This is a site for English Language enthusiasts willing to share information with one another to enhance our understanding of the English language.

Some users seem to like to leave condescending, belittling and highfalutin comments riddled with condescending rhetorical questions demonstrating their "superior" knowledge of English grammar and syntax by pointing out all the little exceptions to grammar rules an answer fails to account for. This is unacceptable behavior. Users like these deter new users from continuing to use this site and share their views and opinions.

Is it possible to suspend someone's account after a certain number of complaints made against that person for rude behavior?

  • 3
    I think you're going to have to be more specific in your complaints. From your high-level description, it actually sounds like these comments are educational, and adding value by pointing out interesting edge cases.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 17:45
  • 2
    @DanBron I'm not allowed to call people out in posts.
    – CDM
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 17:48
  • Hmm, ok, I guess I have to abstain from this thread then.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 18:04
  • 3
    There are mechanisms in place already to deal with this. If you find something objectionable, flag it. A mod will approve the flag or not (flagging inappropriately will also be dealt with).
    – Mitch
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 21:27
  • 7
    I think the OP has a point, receiving disparaging comments can be off-putting, and discouraging. But if done tactfully; constructive criticism is invaluable. However, even the most diplomatic comments can be misinterpreted, ignored, sneered upon and the well-meaning commentator risks getting abused. 'Tis a fine line, a delicate balancing act, a gift, and not everyone can pull it off. I know I can't.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 22:21
  • 1
    You should give specific examples, the more specific the better. But, focus on the posts and comments, not the people. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 0:59
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    @Mari-LouA this is a topic that we really need to address around here. The OP is absolutely right about the comments made. There are about 3 or 4 individuals who do nothing except post snide comments. I'm not perfect but I really try not to engage in that stuff... Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 1:27
  • 2
    @curiousdannii the problem with him posting the comments is that he will become the focus of their attention. But he's absolutely right about this behavior toward newcomers. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 1:28

2 Answers 2


Account suspension can occur for a variety of reasons. Repeated complaints and flags against a user are amongst those reasons. They are not the only reasons for account suspension.

In general, it is considered poor etiquette to call out specific users in posts or comments. If you feel the moderators are not scrutinizing another user closely enough, you can flag a particular comment or post of theirs and request investigation. That is one purpose of the Other... flag.

Please bear in mind that the outcome of any user investigation is not public information, so while you may feel certain that moderators are not doing anything about a user's obvious abuse, this is not usually the case. We have a sequence of steps that we go through, including corrective actions, that are invisible to the community. The purpose of privacy is to help prevent ostracizing community members.

It is a fair question to ask about how the process works. Generally speaking, it follows this pattern:

  1. Moderators have their attention brought to a user. This can be via flags, chat messages, Meta posts, or incidentally during routine other work. Moderators investigate the situation.
  2. Moderators edit or delete problematic content, or leave a comment to encourage a change in behavior. Occasionally, we use a private chat room to discuss concerns with the user or to facilitate understanding between users in real time.
  3. Moderators send out routine notices for continued problematic behavior. These messages contain instructions and helpful links for the user.
  4. Moderators issue suspensions of increasing severity. The lengths are preset by the system -- one week, one month, one year. It is uncommon for us to issue another warning after a user has been suspended once

The actions we take depend on the situation, whether we feel it is necessary to curb escalation, and whether we are immediately present or late to the party (for instance, if something is flagged over the weekend or sleeptime). We normally discuss suspensions within the mod team prior to issuing them. Our preference is to handle situations as quietly and unobtrusively as possible so as to not disrupt the community and draw negative attention to a user. High visibility is often caused by a need to defuse a rapidly escalating problem.

Additionally, remember that moderators can and do delete comments, and they can also be auto-deleted by flagging, so what you see may not be a user self-deleting comments.

  • 1
    This is a very sound approach, in my opinion, especially with regard to discouraging ostracism. If site users were aware of the delicate balancing act that moderators must perform in situations where feelings between particular EL&U participants become needlessly fractious, I think they would have a broader and deeper sense of appreciation for the job the mods do. Thanks!
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 21:15
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    This mentions an esoteric, or arcane, or mysterious, process involving a "sequence of steps...invisible to the community". Which is it: esoteric, arcane or simply mysterious? Why is it "invisible"? It sounds as if detailed information about that process would be valuable to the community, so if it is not available, why is it not? The purpose of the privacy in some specific cases is (no doubt, sometimes) commendable, yet the abstract "series of steps" could do with some exposure, to reveal the "delicate balancing act" for my admiration, if for no other purpsoe.
    – JEL
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 3:19
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    @JEL The process itself isn't invisible, just its usage. I edited the post to include some more information for you. This is similar to the already public post A Day in the Penalty Box.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 14:28
  • @KitZ.Fox I have seen the kind of comments the OP is talking about. I'm tired of it. I don't come here much anymore because of them. That said, I'm not perfect but he's absolutely right about the condescending remarks to new comers and even people who post frequently. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 1:22

I think it's worse behavior to try to get someone suspended for criticizing your answer. It's fine by me if people are deterred from sharing their views and opinions; that's not what this site is for. It's for sharing answers to questions, and a good answer should be backed up by evidence so that you can be confident that it is correct. If you post an answer that fails to account for some things because you think they are not important, just ignore the comments or downvotes you get about the exceptions. Alternatively, you can edit your answer in response. People are supposed to be nice, but that doesn't mean they aren't allowed to comment if they feel a substantiative error exists in an answer.

It's important to me that people do feel free to post comments that criticize perceived errors in answers, because I want to know if the answers I read have exceptions or inaccuracies, and I definitely want to know if the answers I post have exceptions or inaccuracies.

In response to later comments by the original poster: Obviously, flag anything you think is inappropriate. Comments that are about the user, not the answer, (such as a comment that just says "you don't understand English DO YOU?") aren't useful and are likely to be deleted if you draw a moderator's attention to them. My answer is about the behavior you described in the original post, where someone posts comments that seem rude "pointing out all the little exceptions to grammar rules an answer fails to account for. " As Dan Bron said, this sounds like a description of useful comments that are not phrased tactfully enough.

  • 1
    The comments mentioned are not helpful...I have seen the kind of rude comments the OP mentioned and I am sick of the attitude around here...I don't spend much time around here anymore because of them...why should I have to ignore and shield myself? Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 1:17
  • @michael_timofeev and what about the users who have supported you, and those who have patiently explained the trickier aspects of English? has neither happened? If you ask a senior member a question, has anyone pulled back? The reality is that there's all sorts of users on EL&U, just like in real life.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:11
  • 1
    @michael_timofeev it seems you're implying that there's nobody friendly nor helpful "I am sick of the attitude around here..." you give this as your reason for not being around, I'm trying to say not to tar everyone with the same brush. That's all.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:27
  • I'm pretty much fed up with Hot licks myself and for other reasons too... as for deadrat, he's actually very patient. I once taxed him over something and he was kind enough to explain. He's also one of the very few users to answer the grammar questions set by newcomers. He's brusque perhaps, but... I think he's OK.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:34
  • @michael_timofeev Ha! A woman, naaa. Writes like a man, I'm sure he has mentioned being married. Ricky was probably irked by D.Rat's acute observations made in the past, and hence said he was a woman (i.e. a nag?)
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:47
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    @michael_timofeev if comments are rude, vulgar and offensive I will flag them, and Ricky must have had bucket loads of flags, he was hardly tactful, was he? If someone criticizes an answer, and I think "he has a point" I leave well alone. Sometimes, well-meaning comments are misjudged, they just come across as being a bit too brusque.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 6, 2016 at 17:58

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