It's been discussed that the proofreading close reason is overused:

Stop throwing "Proofreading" close reason at questions that are clearly limited to a single point of concern

As part of my answer, I recommended that we consider rephrasing the "Proofreading" close reason so that it's less likely to be used on questions that are not proofreading.

Here's the current text:

Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified. See: Alternative websites for proofreading

(This text seems to have been taken directly from the ELU close reason)

I think the main piece of concern here is the statement

unless a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified

This leads to questions phrased as "Of the two options X and Y which is correct?" being closed as proofreading, despite them being more appropriately closed as "Needs more details", if anything.

How can we rephrase the Proofreading close reason to avoid this ambiguity and reduce the likelihood that the proofreading close reason will be used on questions that are not proofreading.

  • At first, I think we need to agree on a clear definition for "proofreading", before considering what is or isn't that. For example, according to the Univ. of Wisconsin The Writer's Handbook "Proofreading means examining your text carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling." And some summary of that should be included in the notice, so it will be understandable to an English learner that might not know what "proofreading" means.
    – user3169
    Aug 6, 2015 at 2:12
  • 3
    Considering that the close reason is supposed to be read by everyone, and many of our users are beginners or intermediate learners. In my humble opinion, "a specific source of concern in the text is clearly identified" is already a bit too difficult to some of us. I hope that our new text for the "Proofreading" close reason will be easy to read and understand for everyone. Aug 6, 2015 at 2:49

4 Answers 4


This was the final close reason that we got to fit within the character limits:

Questions asking for someone to find and correct errors or improve the phrasing are considered requests for proofreading and are off-topic. Please edit your question to focus on something in particular that you are unsure about; if that's not possible, see websites for proofreading instead.

  • is this the new one? I think the word 'proofreading' should be emboldened; it's the keyword. Sep 1, 2017 at 7:24
  • 2
    @user178049 I see where you're coming from, but the other close reasons have similar patterns of bolding and seem to work OK. I think that it is a good thing that folks voting to close might have to read the close reason to figure out which one to choose instead of just scanning for the word "proofreading". After a couple of times you get used to the new position.
    – ColleenV
    Sep 1, 2017 at 11:13

Here's a tweak of Nathan's text that tries to concisely define proofreading as part of the close reason.

Questions asking for someone to find and correct errors or improve the phrasing of a block of text are considered requests for proofreading and are off-topic. Please edit your question to focus on a type of error or a few words in particular that you are unsure about; if that's not possible, see alternative websites for proofreading instead.

  • Maybe it is a different matter, but what should be the handling of reading comprehension questions where no specific issue is identified? Usually there is just a block of text, and then something like "What does the author mean?"
    – user3169
    Aug 16, 2017 at 20:09
  • 1
    @user3169 I think those should be closed for lack of research/context. I don't want us to get in the "we won't answer your question if you don't list at least X sources you checked" situation, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect folks to explain why they haven't been able to find an answer or why they're confused exactly.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 16, 2017 at 23:37
  • An example just popped up - can anyone understand this?
    – user3169
    Aug 17, 2017 at 1:59
  • 1
    @user3169 I generally close vote those with the custom "need more detail" reason and leave a comment asking them to be specific about what part of the text they are confused by.
    – Catija
    Aug 22, 2017 at 5:17
  • I think it would be better to have something better in the close description, rather than the catch-all "need more detail" and then depend on comments to understand why. Plus if you try to summarize close reasons you'll miss this kind of problem.
    – user3169
    Aug 22, 2017 at 5:23
  • @user3169 If you want to discuss the "needs more context/show your research" close reason, we should really do that in a separate post.
    – ColleenV
    Aug 22, 2017 at 12:05
  • @user3169 For reference, see how ELU did it: english.meta.stackexchange.com/q/9902/50044
    – NVZ
    Aug 26, 2017 at 16:54
  • @NVZ Thanks. I think the most relevant addition I get out of that discussion would be "and then explain why you're not sure about it." Rather than just point out the word(s) in question (generally the case now), the OP needs to explain what their concern/confusion is about, not merely "are these the right words?"
    – user3169
    Aug 26, 2017 at 18:13

I pondered this for a bit and came up with this (526 characters, in case the 600-character limit for comments applies to close reason definitions):

Questions asking for general proofreading for any errors or poor phrasing that might exist in a block of text are off-topic. Please edit the question so it focuses on a type of possible error or a few words in particular that you are not sure about. If that's not possible, see alternative websites for proofreading instead.

I borrowed the generous bolding (and edit suggestion) from the extremely successful Details Please reason.


  • Defines what we mean by proofreading.
  • Emphasizes the scope problem and clarifies that asking for mistakes in a few words is fine.
  • Brings in an admonition to edit the question.
  • Allows mistake-type-based (cross-cutting, as opposed to local-with-context) questions, like "am I using 'their' right in this passage?"
  • Retains the link and potholes it a little more smoothly, as well as adding another link for the original meta decision.
  • Includes "did I write this well?" now.
  • Uses significantly simpler language than the current reason.
  • 1
    This looks like a good start. I wonder if there's a way for the "edit" text to be a link to the "edit" page for the question? What do you think of switching "errors" for "mistakes"? And perhaps "that you are unsure about" instead of "that are dubious"?
    – Catija
    Aug 6, 2015 at 19:49
  • 1
    It seems we may be able to use [edit] to link to the edit button in comments, so this may also work in close vote text... edit
    – Catija
    Aug 6, 2015 at 19:51
  • @Catija: I thought of the same linking, but I have no idea if it's possible. No real opinion on whether errors or mistakes is better. Aug 6, 2015 at 19:58
  • @Catija: See the M.SE question about this now. Aug 6, 2015 at 20:31
  • 1
    I don't understand the answer :(
    – Catija
    Aug 6, 2015 at 20:57
  • @Catija: [edit] is one of the few magic links specifically not supported. Most of the others are. (I did see at least a few in another question that worked.) Aug 6, 2015 at 20:58
  • 1
    I suppose that, technically, the CV text box already includes a note that says "Edit the question"... it's just not part of the actual question.: "If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question." and "edit the question" is a link.
    – Catija
    Aug 6, 2015 at 21:03
  • How are we defining a 'chunk of text'? Is a single sentence enough to qualify, or are we focussed on there being something like "Is there anything wrong with this?" somewhere in the question, with no specifics, regardless of size?
    – Damien H
    Aug 6, 2015 at 23:13
  • @DamienH: Broadly speaking, looking for all mistakes generally even within a longish sentence is pretty sketchy, but it's really once you get to a paragraph or longer that it becomes really clear cut. But yeah, a question that just asks whether some moderately complex sentence is fine is probably out. That said, in a lot of those cases it's split between needing context and needing focus: a single sentence on its own is problematic for both reasons. Aug 6, 2015 at 23:16
  • Great start. I would use "any errors" or "any grammatical errors" in place of "all mistakes", and "type of error" in place of "type of mistake". And maybe replace "in a chunk of text" with "in quoted text", referring to the text the OP is asking about. chunk does not seem appropriate somehow.
    – user3169
    Aug 7, 2015 at 0:59
  • 1
    @DamienH If the question is "Here's this sentence I wrote, tell me what's wrong with it". That's still proofreading, yes. Even with a single sentence this is vastly different than "In this sentence is A or B appropriate". Which is what we're trying to avoid getting closed as "proofreading".
    – Catija
    Aug 7, 2015 at 1:05
  • 1
    @user3169 Your recommendations are similar to mine in my first comment. I would prefer to not say "grammatical errors" because a lot of what proofreading is includes spelling, capitalization and punctuation, which would not be included if we say "grammatical errors". I also had worries about "chunk". Perhaps "block of text"?
    – Catija
    Aug 7, 2015 at 1:10
  • @Catija: "block", yes, there we go. Aug 7, 2015 at 1:18
  • 1
    Do we honestly need it at all? "proofreading for errors" seems fine to me.
    – Catija
    Aug 7, 2015 at 2:54
  • 1
    @Catija: I think so; since the main problem with the current reason is that it doesn't distinguish sitting down to proofread and see if there might be any errors from correcting an identified error well at all, and one of the main distinguishing factors is whether it's an undifferentiated block of text or a particular point with context... leaving in both sides of the contrast seems necessary. Aug 7, 2015 at 3:16

Here's my more concise version of what Nathan Tuggy wrote:

Questions asking for general proofreading for errors or poor phrasing are off-topic. Please edit to focus on a type of error or a few words in particular that you are unsure about; if that's not possible, see alternative websites for proofreading instead.

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