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Google tells me there are about 70 instances of Hope this is helpful on English Language Learners.

I don't like to come across as a grumpy ole git, but it seems to me this level of "chattiness" isn't really appropriate in ELL Answers. To me it's a bit like Thanks! [in advance] added to Question text (which I habitually edit out).

It's a straightforward question, so if you agree with me Upvote this post. If you don't, please Downvote it. If I'm massively outnumbered, I'll shut up.


EDIT: I've only just realised from comments that some people assume I'm proposing that all "chatty" text should be unilaterally edited out of all Questions and Answers. I do usually remove Thanks [in advance] from Questions if I'm editing for some other reason anyway, but probably not if OP is an "established" user (in which case I assume they're aware of "SE site norms", and don't need my "guidance").

Note: Should 'Hi', 'thanks,' taglines, and salutations be removed from posts? is the ninth most popular question ever on SE.meta, and the top answer there has by far the most upvotes I've ever seen on SE. The top three answers there all say Yes, delete on sight!, but my vote went to the more "moderate" fourth answer saying only if other reasons justify an edit.

I'm not trying to define (definitely not enforce) any "rules" here. It's just a straw poll to see how ELL users in particular feel about the "avoid chattiness" principle endorsed by SE users in general.

  • I've noticed the same thing and have refrained from doing anything much about it because I was unsure of whether the community felt it was worth editing out, both in questions and answers. I'm interested in what the consensus is. – ColleenV parted ways Feb 17 '15 at 0:33
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    Personally, I think this shows a poorish understanding of what chattiness is. Addressing the OP personally with "you" is chatty in the intended meaning of the phrase. Addressing the readership as "you" is not. Inviting comments in posts, or giving personal opinions (dressed as facts) is chatty. Explaining why something happens is not. Expressing personal prejudices in posts or questions for the sake of expressing them is chatty, expressing yourself through your writing style is not. Teaching is about fostering an open inclusive learning environment. Censorship of writing style is not. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 2:31
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    And - because I do this precisely to foster a be nice attitude - it does make me think that you might be being a bit of a grumpy. PS, how about just if you're outnumbered but not massively? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 2:57
  • @ColleenV Can you give us an example of hope this is helpful in questions please. Thanks :-) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 3:21
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    I posted something similar in chem.SE, but that was about questions. Top users there replied to me with this sentence: "Get rid of everything that's distracting!". – M.A.R. Feb 17 '15 at 6:16
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    @Araucaria Sorry I wasn't clear. I was referring to the Thanks! [in advance] as well as the Hope this is helpful. They are both empty filler phrases in my opinion. If we assume the best of people, we can also assume every answer is hoped to be helpful, and every asker will appreciate a response to their question. There are better ways to be friendly. – ColleenV parted ways Feb 17 '15 at 12:56
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    @Araucaria: My last sentence above is perhaps misleading. If opinions here turn out to be fairly evenly divided I'll continue to hold my own view as stated, but I won't make any significant effort to promote it. If it turns out most folk disagree with me, I'll make an active effort to change my thinking. Even though I'm sure the intention of TPTB within SE is, as Ben says, to discourage chattiness, I doubt they'd put special pressure on ELL to toe the party line. As a "democrat", I support the right of ELL users to define the "flavour" of our site as we collectively see fit. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 17 '15 at 13:05
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    I agree that at least in general they are empty filler phrases that would be better left out. I understand that sometimes people feel a need for some polite acknowledgement. As long as they're brief, I wouldn't worry about it. Could there be contexts where such statements actually convey information? – Jay Feb 17 '15 at 17:55
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    @MARamezani: Although I wouldn't normally edit a question solely to remove "TIA-type" text, I nearly always delete anything like that if I'm editing for some other reason, as implied by what I said in my question here. So maybe there would have been a lot more of those by now if I and others of like mind hadn't already removed them. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '15 at 23:09
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    I think that the issue here should have been dealt with on a one-to-one basis, since the only samples were written by a single SE participant. IOW if you have a problem with a certain phrase that an individul has, man up and approach them, don't disguise the issue by writing a metapost. – user6951 Feb 20 '15 at 2:53
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    @δοῦλος: Strange. I took precisely the opposite approach. I obviously knew that most (if not all) of my examples were from a single user because it was a very specific text string (probably cut&pasted repeatedly). But I'm interested in the principle, which I'm certain applies far more widely, so it seemed pointlessly distracting (and indeed, rude) to focus on any one individual. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 20 '15 at 14:01
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    @MARamezani The OP has tried to conflate "thanks in advance" and "I hope this is helpful". This doesn't mean they're the same thing ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 21 '15 at 1:31
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    @Araucaria I thought to bring some positivity to all this: Regardless of this issue, I hope that this will not affect your devotion, industry, and vigour of the expertise and help that you have generously been volunteering! I shall continue to look forward to reading your wisdom. Hope this is helpful! – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Feb 26 '15 at 6:32
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    @Ben - Any OP can say something like, "Upvote if you think X, downvote if you think Y." However, there's no way to tell what the ultimate vote tally represents, as there's no way of knowing if every voter has followed that guidance, or if a few are casting for utterly different reasons. I draw only two conclusions from what I've seen: (1) There's no consensus here; the community is divided on this, and (2) there seems to be more support for "these remarks are chatty" than otherwise – but what does that tell us? Since FF isn't "massively outnumbered", I guess he won't shut up about this? :-) – J.R. Feb 28 '15 at 22:16
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    @J.R. Indeed no one should be under the impression that this kind of vote is an official election, deciding the The Will of The Community. In AmE, we'd call it a "straw poll". And of course, a lot of the insight into how people feel about the question comes from reading the reasons people post, not just the numbers. – Ben Kovitz Mar 1 '15 at 0:43
15

StackExchange is set up to discourage chattiness at every turn, sometimes even at the cost of ordinary expressions of politeness and goodwill. This is one reason why so many answers on StackExchange are so useful: they stick to business. The phrase "Hope this is helpful", while certainly well-intended, sets a precedent that can trigger imitation by others, both by expressing similar sentiments and by being politely chatty in other ways, eroding the "stick to business" style.


Replies to some of the comments

A conversational tone, where you write empathically and say "I" and "you", is not the kind of "chattiness" that SE discourages. A conversational tone, engaging style, and pointing out connections with other aspects of the topic are good things, which really do make answers more helpful. That's normal on SE. SE discourages back-and-forth conversation and repetitive clutter that doesn't explain anything about the topic.

Here's why that's such a good idea. I use the SE sites almost every day as a questioner, but I seldom even have to ask my question. Someone else already has, and someone has already written an excellent reply. I can just read it and I have the crucial information or technique or conceptual insight I was looking for. On most Q&A sites, the same information is buried in back-and-forth conversation, .sigs (repetitive, irrelevant "signatures" that appear in every post made by the same user), and polite and tangential chit-chat.

SE's software and social customs discourage those things, but they don't forbid them entirely. They keep them in check. Comments provide a forum for back-and-forth discussion. But the discussion is primarily about how to improve the answer. The answer is not a conversation. It's a single chunk of writing, like what a newspaper columnist might write in response to a reader's question. The conversation in the comments is only about how to make the answer better.

The occasional thank-you is fine; it's human nature to want to express gratitude when someone has been helpful. It's better, though, if it contains information specific to the topic, like saying specifically how the answer helped you. If you're appending the same polite nicety to the end of every message, that's a strong hint that it doesn't tell readers information about the topic. It's more like a .sig.

I hope we don't make a rule against "phatic expressions" and engage in thoughtless law-enforcement by deleting them everywhere they occur, no exceptions. I only ask that you please respect the good purpose that SE's custom of "cut the phat" serves. The custom is a little counterintuitive, but it has worked wonderfully to make SE sites the great sources of information we know and love. If you violate it (as I occasionally do), please do so only to address something specific or exceptional about the question or the topic.

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    ... "sometimes even at the cost of ordinary expressions of politeness and goodwill" No. The complete lack of good will but rampant pompousness on certain Stack Exchange sites has lead to the situation where we have needed to instigate a BE NICE policy. This has been a disgrace. A bit of open good will in authors' writing styles is to be encouraged. Especially on a learning (and therefore teaching) site. In my opinion. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 3:30
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    Er, speaking about "chattiness" in answer posts! Just thinking about some of your own answer posts! :D -- Now, I'm not complaining, for I see nothing wrong with the chattiness or informality or wandering about that is done in your posts. Actually, I think that's a great way of writing answers--in general, that is, as long as the info in them is basically solid. – F.E. Feb 17 '15 at 9:02
  • @Araucaria I think you have a good point that ELL is a teaching site, not simply a question-and-answer site. Regarding "chattiness", maybe that's not quite the right word: I mean engaging in chit-chat beyond answering the question—a big problem on many Q&A sites but not SE. I certainly agree we should say "I" and "you" and write engagingly and personally, one human being to another. I'll rewrite my answer later today to address your points. I don't really know what is the best way to balance the need to stick to business with the need to be welcoming and personable. – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 13:45
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    @BenKovitz Well, 70 out of those 70 questions were my posts. I don't think my posts are particularly chatty or particularly problematic. Obviously that's what I think, 'cuz they're my posts. But I don't really see that how I write my posts is going to start a plague of well-wishing chatty posts all over ELL. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 14:12
  • @Araucaria Could you suggest a word that I could use in place of "chatty"? That word seems to mean to you what I would call "conversational" or "personal" or "informal" maybe with some of the "wandering about" that I'm fond of, like reciting from Little Red Riding Hood. I'm all in favor of all of that, of course! :) I'm trying to distinguish the sort of off-topic or non-informational "chit-chat" that tends to dominate many other Q&A sites and discussion forums, and which SE mostly keeps in check. – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 15:24
  • @BenKovitz How 'bout phatic? – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 17 '15 at 15:25
  • @StoneyB I had to look that word up! But it certainly provides a clear way to state my concern: that phatic speech often leads to tangential chit-chat, .sigs, banter, etc. (Not that I think those things should be forbidden, just kept in check.) – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 15:31
  • @BenKovitz Know what you mean, but can't think of a word ... :) – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 17 '15 at 16:30
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    @Araucaria - RE: 70 out of those 70 questions were my posts. Um, maybe that's true, but there are a LOT of users who make similar comments. This is about all such comments, not just your particular wording. Moreover, I see this as a fair question for the community, not a call for "censorship." – J.R. Feb 17 '15 at 16:50
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    Here's another politeness quandary: my comments above also address what @F.E. said, but SE only lets you notify one other user. Just suggest something to improve the answer and move on, you know. But that could make me wrongly appear to be ignoring F.E. Well, happily, I found a way to circumvent that. – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 18:00
  • @J.R. Just a note. This doesn't have to be about "all" such comments. If that is presumed, then it makes this issue virtually intractable. It's also possible to identify some types of comments that tend to be particularly prevalent and easy to identify, which makes them something more like cliche, less like actually personal. And nobody mentioned it, but "hope this helps" could sometimes be a teeny plea for an upvote. I don't care to presume or judge on that either, but the issue could be "carved out" to certain workable patterns. – CoolHandLouis Feb 28 '15 at 5:22
  • @CoolHandLouis - Maybe "all" wasn't the best choice of words there. I was just trying to say that, despite the question's title, this isn't only about questions that end with "Hope this is helpful" – that is, I don't think FF has a beef with "Hope this is helpful" while thinking that "Hope this helps" is just fine. (Also, my remark was in response to one comment noting that the "70 posts" cited in the question were all from one particular user. You're right; taking it beyond that context would make the issue less tractable.) – J.R. Feb 28 '15 at 10:23
  • @J.R. I'd like to clarify the purpose of this page. I thought we were discussing merits/possibility of keeping track of a list of various, identifiable phrases that would be queried periodically (monthly, semi-annually, yearly, whatever depending on frequency) and (if green lighted) deciding if/when/how coordinated clean-up jobs would be done. Because if there's no thought of a possible end-game other than "saying on this meta post that these are phrases we all (nine of us?) gotta watch for", then I'll apologize to all and leave because that, IMO, is a big chatty waste of (at least my) time. – CoolHandLouis Mar 3 '15 at 0:46
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    @CoolHandLouis I don't think this conversation is about specific phrases to hunt down and delete. It's about whether adding polite niceties that don't add topic-specific information, of which "Hope this is helpful" is one example, is helpful or actually something we advise against in ELL answers. There are potentially an infinite number of such niceties. I hope you don't think that's a waste of time. Sharing ideas and insight, gaining clarity and gradually finding consensus, is the main job of meta, and helps everyone write better answers. I certainly don't treat it as idle chit-chat. – Ben Kovitz Mar 3 '15 at 1:01
  • I presumed this was going to be a clean up activity like they do elsewhere. My prior comment was not a commentary on you or your post in any way, which I think is on point. I feel like I've become a grumpy ole git. I'll shut up. – CoolHandLouis Mar 3 '15 at 2:53
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My take on this is if I wrote my answer with the appropriate tone, there is no need to tack on an empty pleasantry at the end of it. Of course I hope my answer is helpful, otherwise I just wasted my time.

I cut new users a lot of slack when they add some sort of thanks at the end of their question because they're new to the community and writing in a foreign language. They aren't sure of the community standards and aren't sure of their register. Someone answering questions should be fluent enough to convey their thoughts without being too harsh though. Honestly, if the answer is so harsh that the asker is going to be put off by it, "Hope this helps!" isn't going to make everything OK.

I think that the overall tone of the answers is a completely different question. I do think there is a difference between "chattiness" and a friendly tone. I got many good suggestions for ways to change my language so that I wasn't perceived as picking on someone when I reviewed their contributions. Using less direct language, welcoming new users before critiquing them, and being less terse are the ones that I'm working on and I feel that it adds more than extra words to my posts.

"Hope this helps!" is just extra words. It doesn't convey information, it doesn't change the tone of the words I'm using to convey the information, and it doesn't put the reader in the correct mindset before they start reading my post. It's either a useless frill on the end of an already friendly post, or a jarring disconnect in tone that could be taken as sarcasm.

In my opinion, unless you're writing a letter with a standard signature or something similar, if what you're writing could be tacked onto the bottom of most of the things you've written of that type, it should be replaced with something that incorporates the context of what you've written. For example, instead of "Hope this helps!", I might say something like "Present perfect is a tough topic for most learners, so don't hesitate to ask for more clarification if something I've written is confusing." It might be too chatty, but in my opinion, it's more useful than saying you hope your answer was helpful.

  • 1
    Well said! "It doesn't convey information." Indeed, "Hope this helps" seems superfluous, at least to me, at the end of an answer, which accomplish the very difficult feat of presenting highly technical, modern linguistics in a gentle, friendly, patient, inviting style. The helpful attitude is already evident throughout. – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 18:52
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    Colleen, I think you've nailed it. (Of course we hope our answers help; otherwise, we wouldn't have bothered to answer!) I think anyone following your guidance here would probably be improving their posts. On the other hand, though, change comes slowly. I don't see a need to go on a witch hunt for anyone who spends 20 minutes or so composing a well-thought-out answer and then has the audacity to end that with something like, "I hope this helps you out." There's exhorting people to come up with more useful conclusions, but that's different from stamping out all of the more chatty ones. – J.R. Feb 18 '15 at 11:35
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    @J.R. Well I guess that's why I've never done much about it even though I feel it's not adding anything to the post. I don't see much harm in it. On the other hand if we want ELL to be a sort of interactive encyclopedia and not an English forum, it does set the wrong sort of tone to allow the "Thanks in advance" and similar forum style closings to creep in. I usually get the temperature of a community by lurking for a little bit and if I see a lot of posts with those types of pleasantries, I will assume that's the accepted way to do things. – ColleenV parted ways Feb 18 '15 at 13:13
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    I think that's the intent of the post here, to "get the temperature" and see if such pleasantries belong. My concern, though, is what to do with the findings. Even if only 10% feel such comments have a rightful place, is it worth alienating those folks just because of one short exhortation at the end of an otherwise satisfactory (if not excellent) answer? – J.R. Feb 18 '15 at 14:01
  • I deplore that @ColleenV used the word hope and helps, and their variants, when she answered this question. It's totally unstackexchange. – user6951 Feb 20 '15 at 2:45
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    @δοῦλος Yes, but I was using them to convey information and if anyone got the impression that I was friendly from them it was just an unfortunate side effect ;) – ColleenV parted ways Feb 20 '15 at 3:59
  • ColleenV, @δοῦλος's joke was good, but your reply was masterfully subtle. – CoolHandLouis Feb 25 '15 at 4:41
  • Well, somebody has to set up the other person... – user6951 Mar 8 '15 at 0:01
8

70 instances? Yup. That's too much. But I see @Araucaria has a point. So, what's the answer to this IMO?

Chattiness is discouraged in a StackExchange community. I can tell you that, out of 70 of those "hope this helped!" or "hope I helped!" or such, 60 are unnecessary. And out of every 100 of those, at least 80 aren't useful.

But sometimes, the OP faces an answer that starts with "NO, you can't!!!" or "none of your sentences are grammatical." (Note that I'm not saying that such things are inappropriate, and since people are typing here, rather than speaking, the intonation of the sentences above could vary greatly between what the answerer intended and what the asker comprehended.)
At least in some of the cases, this will make the asker feel, say, "attacked". In the process of language learning, the asker and the answerer shouldn't feel any 'temperamental tensions'. (Sorry for the lack of a better term) In that way, adding either one of these could avoid misunderstandings:

  • Some sense of humor (table salt) to the answer, either in the examples, description, or anything.

  • Adding a little phrase to the end which would demonstrate a kind (or at least gentle) behavior.

  • Directly making use of phrases like "no offence!" or "I don't mean to pick on you" or such.

  • Commenting on own answer or the question (Not really suitable)

I haven't searched through those you claim to have contained "hope this helps.", but this is my insight to the problem:

The arbitrary rule for those is to get deleted, (as abiding the norm in SE), but for some, keeping is better than deleting, simply to avoid misinterpreted aggressive connotation of the answer and the answerer.

  • 6
    An excellent answer like this one sort of nullifies the vote totals on this question. Sure, some regular SE users might be accustomed to a culture that discourages chatty comments that don't add to an overall answer. However, in a language learners environment, some deliberately kind sign-off might make all the difference in the world, as an answer might seem uncomfortably brusque without it. – J.R. Feb 17 '15 at 17:03
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    @J.R.: I specifically asked in my question text that users should up/downvote the question itself to give a clear indication of whether they think the practice should be discouraged or not. That doesn't preclude upvoting answers that don't come down firmly on one side or the other, simply because they summarise the pros and cons well. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '15 at 22:13
  • @FumbleFingers Will you be satisfied if I say that it doesn't nullify? :) Still, I think they should be crossed out (by who? I don't know), but we should be careful when doing that. In fact, I doubt people really took this into account when adding those phrases. – M.A.R. Feb 19 '15 at 22:15
  • @MARamezani: I won't really be "satisfied" unless the question itself gets at least 20 votes (up and down). Though I do note that it's currently 10:2 against, and I'm fairly sure the practice is to some extent discouraged by TPTB, so that's a fairly strong argument for saying we think we should fall in line with the "default" policy for SE sites. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '15 at 22:24
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    @Fumble - I got that. However, you can ask people to upvote or downvote the question all you want; that doesn't negate the fact that this might be a more complicated issue than a simple vote total can accurately portray, and a less "straightforward" question than you might have initially assumed. – J.R. Feb 19 '15 at 22:49
  • @FumbleFingers Nothing that you say in this discussion validates this mode of judging opinions on Meta. For one thing, I'm too busy right now to put my opinion on a post here and make my case. But by the time this question is a bit old, any input I make will be of no value to the supposedly "democratic vote". The campaign as it were is already skewed in your favour. Secondly the DEMOS here is not the heavy user high rep people on meta, it's the low rep learners. We are their servants, not their bosses. I don't think you understand them - that's just mo. But there we go ... – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 20 '15 at 1:34
  • @FumbleFingers ... Which is why I hope you don't mind, when I get the time, I'm going to ask this question again, from my point of view, and perhaps we could see where that takes us, "voting"-wise, if that's ok with you? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Feb 20 '15 at 1:44
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    How can one have any kind of community with no phatic statements? – user6951 Feb 20 '15 at 2:47
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    You raise good points, but how about gentling the language of the answer as an alternative to adding otherwise unnecessary banalities, for the edge cases mentioned? On the other hand, it's worth noting the unlikely possibility that such a sign-off could neatly demonstrate the linguistic points being made in the answer. – Esoteric Screen Name Feb 20 '15 at 12:08
  • @EsotericScreenName Whatever nice answer you write (literally), the asker might feel attacked when they face a "no". The thing's just psychological. I've not seen offensive answers that are actually good, at least not yet. – M.A.R. Feb 20 '15 at 12:16
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    @Araucaria: By all means. I kept my "supporting arguments" to a minimum in the question, figuring all that could be better covered by Answers. I'm sure high-rep users are relatively more likely to vote on meta issues, but to me that's as it should be - they're the ones who really sustain the site (assuming we ignore TPTB, who actually bankroll the entire thing, and therefore have the final say if they want to wade in). You'll have to be inventive if you don't want your question closed as a dup of this one though. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 20 '15 at 13:36
8

I've followed this discussion for a few days, and would like to offer my thoughts:

  1. It's too bad the original question asked about "70 instances of Hope this is helpful", instead of "almost 300 instances of Hope this helps". (The former points to one member of the community, while the latter points to several. I believe this prompted one member of the community to feel like he was being singled out – understandably so – although I'm pretty confident that wasn't the O.P.'s intent. Still, there's a lesson to be learned there for future meta discussions.)

  2. Yes, the Stack Exchange has a culture that discourages chatty comments which add little value to the conversation. (In fact, SE probably would prefer that I didn't use the word conversation – although I think discussion might be considered even worse.) Some appreciate this culture, because they like how it "differentiates" SE from other discussion board sites. Yet some resent that culture, because they think it adds to a "snobbishness" that pervades the SE network. One meta question isn't going to resolve this longstanding difference of opinion, but it might make that difference of opinion more pronounced for a short time.

  3. As for those brief, cordial remarks appended to an answer, I agree that this particular SE site has some unique characteristics that could make these remarks less like chaff than they might otherwise be. Most people who ask questions here are asking about a language they don't understand well, in a language they don't understand well – that's probably more daunting than us native speakers might imagine. A classic SE response might be, "Nope, you're wrong; here's what to do instead," and it's natural for some contributors to want to soften the negativity of an answer like that. A friendly "Hope this helps!" might be an effective way to do so.

  4. I appreciated what @ColleenV said; perhaps there's a better way to end an answer on a positive note than to use a hackneyed expression like, "I hope this helps" – I think I might use that advice in the future. However, I also think it would be counterproductive to start reprimanding contributors for ending with "I hope this helps," instead of just appreciating the rest of their useful answer.

  5. I don't think there was anything wrong with FumbleFingers raising the question here. It has 10 upvotes as I write this, so there's at least some support for the concept at large. Maybe the community can't reach a consensus on this – but there's no way to know that for sure unless someone at least raises the issue and asks the question.

My recommendations would be:

  • If you find yourself wanting to write something like, "Hope this helps!" at the end of your answer, ask yourself: "Will my answer be improved by adding this, or will it only distract from my about-to-be-exhibited brilliance?" Maybe you'll elect to leave it out, maybe not.

  • If you find yourself reading a concluding remark like, "Hope this helps!" just let it go. Perhaps if I moderated a more technical Stack Exchange like Physics or ServerFault, I'd be more inclined to encourage the community to dele such remarks via an edit. Here, though, I feel there's too high a risk of stepping on toes, and too little reward for removing such niceties.

  • Remember, any answer you leave here serves at least three audiences: the O.P. who asked the question, anyone who might later search for an answer to that same question, and the rest of community who are evaluating the question as well as its answer(s). Strive to write answers that will be helpful and appreciated by all three of these audiences.

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    I want to say explicitly that I don't think we should go edit out all of the "Hope this helps" and variants from existing answers. I don't think the phrase is useful, but I also don't think it's harmful. I think editing it out would cause more harm to the community than just overlooking it, which is why I have left it in place when I've seen it even though the same question as @FumbleFingers' about whether or not it belonged on SE crossed my mind. – ColleenV parted ways Feb 22 '15 at 23:12
  • "If you find yourself reading a concluding remark like, "Hope this helps!" just let it go. Perhaps if I moderated a more technical Stack Exchange like Physics or ServerFault, I'd be more inclined to encourage the community to dele such remarks via an edit. Here, though, I feel there's too high a risk of stepping on toes, and too little reward for removing such niceties." <-- Have you now gone through a personal policy reversal since you wrote this? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 22 at 11:29
  • @Araucaria - We don't go looking to stamp out niceties; however, if a post gets flagged, the mod team will go investigate, and if they see something that can be tidied up, they might elect to do so. – J.R. Jul 22 at 11:32
  • @J.R. Are posts getting flagged for insignificant niceties? – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 22 at 11:33
  • @Araucaria - A post on that question was flagged. (Not your post, the one below it.) I just thought your answer (now over three years old) read a little better without the last line. Sorry if you were offended. – J.R. Jul 22 at 11:35
  • If it's not a reversal, I'm not tooooo worried. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Jul 23 at 16:58
2

Er, I'd think that there are much more significant things to be worried about than that.

ONE: For instance, how about getting members to back up their grammatical opinions with vetted grammar sources? There's too much nonsense and too much bad info being given in answer posts, and those answer posts are getting too many up votes and too many of them are getting accepted. Now that's a real problem. One that should be addressed. Seriously, that is a real problem.

TWO: Also, when an answer post is very long, and when it has lots of good and solid grammatical info in it, then, I really don't see a problem with one little tiny friendly line at the end that wishes well or something like that.

THREE: It's those really business-like answers that sound so authoritative, and yet are so wrong and full of bad info, that ought to be looked at and edited--especially when those answers are authored by members with a high reputation in points--because EFL members are often strongly influenced by answer posts of that kind, which is unfortunate.

CONCLUSION: Yeah, let's address the serious problems first.

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    Oh, I see what you mean. Maybe post a separate meta question about it? And don't forget to being evidence too! I sense you're right, but I don't recall the answers which have triggered your objection. – M.A.R. Feb 17 '15 at 9:22
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    @MARamezani It's a well-known problem for both ELL and EL&U, how to get the answer posts to contain solid grammatical info. As for sources for bad grammar info, there's always Wikipedia! :D – F.E. Feb 17 '15 at 9:26
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    :D Yes. I still think you should post a separate meta question. – M.A.R. Feb 17 '15 at 9:28
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    @MARamezani I don't really have the drive for doing that. Though, if you're really interested in having that topic discussed, you could always open that meta thread yourself. :) – F.E. Feb 17 '15 at 9:30
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    I'm not sure I understand the relevance of this answer. All you seem to have said is that you don't have a problem with "one little tiny friendly line" at the end of a long answer which is otherwise high quality. What if that "byline" appears after an average answer, or a shorter one? But my main problem with this answer is I don't see why it makes any difference whether we can identify other shortcomings in some ELL posts - I'm asking whether people view this aspect as a shortcoming - and if so, should we discourage it? – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Feb 17 '15 at 13:17
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    I think it's a good point that a formal, technical answer, especially one that cites authorities, can come off as brusque or cold, and needs some sort of friendly gesture to offset that. In answers that are worded as personal observations (some might even call such answers "chatty"), there's less pressure to add phatic expressions in the close. (Oh no, StoneyB has started me using linguistics jargon!) I think we all agree that a friendly tone is best—and quite important for ELL. – Ben Kovitz Feb 17 '15 at 16:07
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    @FumbleFingers I'm saying that a little line like that in an answer post is insignificant when compared to the major problems that many answer posts have in general. It's like a homeowner getting all worried about whether he left the living room TV on when his house is on fire. – F.E. Feb 17 '15 at 23:22
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    @FumbleFingers, I think an unspoken subtext of this answer--and many/most other comments--is that, based on many reasons (including politeness), there is a hesitancy to come out and say, "yes, you're being "a grumpy ole git, as usual". This Answer must be interpreted in context. @/FE's answer wasn't intended to "raise a separate meta-question" as you and MARamezani surmized. If it was, @/FE would have posted it as such! @/FE is saying that your concern is insignificant, and any time spent on it is wasteful especially when compared to all the other truly important issues. – CoolHandLouis Feb 25 '15 at 3:16
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This is my revised/updated/clarified/improved answer. To better provide focus, it's posted as a new answer.


Process for Establishing Best Practices and Guidelines

I'm focused primarily on process, and this suggestion addresses that aspect of this (or any similar) issue. Please don't think of this as a suggestion on How To Do Things literally as stated. It's a rough draft of an idea. A starting point for consideration.

Let's assume that some of these posts can be clearly identified as having some trivialities removed. This could be active or old posts. They could be found either ad hoc as we run across them, or through some search query. We then have the following options:

  1. Any person who runs across it in the course of regular use can, of course, use their own best judgement and possibly edit the post. If they're not sure, they can discuss on chat, open a new META post to discuss in general (or possibly add a link to some standard work-page for review.)

  2. If we determine some type of comment has a general potential for being undesirable, we can add it to a list. For example, we can add "Hope this helps!" as a "Potentially Undesirable" phrase. That in no way means every such instance (or even ANY such instance) would be "editable-outtable" just because it's on the list. Being on the "Potentially Undesirable" list would not be justification for removing it. The list may have other phrases or types-of-things. For each phrase, there may even be some general guidelines. There might also be some links to posts where the item isn't removed and the reason why. (That tends to help a conservative attitude.)

  3. We may also, at some point, perform a search query to identify all such posts of a given class. (We might even have a standard way to search for a lot of different classes of "things to look for", so the results might be comprehensive.) This would result in both active and inactive posts.

  4. I rescind my earlier idea of not-editing the "active posts". There shouldn't (and couldn't!) be any prohibition to handling potential issues that have been identified with active posts. They simply may need to be handled differently than older posts. They are "active" and (if deemed to need an edit) require some additional measure of sensitivity or interaction with the OP. For example, a helpful comment might be warranted (or not). (I think comments are not typically warranted removing some simple thing from older posts.)

This is a way that stuff-like-this could be identified and cleaned up without requiring it to be some icy-cold rule. It would be helpful because it would include guidelines that are shaped and updated through time, which allows the wisdom of experience and best practices to be maintained and communicated for both current and future "Stackers". (Are we called Stackers?). This type of process allows ELL to maintain a sense of cultural continuity over long periods of time.


Separate Idea to be submitted as separate META POST

This is a whole other topic which I may submit to META because there would be a lot to discuss just about this, but I wanted to get it "down" now as I thought about it.

I think it may help to include some discussion of deliverables in posts like this. For example, perhaps a single answer posted with a title "Summary" that anyone can edit, much like a Talk Page on wikipedia. This Summary page can help be a continually updated answer that provides important clarifications and each person's particular view (should they want to update it). This summary page can be created by anyone but thereafter edited by anyone. Even though it can be edited by anyone, it's still one step below a community page because it's still being discussed, and this allows certain META posts to have some overall "status" while still allowing its scope to be restricted to its Question/Answer page.

  • Reading over the feedback in meta.stackexchange.com/a/3021/273494, I agree with the idea that if you're doing other edits, go ahead and take it out and don't perform an edit solely to remove the "Hope this helps!" or "Thanks in advance". It might be nice to figure out a boilerplate comment to explain succinctly why SE discourages salutations and other social decorations on questions and answers that we can use for edits on active posts from newer users (as an edit comment, not necessarily a comment on the post). – ColleenV parted ways Mar 4 '15 at 21:47
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    Please, NO. Please, let StackExchange never become a legalistic quagmire like this. The problem isn't someone posting a rough-and-ready question. The problem is people turning it into a "process"--a bunch of official rules and procedures. Can't we just TALK about something and let that be that?? – Ben Kovitz Mar 4 '15 at 21:50
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    @BenKovitz could you clarify are you responding to ColleenV, my post, or both? Because the intent of my post is that there's a middle ground between "just talking" and "creating legalistic quagmires". What I'm saying is that when desired, there are ways to capture wisdoms of posts like this in a more formal manner to help disseminate and maintain cultural consistency without it becoming law. Because the burden of thinking it must be Talk vs. Law can create a fear of taking some sensible action...since it would then be interpreted as precedent for law (or as law itself). – CoolHandLouis Mar 4 '15 at 22:26
  • @CoolHandLouis To your post. (ColleenV got in just a little before I hit save.) – Ben Kovitz Mar 4 '15 at 22:30
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    @BenKovitz I think we should be able to find a balance somewhere between "legalistic quagmire" and "all talk and no action items". We've been talking about this for a while, but we don't really seem to have reached a consensus about the right thing to do. Maybe the proposed process is a little more formal than we need it to be, but it would have been nice for me when I was a newer member to have had some sort of "best practices" post specific to this community to refer to. – ColleenV parted ways Mar 5 '15 at 0:26
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I think it's an empty formula and superfluous as a second tail for a cat. The poster can judge himself whether the answer is helpful or not.

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    IMO your answer should be a comment. It's a concise, conversational, unsupported opinion. FYI, superfluous as a second tail for a cat IS cute, yet ironically, it's also chatty/conversational. Also, be careful in using "it" I think it's an... What is "it"? FumbleFinger's point or Hope it helps? I assume it's the latter, but that's not obvious. +1 for the cutism, superfluous as a second tail for a cat, but then -1 for chattiness thereof. +1 for the answer itself interpreted one way. But then -1 for the answer interpreted the other way. ;) – CoolHandLouis Feb 25 '15 at 5:03
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    @CoolHandLouis It's OK to post an unsupported opinion as an answer—especially on meta. Posting it as an answer gives people the opportunity to upvote it and downvote it. Comments can only be upvoted. (And now, sounding like I'm on the main site, I read "it's an empty formula" as referring to "Hope this is helpful". Grammatical rules, you see, can't always determine the antecedents of pronouns. The reader must exercise common sense to infer the author's intended…) – Ben Kovitz Feb 28 '15 at 11:37

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