Does the community welcome a proposed change to this close reason which would broaden and clarify it, with the goal of making it more generally useful both to questioners and to people voting to close?


  • Arguments arise about closing “proofreading” questions because the close reason does not clearly explain why questions are not welcome.
  • Some questions are being closed “proofreading” when the question should actually be closed for writing advice or criticism.
  • There are more types of question that could be usefully added to the close reason, because they should be closed for the same reason.
  • There is plenty of room to lengthen this close reason: custom close reasons, including markdown, are limited to roughly 400 characters.


Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified.

Proofreading, writing advice and criticism, naming (including naming of variables), and schoolwork questions are examples of questions that do not help anyone but the asker. They are off topic. The only exception is when there is a clearly identified source of concern about an aspect of the English language which would be interesting and useful to many future visitors.


Meta questions where arguments or suggestions relevant to this proposal have been posted:

What the “proofreading” close reason is for (phenry)

The fundamental question around closing posts like these is whether answering the question will help anyone other than the person asking the question. (MrHen♦)

Does the “proofreading” close reason cover questions that do identify specific words or phrases? (suməlic)

"Have I used flonk correctly?" is a question which will benefit only its asker. (Andrew Leach♦)

Inappropriate “general reference” and “proofreading” close votes (Bradd Szonye)

The question just asked which to use, which looks like writing advice to me. (FumbleFingers)

What exactly are the “specific concerns” that are acceptable in the Proofreading closure? (David M)

If the questioner is clearly more interested in getting an answer than in understanding the answer (i.e., if it smells suspiciously like a "do my homework for me" question), I usually vote to close as Proofreading. (phenry)

Is it valid to discuss freeform non-grammatical slang on ELU? (Alok)

Your suggestion of proofreading is appropriate if the question were along the lines of "Have I used slang correctly in the following...". (Chenmunka)

Are low quality questions and answers here to stay? (J O S H)

EL&U isn't a proofreading service. No one but you cares or will ever care about the particular sentence you just brought up. So it makes no sense for us to clog our archives with one-off questions like this one. (Sven Yargs)

2 Answers 2


Since the help text has been amended as a result of the recent question "Should we amend the help text to expand on proof-reading?", it's quite likely that all that is required is a link to the help text.

This also has the advantage that the help text is relatively easier to maintain and able to contain more help than the close reasons. The close reasons require two moderators to effect a change, whereas the help text can be edited by one; the help text is effectively unlimited in length whereas the close reasons do have a limit. I can't remember what the limit is, but I suspect that the suggested text will approach it, if not actually exceed it.

It is unfortunate that it's not possible to have in-page anchors within the help text, which would make a link like /help/on-topic#proofreading possible, so it will be necessary instead to refer to the relevant section.

I suggest a simple rewrite.

Proofreading or text-checking ("Is this correct?") questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified. Please see the help page for information about this sort of question, under How can I ask about checking my text?

I don't believe it's necessary to include "writing advice and criticism, naming (including naming of variables), and schoolwork questions" explicitly. We get far fewer of those questions than "Is this correct?"/"Which is right?" questions, and the general/write-in close reason can be used. That reason also adds a link automatically to a relevant help page.

If the suggested text is too long for the space allowed, then ("Is this correct?") should be removed first, followed by or text-checking if further reduction is necessary.

  • I have been a user of this site for a lot less time that you, however, I disagree with your statement that we get very few writing advice questions. I have seen a reasonable number of these sorts of posts in my time and it seems like there is no point having to create a specific write-in close reason for each. If space allows, I don't see any harm in including writing advice. Commented Jan 5, 2017 at 18:03

I really like the direction of your proposed close reason, but the exception leaves its application being rather subjective. Can we instead make the close reason apply to the format of the question: if it's formatted like proofreading/writing criticism, then the close reason applies. In order for a question to be open, it must be formatted instead as a grammatical/lexical/etc analysis question.

(Here's how I'd distinguish the formats: any question asking "is this correct/good/grammatical?" are proofreading/criticism. A question should instead ask whether rule A applies to text B, whether rule C can account for text D, how rules E and F which seem to be contradictory can account for text E, or something else along those lines. Questions about found text rather than original text are also allowed, usually along the lines of whether the text is grammatical in some dialect or whether it is a mistake.)

We probably don't need schoolwork being listed - pretty much all school work questions can be closed for lack of research already.

  • 1
    I disagree with allowing a simple "Is this grammatical?" question, unless it clearly identifies what in the text has occasioned the query.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:17
  • @AndrewLeach Yeah, the question should be "Phrase XXX looks ungrammatical to me, but is it actually grammatical in US/Irish/Indian/NZ English?" Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:25
  • 2
    No, the question should be "Phrase X looks ungrammatical to me because..."
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:28
  • @AndrewLeach Sure. But that does kind of make dialect questions redundant. Previously I've thought we've allowed native speaker tacit knowledge to assert the ungrammaticality and have the question only be about non-standard dialects. Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:35
  • 3
    There's hardly any discernible difference between "Phrase X looks ungrammatical to me but is it actually grammatical in BrE?" and "Phrase X looks ungrammatical to me but is it actually grammatical?" But the insertion of "...because..." shows what the cause of the query actually is. It narrows down the scope of the question. It allows tags and the title to be correctly stated in order to make the question re-usable.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jan 4, 2017 at 0:40

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