Let's say "Bob", a hypothetical ELL, comes to this site and posts this question.

Which of this sentences is grammatically correct?

How is you feel today?


How are you feel today?

(Ignore whether or not the question should be closed, since this is just an example.)

Now, it's fairly obvious that the question is about is/are, but if this was a real question, I would also point out that it should be feeling instead of feel even though that is not the point of the question. That's an easy example, and I do this pretty often with questions of this type.

But should I also correct the grammatical mistakes in the actual question itself? It would probably be edited out fairly quickly, but should it be pointed out to the OP? On one hand, he is here to learn English, and you learn English (or any language) by making mistakes, and learning from them. On the other hand, I can imagine it would be frustrating if you're having trouble learning something, and you come here to ask a question about X, and everybody here is nitpicking on how you did Y wrong.

  • 2
    I edit the question if I feel I can make it clearer or prevent folks from getting distracted from the actual question by mistakes. I try not to edit out too much though because it helps answerers to understand the skill level of the asker. On the other hand, the question and answer are supposed to be useful to more than just the asker, and mistakes make it difficult for users to find and understand similar questions to their own. I'm a little conflicted about how much editing to do, but I'm not too worried about corrections offending the askers.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 12:29
  • 1
    I'm not asking if it should be edited, I'm asking if it should be explained to the OP.
    – DJMcMayhem
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 14:52
  • If it is in the sentences they're asking about, it shouldn't be edited; it should be explained in an answer. I got stuck on the "this sentences"' which I might edit out.
    – ColleenV
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 14:55
  • I agree with @ColleenV, though adding a comment regarding the edit (and why) to the question is always a good idea. Then for the future reader, any person curious about the edit can always check the edit history.
    – user3169
    Commented May 18, 2015 at 17:12

1 Answer 1


I think it's perfectly reasonable to correct the OP's errors if they're not inherently part of the usage being queried. For example, I've just corrected the text of this current meta question...

Original: "Bob", an hypothetical ELL
Revised: "Bob", a hypothetical ELL

On another day, I might go the extra mile and render it as...

Explicit: "Bob", an a hypothetical ELL

...but I must admit the strike-thru doesn't work very well with just two letters.

But notice that I didn't change OP's use of ELL to mean an English language learner. I don't think that usage is really valid - but for all I know OP is aware of that, yet still wishes to use it. If I hadn't called attention to it in my answer text here, I'd have probably made my point in a comment, so future visitors would be aware the usage is at the very least "questionable".

The way I see it, in the fullness of time many more people besides the OP will read the question text. Here on ELL, that implies a lot of non-native speakers, some of whom will be misled over what is or isn't "correct usage". If only for their sake, we should collectively strive to avoid being misleading.

  • 4
    This has been my general practice. I leave grammatical errors in the examples they're using, as that's what the question is about, but I clean up grammar/spelling/punctuation/capitalization when in the rest of the question body.
    – Catija
    Commented May 21, 2015 at 4:27
  • 1
    There are prestige dialects where "an hypothetical" is the preferred word choice.
    – Jasper
    Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 20:38
  • @Jasper: I've never heard of that usage ("an hypothetical") being thought of as a "prestige dialect". All I know is the traditional rule of English that an can be used before words that begin with an H sound if the first syllable of that word is not stressed. Which I generally consider to be an affectation, but a few very careful speakers like the BBC's Jeremy Paxman consistently do this for certain words, and I really wouldn't want to argue the toss with him over "correct usage". Commented Dec 5, 2015 at 20:58

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