This is the follow-up of Is This Tag Useful? Episode 1 - The Big Boss (grammar). (i.e. intended to be the community decision on the matter, if people agree with the sentiments of this meta post)
I believe the opposite side has a point, while reaching the wrong conclusion. So I take all of the sides into account. We're going to
- Edit every post with grammar and replace the tag with something actually useful.
- Leave the tag on only one question, so it works as a temporary tag. We should — and hopefully will — edit every new question with a grammar (mis)tag.
The question that we're going to leave the only instance of the tag is this one. I humbly request contributing answers supported by citable sources to the question.
A clearer view on the dilemma
It was not terribly clear what tags were meant to be on ELL. Bad tags popped up that wouldn't have so in other SEs. I can count a few possible reasons:
Tags on ELL carry an extra burden of responsibility. They should be
- linguistically correct and
- simple enough to be applied to learners' questions by learners
at the same time. Creating such tags isn't easy.
Primarily, tags are being created and applied by learners. And unfortunately, since the majority of learners never or seldom learn linguistic terminology, they don't exactly know what their question is about. For instance, someone asking whether if their backshifting is grammatical seldom knows "backshifting" itself and will stick to reported-speech.
The primary creators of the main tags didn't have consensus on what a tag should do, or they weren't familiar with what an SE tag should do.
My standards are too high.
Anyway, they got created. Sometimes they were brought to the attention of the relatively tiny meta community and were dealt with. However, the most popular tags turned into "default" category tags: If you don't know what your query is about, you can easily circumvent the tag requirement by adding grammar or meaning. On rare cases, also comprehension.
ELL has a very large user base of querents and a smaller one of answerers, but to my dismay, it only gets a handful of regular editors. Hence editing, the symbol of moderation, never catches up to traffic and the editors found themselves editing only direr, more extreme cases. This usually leads to bad tagging and tags aggravating, just like an infection spreading through the body.
On the right path, you sometimes face a wall. Then, you've got three choices.
- break through the wall (burninate grammar)
- find a ladder (clarify grammar, let it be)
- go back and think "this mustn't be the right way" (leave grammar alone, and do practically nothing)
I'm not sure if this would be the choice of anyone who cares about quality on ELL. Let's move on, this post will be long enough.
Clarifying grammar's scope
This is the strongest solution suggested against burninating grammar; because for what it's worth a sensible soul would rather find a ladder than plant some explosives. The solution boils down to why remove grammar when we can clarify its scope?
IMO, it will most probably fail. The advantage of clarifying grammar would be that askers on ELL won't be hard-pressed to find a tag for their question. The disadvantage, however, would be that we'd still have a "default" tag for many of the askers. The way grammar is currently being used is precisely the way a hypothetical ell-question would've been (the advice in this answer is imprecise and incorrect and unfortunately definitely not researched).
So you see, the problem is that after being loaded from theory to practice these suggestions tend to fail. A puzzled asker is very much unlikely to take a tour (i.e. doing seemingly unrelated stuff when there seems to be a site that answers the question they've been craving to find an answer for) before asking, yet we expect them to read a meta post or tag wiki. What's more, how do you guarantee that they will (want to) comprehend and not grow tired of what we've written for them?
I've definitely had questions that bugged me a lot. I always try to concentrate on finding an answer for them, rather than going to read something perhaps seemingly irrelevant to my query. See the contradiction? The people that most need to read what we've written for them won't; definitely not when they should. Considering the fact that regular editors are scarce, meta consensus easily gets forgotten in even edits and thus clarifying and redefining the scope of grammar will be a temporary solution at best and an arrow gone to waste from the quiver at worst.
This was originally my solution. It may seem radical, but I haven't seen a strong argument against it, other than the other failing suggestion. Oh wait, there was an "argument": So grammar is bad. Then so is verbs or meaning! Gawd, they are bad. I never said grammar is the only culprit in the house. Other tags being bad doesn't mean grammar is good, just like 15 murderers in a house doesn't mean the 16th person can't be one.
So the upside of this would be that it's as permanent as it gets. There are no wikis to write, just probably a couple of tags — new, useful tags — to make. The downside of this, however, would be that learners will perhaps face more difficulty in finding a relevant tag for their question. I still don't buy this as a very strong probability, but it's something to consider. After all, not all those askers wanted to simply circumvent the must-add-tag warning.
So, what to do?
Getting to a consensus is hard, and maybe the discussion is far from over. The let-grammar-be-a-temporary-tag is spot on though. There are no mechanisms to achieve such a thing in Stack Exchange. But how about we let people tag their question as grammar and then quickly edit it out by ourselves and replace it with something more useful? Then again, tags not applied on questions get deleted after 24 hours, so what should we do now?
A proposed solution would be to heed this nice guy when he said @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M Somebody write a self-answered question on "What do we mean by 'grammar'?" put the grammar tag on that. As a result, I created the post What is meant by "grammar"? and now we're eagerly waiting for your answers on it!
This solution is the best that comes to my mind. We'd still get rid of a nuisance (my previous solution) and we'd still have a tag available for learners whose hopes are being burnt into despair being drown in the sea of linguistic terminology they don't understand which otherwise would've been thrown at them.
The only downside to my solution is that we need hawk eyes to stop the tag from raising its ugly head again. We need more editors for sure. The solution isn't as permanent as removing/blacklisting grammar, but it certainly takes the views of both parties into account.
Well, what do you think? Are you going to contribute an answer to "what is grammar"? Do you have any objections to the mass retagging that will soon be heard of? Does your head hurt after reading all this?