21

Several folks have noted that ELU regulars have a predilection towards snobbery and are perceived as generally unwelcoming to new users. I realized today that I'm guilty of this, and I haven't even been around that long.

So, pursuant to a more continual "summer of love", I suggest a repository of polite responses to various types of off-topic or ill-suited questions asked by new users. The intent here is to provide a server-side community-edited starting point of pro-forma responses from which reviewers may cull polite, appropriate responses when deciding how to interact with problematic questions.

Answers should be in the form of a Community Wiki, each answer pertaining to a situation encountered.

When using the suggested responses, keep in mind they may need to be tailored to the questions and answers (and possibly users) we encounter. These are not universal solutions that will work for everyone. Use your best judgment when replying.


Other relevant links:

  • 5
    [1/2] I'm in favor of collecting polite comments for common issues here, but I have some reservations: (a) I'm not sure that I want to contribute to a question whose premise is "EL&U users have a predilection towards snobbery", and (b) in my experience, any boilerplate response, no matter how warmly worded, eventually comes to be received as a dismissive flip of the hand, due to the magic of the euphemism treadmill. Re: (a), I am willing to be convinced that "EL&U users are perceived as unwelcoming to newcomers", but that convincing would have to go beyond a handful of recent anecdotes... – Dan Bron Apr 29 '15 at 12:07
  • 1
    [2/2] ... and bring meaningful, quantitative evidence (if not statistical, then at least bulk, from a range of users, over a meaningful period of time). I'm afraid this criticism of snobbery may the be the result of a cognitive bias which makes negative experiences, and the responses to those, stick out than positive experiences and their non-responses, even if those happen to be more common or frequent than the former. In re: (b) given that these boilerplate responses will mostly be shown to newcomers who haven't seen them before (one hopes), the risk of being perceived as dismissive is low – Dan Bron Apr 29 '15 at 12:11
  • 11
    I post rather many welcome messages pointing new users to the help center, indicating StackExchange has certain conventions and standards, and/or that a question might be better-suited to Writers, Workplace, ELL, and so on. I have been tweaking the precise wording for the last two years in an attempt to make them "friendlier," but every variation has resulted in at least one indignant "how dare you" response. With a text-based medium and international audience, there is no universal "polite." – choster Apr 29 '15 at 21:39
  • 2
    Agree with @choster - Some people have received friendly comments very graciously, some have threatened me with bodily harm. I kid you not. How to interpret the written word too often depends on the reader's own mindset. But I up voted you anyway, because I like the idea. – anongoodnurse Apr 30 '15 at 3:18
  • @medica, choster, It's not about the nutters. It's nobody else's fault if this site gets a few idiots. Every site gets some nutters. It's what the normal people receive when they get here that counts. They don't have your past experience. What they get as their first response - That is who you are!. And who we are, by extension. So, please continue to be thoughtful. – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 1 '15 at 0:14
  • I think it's a great idea, but I think your response is a bit too wordy. Get some shorter ones and I'll be your greatest champion. – Araucaria - Not here any more. May 1 '15 at 0:38
  • 1
    @Araucaria agreed. currently mulling over how answers should be organized. – Erich May 1 '15 at 0:39
  • 2
    @danbron, should i just post them here to convince you? how about this comment recently "greeting" a 1-repper (and upvoted multiple times, no less): "You seem to have more fundamental problems than dangling participles. You may benefit by asking this question at our sister site, English Language Learners." – Erich May 1 '15 at 13:42
  • 4
    seriously, this is exactly the type of comment we need less of. if you can't say something without being snarky to new users, please, please stay out of the first posts review queue. – Erich May 1 '15 at 13:45
  • @erich Did you see my explicit request for "meaningful, quantitative evidence (if not statistical, then at least *bulk, from a range of users, over a meaningful period of time)*", and my explicit repudiation of "a handful of recent anecdotes"? Also, I read that specific comment as directed at the user's sentence, not the user (i.e. the "fundamental problem" was the lack of agreement between "need" and "the computer", not some kind of aspersion on the user's mental state!). – Dan Bron May 2 '15 at 15:19
  • 2
    @DanBron i did indeed, and ignored it. i'm not going to make a meta post and update it each time i find objectionable comments; i have better things to do with my time. i'm asking you to take my word for it. perception is what i'm after. that comment, i agree with you, was intended to comment on the sentence, but it can easily be perceived as insulting to the asker. "you have more fundamental problems..." it wasn't even directed at me, yet i read it as snarky and insulting. this is the perception we need to address. – Erich May 3 '15 at 13:35
  • @erich I saw that you ignored it, which is why I reminded you of it. You only need to make one meta-post which collects together a meaningful amount of data from multiple comments and users, which substantiates your contention that ELU is [perceived as] insulting. If you successfully make that argument, then you will get the results you're looking for (and you won't have to continually update the question or create new meta-posts). My bet is when you get in to do that research and collect lots of data, you'll find something you are not expecting: on the whole, ELU is warm & welcoming. – Dan Bron May 3 '15 at 13:44
  • @DanBron bluf: i'm not going to create a meta post for objectionable comments. (i had thought 38 upvotes on a linked question might have done more to sway you.) i appreciate your defense of the community and upholding the standards of the site. you may not agree with the premise, and that's fine; feel free to ignore it. all i'm trying to do is encourage all users to abide by some sense of politeness when engaging new users. – Erich May 4 '15 at 1:34
  • @erich I can hardly disagree with encouraging users to be polite and friendly! On an unrelated note, what's with the "bluf:" at the head of your comment? Does it mean "You just bluffed, and I'm calling you on it?". – Dan Bron May 4 '15 at 14:11
  • 1
    “Several folks have noted that ELU regulars have a predilection towards snobbery and are perceived as generally unwelcoming to new users.” Yep. Still true after two years. – Andrea Lazzarotto Oct 14 '17 at 10:29
4

"Comment" Answers

New Users (< 50 rep)

Many brand new users arrive here with hopes of commenting on the conversation (so to speak), but provide an "answer" instead, as they do not have the requisite rep to comment everywhere. This may be perceived as a catch-22 to the new user.

Hi [username], welcome to ELU! This is closer to a comment than to an answer to the poster's question. Unfortunately, as a newcomer on this site, you aren't eligible to post comments yet; but if you accumulate 50 points from asking and answering questions here that get upvoted, you will earn the privilege of commenting on other users' questions and answers.

Hi [username], welcome to ELU!  This is closer to a comment than to an answer to the poster's question. Unfortunately, as a newcomer on this site, you aren't eligible to post comments yet; but if you accumulate 50 points from asking and answering questions here that get upvoted, you will earn the [privilege](https://english.stackexchange.com/help/privileges) of commenting on other users' questions and answers.

or

Hi [username], welcome to ELU! That's an interesting (situation/example) you provided, but this feels more like a comment than a standalone answer. If you intended to comment on another answer, you won't earn this privilege until you earn a little reputation first by asking and answering questions.

Hi [username], welcome to ELU!  That's an interesting (situation/example) you provided, but this feels more like a comment than a standalone answer.  If you intended to comment on another answer, you won't earn this [privilege](https://english.stackexchange.com/help/privileges) until you earn a little reputation first by asking and answering questions.

New Users (with other SE accounts)

The tell-tale sign someone falls into this category is having 101 rep due to the association bonus.

Hi [username], welcome to EL&U! That's an interesting (situation/example) you provided, but this feels more like a comment than a standalone answer.

3

Questions deemed too basic for ELU

Many new users arrive here with very basic questions that could be easily answered by anyone who spoke English fluently.

Hi (username), thanks for visiting ELU. Your question looks like one that could be easily answered if you asked an English teacher or a friend who spoke English fluently. This site is not a substitute for formal English lessons or practicing with a friend, which makes this question off-topic. If you have tried to answer it using several resources, then please [edit] this to explain how you have tried to answer it yourself and why you're still unsure.

Alternatively, a redirect to English Language Learners might be warranted:

Hi (username), thanks for visiting ELU! That's a good question, but I feel it may be a little too basic for this site; we are not a substitute for formal English lessons or practicing English with friends. However, we have a sister site called English Language Learners where I think your question may be more appropriate. Thank you!

Hi (username), thanks for visiting ELU! That's a good question, but I feel it may be a little too basic for this site; we are not a substitute for formal English lessons or practicing English with friends.  However, we have a sister site called [English Language Learners](https://ell.stackexchange.com/) where I think your question may be more appropriate.  Thank you!
  • 3
    Hi (username), welcome to ELU! That's a good question, but I feel it may be a little too basic for this site; we are not a substitute for formal English lessons or practicing English with friends. However, we have a sister site called English Language Learners where I think your question may be more appropriate. I have asked the moderators to migrate it over there so you might find the answer you are looking for. Thank you! – Erich Apr 30 '15 at 1:28
  • @erich I guess starting with a Hi is fine. But the thing is that there are lots of hard questions which still don't belong here. – curiousdannii Apr 30 '15 at 1:46
  • 1
    i agree it often feels like an impossible task, but that's exactly why we need to spread the wealth. by not scaring them off, you implicitly encourage users to hang around and join the community, helping out in the effort. – Erich Apr 30 '15 at 1:52
  • 2
    @erich I edited in an improved version. The close reason will mention ELL if that's appropriate, while I think that migration should only be done for really excellent questions. Because lots of our off-topic questions are just as off-topic there. – curiousdannii Apr 30 '15 at 7:54
  • that's even better! maybe also specify that's it's off-topic here. new new users might not be aware of ell. – Erich Apr 30 '15 at 10:33
  • i'd like to turn your answer into a category of answers dealing with a particular situation. would you mind modifying it into a community wiki and reformatting as necessary? – Erich May 4 '15 at 1:03
  • @erich I've made it community wiki. – curiousdannii May 4 '15 at 2:09
  • 4
    In keeping with our goal of being both polite and sincere, I think I'd rather see the opening words be something like "Hi (username)—thanks for visiting EL&U." instead of "Hi (username), welcome to EL&U." There is something a little awkward about welcoming newcomers with "too basic" questions to EL&U at the same moment that we are showing them the door and inviting them to leave by it. To me, thanking them for showing an interest in EL&U can be sincere even if we don't think that their question is a good fit for the site. – Sven Yargs May 7 '15 at 0:19
  • @SvenYargs That makes sense! – curiousdannii May 7 '15 at 1:07
3

Lack of reasonable research

Have you thoroughly searched for an answer before asking your question? Sharing your research helps everyone. Tell us what you found and why it didn’t meet your needs. This demonstrates that you’ve taken the time to try to help yourself, it saves us from reiterating obvious answers, and above all, it helps you get a more specific and relevant answer! Questions lacking clear signs of reasonable research (even links to sensibly chosen articles which fail to help will suffice) may be closed.

 [mainly from Help Center]    [How do I ask a good question?]
3

Requests for candidate words or novel expressions

I'm afraid I have to vote to close this question as off-topic. If a question asks about a recent neologism that thousands of other people can be shown to use, then it is on-topic. But if, as here, it is looking for a 'neologism', or asking if a 'word' or term you have just made up (for example a candidate word, not in the lexis) is acceptable, then the question is off-topic because it is not answerable objectively.

  • [based on a comment filched from @Mitch] – Edwin Ashworth Jan 16 '18 at 11:59
2

Proof-reading questions

As English is currently the international language of business and cross-language communication generally, many new users, both non-native and native speakers, desire a service to proof-read their texts for any errors. They see "English" in the title of the site and make the assumption that they can receive that service for free here.

The comment(s) below explain proof-reading is not offered on EL&U, and give the reasoning, so that people making a reasonable assumption but who haven't taken the time to read the rules don't feel attacked.

We don't offer proof-reading services here. The goal of the site is to ask and answer questions which will be helpful to a variety of people in a variety of circumstances, and thus to build up a library of knowledge people can easily find. Proof-reading a particular text will only ever help one person, and so it does not advance the aims of the site. You can read more in the help center.

If the text the OP wants proofread also contains spelling errors, or orthographic errors like lowercase Is, then you can add an additional sentence at the end:

We don't offer proof-reading services here. The goal of the site is to ask and answer questions which will be helpful to a variety of people in a variety of circumstances, and thus to build up a library of knowledge people can easily find. Proof-reading a particular text will only ever help one person, and so it does not advance the aims of the site. You can read more in the help center. Oh, and before asking anyone to do proof-reading elsewhere, it would be polite to run your text through an automated English spell-checker first.

  • This is presuming the text has obvious spelling errors. We all know that spell checkers can't catch out homophones. – Mari-Lou A Mar 14 '17 at 16:46
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA If the text for which the OP requested proof-reading has no spelling errors, then the last sentence can be omitted. Otherwise, it should stay in. A spell-checker won't catch every error (as you say: homonyms; that's what a proof-reader is for!), but it is still necessary and polite, but not sufficient. – Dan Bron Mar 14 '17 at 16:51
1

Questions requesting writing advice

I'm afraid I have to vote to close this question as off-topic because it meets the criteria established by guidance given by Stack Exchange Management about closing such questions. We are not a site offering writing-help; we're a site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English-language enthusiasts, set up to look at the essential structure of the language. Other sites (eg WritersSE) are appropriate for the discussion of style, extract/essay/novel structure and the like.

[partly based on a comment of @tchrist's]

1

Sometimes people support their answers to or or similar questions by typing their proposed word into Google and copy/pasting the definition or synonyms it provides. This is prohibited by the rules established on EL&U.

The comments below can serve as a reminder to people who post such answers, with links to the Meta-questions which established this policy.

A citation to "Google dictionary" is not accepted as a valid reference for supporting one's answer, for a variety of important reasons. Best practice is to find the reference work Google is passing through (frequently Oxford Dictionaries Online), and cite it directly.

In copy/pasteable format:

A citation to "Google dictionary" is [not accepted as a valid reference](https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/7053) for supporting one's answer, for [a variety of important reasons](https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/11101). Best practice is to find the reference work Google is passing through (frequently [Oxford Dictionaries Online](https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/)), and [cite it directly](https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/11058).

-2

Questions focusing on trivia

I'm afraid I have to vote to close this question as off-topic because it meets the criteria established by guidance given by Stack Exchange Management about closing such questions. We are not a word-game and crossword-puzzle site; we're a site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English-language enthusiasts.

[based on a comment of tchrist's]

  • What qualifies as trivia? Can you share the link to the question where @tchrist posted this? – Dan Bron Jan 17 '18 at 18:31
  • No, but the original comment (I have a collection of many such) read << I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it meets the criteria established by this guidance from Stack Exchange Management about such questions. We are not a writing-help and word-game and crossword-puzzle site; we're a site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English-language enthusiasts. – tchrist >> – Edwin Ashworth Jan 17 '18 at 20:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .