I saw this question (https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/1291/what-incorrect-usages-are-found-in-my-sentence) which is fundamentally a question of the form:

Here is some text. Please tell me what is wrong with it.

My immediate thoughts were that this type of question is going to pretty much always be too localized to fit in properly in the StackExchange format, since someone else with a similar question will probably find it hard to search for, and hence make use of any answer to these types of question.

The first comment to the question from StoneyB was this:

This is a 'proofreading' question; and although we are too young a site to have developed a formal policy, expressed in the FAQ, I believe that the consensus here is that questions of this sort are Off Topic. But I may be wrong; we'll have to see how many closevotes the question gets. In any case, although there are many errors of expression in your paragraph (too many, I think, for us to deal with), the important problem seems to be one of content: that your paragraph does not in fact address the question. There's nothing we can do about that here. – StoneyB

I was unable to find a particular question on meta relating to this issue (the meta question pointed to by bytebuster is more generally about what should be in the FAQ), hence this meta question.

So anyway, my question then is this:

Should proofreading questions be closed as offtopic?

If you have an opinion as to whether we should or should not allow proofreading questions on ELL, please post an answer below that people can upvote/downvote.

  • Yes Matt, proofreading can help you to develop your written communication skills and so can be an important part of the learning process. I think that the problem is to define the way in which we can allow proofreading avoiding too broad (and not constructive) questions. So +1, but it need a solution.
    – user114
    Feb 9, 2013 at 23:16
  • @Carlo_R: This isn't a question with an obvious "yes" or "no" answer, it's a question of policy. If you think we should allow proofreading type questions (albeit with caveats), put your reasons in an answer and then other ELL users can vote to agree or disagree with you.
    – Matt
    Feb 9, 2013 at 23:51
  • 1
    If pure proofreading questions are off-topic, it'd be good to point them to alternatives - I've posted a question for that at meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/263/54
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 10, 2013 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Proofreading questions, when they identify the area of concern, should be allowed on ELL.

What does "when they identify the area of concern" mean? Yes, any answer to this question might generate examples where opinions can differ and diverge. Certainly, divergence of opinions can occur as a result of conflicting preferences, especially between learners and experts; but, perhaps, the following question could clarify the kind of proofreading questions that ELL should allow, joining these two category of users.

How can this piece be reworded to remove some of the ing-words?

According to a spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing the Department of Energy, a scheduling meeting has been set for the next year.

So, if you agree with me on the fact that this type of proofreading questions should be allowed on ELL, please, vote up this answer.

  • 3
    +1, provided it's a nice short piece like this. By the way, I've just discovered a term for the sort of thing your example asks to correct: horror aequi. Feb 10, 2013 at 1:41

DON'T VOTE ON THIS, IT’S JUST BACKGROUND, to save folks a lot of research:

The question was raised during Commitment here, where it received two Answers (+5 and +1) and two Comments (+1 and +2). All were generally negative, but the most popular answer started “I think it would make sense if we put a limit of one sentence, not an overly long and complex too.”

Four of the six Answers to the Meta Question bytebuster linked, What should our FAQ contain?, addressed proofreading:

  • Community Opinion Needed: Proofreading (if on-topic, should be limited to a single sentence for practical purposes)

    THIS EARNED THE COMMENT: I think both Proofreading and Questions that rely on another language are acceptably within the scope of learning English. Proofreading should come with caveats, however, to make sure this doesn't become the place every non-English-speaking high school student comes to get the answers to their English homework.

  • I certainly don't want to see ELL accepting proofreading requests, or questions that require knowledge of another language, for example.
  • We don’t accept questions about … proofreading We can’t check your writing for mistakes.
  • Please don’t ask any questions about … Proofreading (“Where are my mistakes in this paragraph?”)

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