
  52. How do we correct the sentence, “The party was held on the hotel’s roof.”
  53. how do you correct this: obviously global warming has been a growing concern for eradicating the earth and creatures survival
  54. How do you know when to use prepositions appropriately and correctly?
  55. How to correctly phrase: “She always delivered in time and always to promise.”
  56. “I am full to die.”—Is this sentence correct?
  57. “I became proficient”—is this correct grammar?
  58. “I never went to poker yesterday”—Is this grammatically correct?
  59. Is a comma followed by 'and' grammatically correct?
  60. Is “Agreed.” a complete and correct sentence?
  61. Is “all total” grammatically correct?
  62. Is a question beginning with “How to” grammatically correct?
  63. Is a sentence “I knew that someone will want to take it” correct?
  64. Is “as is” grammatically correct?
  65. Is “as long as” grammatically correct?
  66. Is “a very good read” grammatically correct?
  67. Is 'but rather' considered grammatically correct?
  68. is “click to image to enlarge” correct ?
  69. Is “consistently helped” grammatically correct?
  70. Is “Didn't you have a meeting to attend to?” grammatical?
  71. Is “encrusted with dust” correct?
  72. Is “expect lie from you” grammatically correct?
  73. Is “fires” the plural of “fire”? Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  74. Is 'have having had' correct English?
  75. Is “He picked up a quarrel” correct?
  76. Is “Here's some tips” correct?
  77. Is “homogeneous…as” grammatically correct?
  78. Is “Honouree” correct in British English?
  79. Is “hot sun” grammatically correct?
  80. is “How is conditions being unfair not an issue?” grammatically correct?
  81. Is “how much ever” grammatically correct?
  82. Is “I am at the doctor's” a correct usage?
  83. Is “I can have cheeseburger?” really grammatically correct?
  84. Is “I currently make part of the Xyz project” correct?
  85. is “I does” grammatically correct?
  86. Is “if I were going to simplify” a correct sentence?
  87. Is “If you be…” correct?
  88. Is “I have Asperger syndrome” grammatically correct?
  89. Is “I need to deposit my checks” correct?
  90. Is “instead of served by it” grammatically correct?
  91. Is “in the old decades” grammatically correct?
  92. Is it correct that imply:infer::sender:receiver?
  93. Is it correct to ask “ What degrees is it outside?”
  94. Is it correct to say
  95. Is it correct to say 'children 12 and under'?
  96. Is it correct to say: please refer to my resume?
  97. Is it correct to use “better+verb”?
  98. Is it correct to use “either” and “too” interchangeably?
  99. Is it correct to use estimate as an adjective?
  100. Is it grammatically correct?
  101. Is it grammatically correct to add “anyway” at the end of this sentence?
  102. Is it grammatically correct to capitalize pronouns referring to God
  103. Is it grammatically correct to change tense in a sentence?
  104. Is it grammatically correct to omit “is” in the following sentence? Is it correct in formal …
  105. is it grammatically correct to put a verb before a noun?
  106. Is it grammatically correct to respond “Yes, I won't go.”?
  107. Is it grammatically correct to say “John, good morning to you”
  108. Is it grammatically correct to say “Many more happy returns of the day ”?
  109. Is it grammatically correct to say 'Simple stuff…
  110. Is it grammatically correct to use different languages…
  111. Is it grammatical to say: Your understanding is correct?
  112. “Is it right?” or “Is it correct?”
  113. Is “It would thus be” grammatically correct?
  114. Is 'long time no see' grammatically correct?
  115. Is “neither I” grammatically correct?
  116. Isn't “English language” incorrect?
  117. Is “of all manner” as grammatically correct as “all manner of”?
  118. Is “ O’Leary’s’s ” orthographically correct?
  119. Is “physically based rendering” grammatically correct?
  120. Is repeating the word “that” ok, if it is technically, grammatically correct?
  121. Is “Rouse me not” grammatically permissible?
  122. Is 's/he' grammatically correct?
  123. Is “Should I be of further assistance, please feel free to contact me” grammatically correct?
  124. Is that grammatically correct?
  125. Is the above sentence correct?
  126. Is the clause “chances are” grammatically correct?
  127. Is the expression “It don't” grammatically correct?
  128. Is the following question grammatically correct?
  129. Is the following sentence grammatically correct? It doesn't sound right
  130. Is “The mall is constructing” grammatically correct?
  131. Is the phrase “At about the speed of ten miles per hour” correct in the context?
  132. Is the phrase “fresh six muffins” grammatically correct?
  133. Is the phrase grammatically correct?
  134. Is the phrase “has got” grammatically correct?
  135. Is the phrase “tirade of” grammatically correct
  136. Is the question “What is your body figure” grammatically correct?
  137. Is there any grammatical mistake in this sentense?
  138. Is the sentence correct?
  139. Is the sentence “I hail my praise in your daily sandbox activities” grammatcally correct?
  140. Is the sentence, “I wrote him,” grammatically correct?
  141. Is the sentence “The police had evidence on him.” grammatically correct?
  142. Is the sentence “We are invested” correct?
  143. Is the sentence “We're done” grammatically correct?
  144. Is the statement grammatically correct?
  145. Is the usage “one of the better” correct and grammatical?
  146. Is the use of “ignorantly” correct in the context?
  147. Is the “will let you know afternoon” correct?
  148. Is the word order grammatically correct?
  149. Is “They all had 15 minutes waits” grammatically correct?
  150. Is “They are the best kind of people.” grammatically correct?
  151. Is this 2nd sentence grammatically correct?
  152. Is this Americanism grammatical?
  153. Is this comma usage correct?
  154. Is this correct punctuation for the sentence?
  155. Is this correct syntax:
  156. Is this correct usage of 'to'
  157. Is this expression correct?
  158. Is this expression correct: “spring that force was applied to”?
  159. Is this grammatically correct?
  160. Is this grammatically correct?
  161. Is this grammatically correct: “It has happened for a while now.”
  162. Is this grammatically correct? “We were thinking of holding a meeting…”
  163. Is “this object remains a valid inclusion in a discussion of similar objects” grammatically …
  164. Is this question grammatically correct?
  165. Is this Quote grammatically correct?Own Lines
  166. Is this saying grammatically correct?
  167. Is this sentence correct
  168. Is this sentence correct?
  169. Is this sentence correct grammatically?
  170. Is this sentence correct:I already have posted the letter
  171. Is this sentence correct: “She didn't have any book with her.”
  172. Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  173. Is this sentence grammatically correct? from non-native
  174. Is this sentence grammatically correct? Please offer suggestions
  175. Is this sentence using relative clauses correct grammatically?
  176. Is this sentence written correctly?
  177. Is this the correct usage of the word “Poultry”?
  178. Is this translation of a joke grammatically correct?
  179. Is this use of “having” correct?
  180. Is 'thought it to be' grammatically correct?
  181. Is “uplift your life” grammatically correct?
  182. Is “volumn” a correct word?
  183. Is “Were there cattle on the road?” grammatically correct?
  184. Is “What's your Islam question?” grammatically correct?
  185. Is “which [noun] …” correct?
  186. Is “will open 1st quarter 2015” grammatically correct?
  187. “It is me whom she loves” or “It is I whom she loves” which one is grammatically correct?
  188. “Its funny how people see others as themselves” grammatically correct?
  189. It's unconventional, but is “T's & C's” technically correct?
  190. Laid—Had Laid … Which is correct?
  191. Let me confirm your name. Is this sentence grammatically correct?
  192. “Me” or “Myself”- which one is correct here?
  193. More grammatically correct: “anything but” or “anything except”?
  194. Need help with this sentence. Not sure about the proper use of grammer
  195. “of” or “for” - which is correct?
  196. please tell me the correct use of the word boredom in a sentence
  197. Question about understandability and correctness of given sentence
  198. Question on grammar
  199. Semantics to give correct meaning
  200. Should I use “to” or “of”, which one is gramtically correct?
  201. “Two films don't a revolution make”: is this sentence grammatically correct?
  202. Usage of the future perfect tense: “… a year will have completed…” Is it correct?
  203. “We are software tester” - is it grammatically correct
  204. What is correct “Other” or “Miscellaneous”
  205. What is grammatically incorrect here?
  206. What is more grammatically correct?
  207. What is proper grammar for a question that ends with a colon?
  208. What is the correct British / Irish English spelling of Yoghurt?
  209. What is the correct pronunciation of “pizza”?
  210. What is the correct usage of the word “frontier”?
  211. What should be the correct form of the following interrogative sentences?
  212. What's the Correct Pronunciation of g and t here?
  213. What's the correct usage?
  214. Which answer is correct?
  215. Which is correct
  216. Which is correct?
  217. Which is correct: “confirm or confirmed”
  218. Which is correct, “does go to” or “does goes to”?
  219. Which is correct — “email me [on/at] x@y.com”?
  220. which is correct? grammatically and in present form
  221. Which is correct: “he don't” or “he doesn't”?
  222. Which is correct: “I’m done” or “I have finished”?
  223. Which is correct (i miss you -or- miss you) Or both can be true In the correct English
  224. Which is correct, “in the past one hundred years” or “in the past hundred years”?
  225. Which is correct, I or me?
  226. Which is correct, me and Larry or Larry and I?
  227. Which is correct: “successor to” or “successor of”?
  228. Which is correct? What comes around goes around OR What goes around comes around?
  229. which is correct? you no need to worry or you need not to worry
  230. Which is grammatically more correct - “The sight of her
  231. Which is more correct, “Which one do you want?” or “What one do you want?”
  232. Which is more grammatically correct - “performance in” or “performance on”?
  233. Which is or are grammatically correct: "Cats are carnivores / carni…
  234. Which is right, the simple past or past perfect?
  235. Which is the correct construct?
  236. Which is the correct sentence?
  237. Which is the correct wording when describing a question?
  238. Which of the following sentences is correct
  239. Which of these is correct?
  240. Which of these two sentences is grammatically correct?
  241. Which one is correct in this sentence, “a herd of moose” or only “moose”?
  242. Which one is correct sentence usage
  243. Which one is grammatically correct?
  244. which one is the most correct answer?
  245. Which sentence is grammatically correct?
  246. Which version is grammatically correct?
  247. “Why you no…?” or “What that no…?” — are those grammatically correct?
  248. Word-order and meaning - which is correct for this notice?
  249. word usage or grammatically correct
  250. Would this sentence be the correct usage for the word “bears”?

SEDE Results

I have some SEDE data on what this would do. The important thing to remember is that because these results do not include deleted questions, they are completely wrong on the low end, and that reality is much higher than this.

Here are two basic queries:

  1. Closed Questions matching CORRECT/GRAMMA/RIGHT
  2. Open Questions matching CORRECT/GRAMMA/RIGHT

Those can be used to generate results like these. REMEMBER THAT REALITY IS MUCH WORSE THAN THESE SHOW!

               Closed   Open  Cl/Op%
               ------  ------ ------
1. CORRECT       675    1577     43%
2. GRAMMA        202     515     39%
3. RIGHT          91     293     31%
4. Any           867    2165     40%

              Cl ≤ 0  Low%  Cl ≥ 10  High%
              ------  ----  -------  -----
1. CORRECT       415   61%       13     2%
2. GRAMMA        116   57%        4     2%
3. RIGHT          49   43%        1     1%
4. Any           518   60%       16     2%

              Op ≤ 0  Low%  Op ≥ 10  High%
              ------  ----  -------  -----
1. CORRECT       409   26%      156    10%
2. GRAMMA        126   25%       40     8%
3. RIGHT          79   87%       22    24%
4. Any           565   65%      200    23%

That looks like 40% will be closed and 60% of those closed will have scores low enough to be autodeleted and yet haven’t been, either because they aren’t old enough, because they’re duplicates, or because they have at least one answer with a positive vote total.

However, neither of those percentages is accurate: they don’t have deleted data in them. It’s actually going to be a lot worse than that, but we cannot know the real figures until and unless a helpful employee runs queries on a version of SEDE that includes deleted data, then reports summary findings back to us.

  • 5
    Bravo for your magnificent effort. I am in awe. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 20:17
  • 2
    @Robusto Those sample data represents only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t think that these few hundred are the end all and be all of the problem. It’s one to two orders of magnitude worse than this set alone shows!! First, there are like ten more for every one of them I’ve listed. More importantly, my set does not for the most part include deleted questions, and many such questions matching the selection criteria get deleted by Community automatically after a couple of weeks. We’d need help from a Community Manager to actually ascertain how bad it really is. But it’s really, really bad. – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 20:30
  • 3
    What churlish lout would down vote this answer? – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 20:40
  • 3
    I don't think the words should be banned though, because if you want to ask one of the few good grammaticallity questions it's going to be hard to come up with a title without them. – curiousdannii Mar 15 '15 at 22:07
  • @curiousdannii Can you give an example of some of those, especially ones that would not have the grammaticality tag in their optimal tagsets? – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 22:18
  • @tchrist I said that hypothetically, the number of actually good questions on this site of any kind could be counted with the fingers of one hand ;) Still, I think this one is reasonable. I also noted that there are a lot of questions using 'right' instead of 'correct'. If you ban one you'll have to ban lots of synonyms too... – curiousdannii Mar 15 '15 at 22:24
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    @tchrist This one is actually good! – curiousdannii Mar 15 '15 at 22:33
  • 2
    @curiousdannii But the title doesn’t actually tell you anything useful regarding what the question is actually about. I don’t think “Is X correct?” questions are very good for searching because they do not tell you what the real question is, the sticking point. – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 22:37
  • 3
    @curiousdannii All keyword bans end up triggering false positives from time to time — like problem. But think of how much good they do. You have to balance those, just like measuring a medical test’s efficacy and its rate of false positives and false negatives. – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 22:40
  • 3
    Very convincing. Does SE have a keyword-ban feature in place already? Is it an outright ban, an automatic-flagging system, or just a 'hey you might want to reconsider this title' notice? – Lynn Mar 17 '15 at 8:05
  • 2
    @lynn yes, SE does have such functionalty. On Stack Overflow, you can't use the word "problem" in the title. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/107989/… – user40348 Mar 18 '15 at 7:56
  • 1
    @Rob I’m stopping at my count of 250 example lamenesses, since that puts me at the 30k posting limit. Let these stand as fair examples of foul practices. We must now await a kindly CM’s assistance in data mining. – tchrist Mar 21 '15 at 17:32
  • 2
    It is a small tragedy that an answer as thorough and deeply researched and considered as this receives a paltry 7 votes (oops, I forgot to vote: 8, now). An answer of this scope on, say, stackoverflow, would be in the teens, at least. While the original question is couched in terms of simply closing useless (except, perhaps, to the asker for their bar bet or homework) questions, it goes on to posit moving such posts to ELL when appropriate. Is there a straightforward mechanism for marking a post as "candidate for moving to ELL?" – Dave Land Mar 27 '15 at 17:03
  • 2
    @curiousdannii - I like that question, but I think it's most likely a dupe, if anyone was motivated to look for it. I've seen very similar questions with good answers. I've only been here for a year, and I get bummed at the continuous onslaught of bad questions. I can't imagine how people here from the beginning feel. :( – anongoodnurse Mar 28 '15 at 4:05
  • 1
    What do we need to do to get this implemented?? – Hellion Apr 7 '15 at 15:39
7

I might as well raise a suggestion I made before: grammaticality judgement questions should explain where they got the idea that their sentence might be ungrammatical.

Could it be required that if you want to ask for a grammaticality judgement that you provide a link, reference or quote to someone suggesting that it is not grammatical? I think this should be a specific type of research effort we expect for these kinds of questions.

Good grammaticality questions will be based on a rule grammatical description, which the question can ask whether it applies to their sentence or not. Maybe the grammatical principle is hard to understand. Maybe all the examples are for simple sentences and their sentence is more complex. Maybe their sentence seems to be causing a conflict between two principles and they don't know which one takes precedence. But if you show why you are wondering about a sentence then there's the possibility for good answers.

The problem with these questions, such as this most recent one is that without that kind of context these questions could never be useful to anyone else. They'll never be duplicate targets. No one else will learn from them. Probably the asker won't even learn from them.

We need to teach people that if your question is "Is X grammatical?" then it's a bad question because we could ask that question about every single sentence ever spoken in all of history.

  • 2
    The reason this doesn’t work is because most of the bad questions of that form are from first-time posters. The only way to “teach” someone who has never been here before what sorts of questions are unacceptable and why is to have a keyword blacklist with an appropriate message of explanation that pops up telling them why once they try. Why do you think Stack Overflow bans problem? :) – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 22:49
  • @tchrist Our suggestions could work together! – curiousdannii Mar 15 '15 at 22:59
  • 1
    You have a strong point in observing there are infinitely many "Is this grammatically correct?" questions, none of which will ever help anybody else. – tchrist Mar 16 '15 at 4:54
  • 1
    @tchrist Thought of another way to say the problem with these questions: this site is not a substitute for having an acquaintance who speaks English. – curiousdannii Mar 16 '15 at 8:13
6

I believe questions that are just "please proof-read this text" are off-topic on English Language Learners as well. See https://ell.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4/what-should-our-faq-contain and https://ell.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/263/alternative-websites-for-proofreading

If you're a non-native speaker of English, writing sentences in English and want them checked even though you don't have a specific question about them, then the non Stack Exchange web site http://lang-8.com is probably your best bet.

The only provisio is that you should be prepared to proof-read entries written in your native language in return, to help other people.

5

It isn't our job to edit such questions...

Yeah, actually, it is. That's why the SE network is engineered to encourage anyone to ask a question, even without having to own an account. It's why editing other people's questions and answers is encouraged "[a]ny time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so." It's why the suggested edits feature was added so that anyone can suggest improvements to a question or answer. It's why it's repeatedly drummed into our heads that we do not "own" our contributions and that anything we write can be edited at any time to make it better.

Instead of instituting yet another arbitrary rule that the masses will fail to take notice of, leading to even more rules lawyering and hard feelings at EL&U, we should redouble our efforts to encourage everyone to improve, improve, improve wherever they can, and that should include changing "Is this sentence correct?"-type titles to something more indicative of the content. Editing posts is easy’n’fun, you get to have your avatar attached to the post so everyone can see what a trooper you are, and you can even get badges for doing enough of it. That's what I call a win-win, my friend. Let's ask everyone to start doing more of it.

When you say "It isn't our job to edit such questions," what you really mean to say is "I don't want to edit such questions." And that's fine! You totally don't have to! Those of us with five-digit rep scores are often guilty of acting as though we are the thin blue line that stands between order and chaos at this site. But the plain fact is that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of medium-rep and even low-rep users who are more than happy to make their bones doing the yeoman tasks here even if you or I don't step up to do them. My work responsibilities often lead to me being away from this site for months, and yet it unfailingly continues to run in my absence. I'm confident that you will find the same to be true if you choose to let this particular cup pass from your lips.

  • 5
    I appreciate the sentiment behind this post (I've obviated the one downvote it had), but I quibble with one concept it puts forth: that there is a latent army of low- to medium-rep users just chomping at the bit to help the site in any way they can. If that's true, and they're ready and eager to edit low-quality questions... then why aren't they? Am I just not seeing it? The other conceptual point I'm struggling with is whether it's possible to improve these specific types of questions at all. These are "proof reading" Qs, and the idea is to get OP to make a choice on what to ask about. – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 16:34
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    But definitely, definitely, +1 for "Instead of instituting yet another arbitrary rule that the masses will fail to take notice of, leading to even more rules lawyering and hard feelings at EL&U". +10 if I could. And this is from a "5-digit rep user who feels like he's on the thin blue line between order and chaos". More rules == more arguing about rules here on Meta, which is even less fun than cleaning up low-quality questions on Main. – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 16:36
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    I don't do it for the badges, I've got plenty, I don't do do it to see my avatar, actually I'm sick of seeing it. I edit because I care, and there are only about four or five users who regularly do so. Not twenty, nor ten. Where are you? – Mari-Lou A Mar 15 '15 at 17:32
  • @Mari-LouA We're quietly applauding you from behind the scenes while we mix another cocktail ;) – Dan Bron Mar 15 '15 at 17:48
  • maybe there's six, I just counted them properly... – Mari-Lou A Mar 15 '15 at 17:52
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    No, actually it isn't our job. Nobody pays us for this, and if we do it it is on a voluntary basis. My point is that it should not be something people should expect. And before you get all holier-than-thou, I'll point out that I have the gold Copy Editor badge. Where's yours? You've been around here nearly as long as I have. – Robusto Mar 15 '15 at 19:43
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    The goal of this community is to ask and answer questions, if there is an answer or a question that needs improvement, then it would be ideal for someone who notices it to take appropriate action. What disappoints me most is when someone does notice and cannot bother, which certainly does not help the community in any possible way, if that is not already clear. – Turbo Mar 15 '15 at 20:08
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    @DanBron The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The answer to your question is that almost nobody ever bothers to edit anything on ELU: most edits are clustered in the top few editors. This is everyone’s fault, a glaring failure of the ELU community as a whole. – tchrist Mar 15 '15 at 20:47
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    I'm one of the "low-rep users who are more than happy to make their bones doing the yeoman tasks here." I'm not knowledgeable enough to give authoritative answers on anything but SWRs, but I do flag and can edit if it helps. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. – user39720 Mar 15 '15 at 20:48
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    Actually, what appears to be "yet another arbitrary rule that the masses will fail to take notice of" would be codified and implemented by the system, which can ban certain words in question titles. It appears that CMs have to do this (following an evidence-supported request), as I can't find a way for moderators to do it. – Andrew Leach Mar 16 '15 at 7:09
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    @tchrist - I personally don't consider it a failure of the community when crappy questions don't get edited. Editing is a right, not a responsibility. I choose to spend my limited amount of free time answering questions for those who could be bothered to put some modest amount of effort into asking sensible ones; not cleaning up horrible questions by people who don't respect the time of others. There are some questions that are diamonds in the rough, but they are - in my experience - the exception and not the rule. – Lynn Mar 17 '15 at 0:12

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