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I would have thought that, on a site aimed at language learners, it would be helpful to edit questions so they at least use correct English.

The following edits have had rejections when they corrected quite obvious English mistakes in the question. Is this really discouraged?

https://ell.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/9629

https://ell.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/31555

Possibly related meta post: When should I correct an ELL's grammar?

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  • It would be really nice if there was a way to explain our thinking when we reject an edit that didn't involve selecting the "Causes harm" reason. Typically I try to reject and edit, then leave something in the edit history comments, but the suggester just sees the rejection, which is not a great user experience as you've pointed out.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:23
  • The edit in your first link was thrown out automatically because the OP made a different edit while it was in the queue. It doesn't mean it was a bad edit.
    – user230
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:33
  • 1
    I would suggest leaving a comment about grammatical mistakes rather than just editing them out. It's quite likely the person would like an explanation (more detailed than appropriate for an edit summary) on what was wrong. "Corrected grammar" is not very helpful to someone trying to learn English (or in the second case, helping them learn to write better SE posts).
    – user15474
    Dec 25 '15 at 4:45
  • I use my own method which is to correct the mistake in square brackets in the comments.
    – Lambie
    Feb 16 at 18:11
25

If correcting the grammar makes the questions easier to understand, I think the edits are worthwhile. If the question is easy enough to understand without the edits, I don't think we should correct the mistakes because it gives a false sense of what level of fluency the asker has, and often the sorts of mistakes can give a clue as to how the asker's native language may be influencing their understanding of English. If the author takes helpful suggestions from the comments and improves their own answer, that's awesome and should be encouraged. I'm in no way suggesting that an author should not be able to improve their older questions as their English improves.

I view answers differently, and feel that the grammar should be corrected completely. When learners search for a question, they are likely to make similar mistakes to a learner asking the same question. When they are trying to understand an answer, it's easier for the learner to read text that has good grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

We have some very good answers from less fluent folks, and I think fixing them up is worthwhile. Fixing up the questions too much can lead to answers that presume a greater command of English than the asker actually has.

I'm editing this to bubble this discussion back up to the top of the active list. I'm seeing some questions being edited for style, and not to make the question's intent more clear. It destroys valuable information when someone "fixes" a learner's question, and while I whole-heartedly support significant copy-editing on answers, I wish folks would show more self-restraint on the questions.

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  • 2
    I must admit I'd have probably accepted proposed edit #2 (which you apparently rejected). But I might well have rejected #1 simply because it grinds my gears to see someone wanting to change Toilette to toilet (which isn't likely to mislead or confuse many users), whilst ignoring I used a software and it read it like 1 slash 4 - a usage which many nns (notably, Germans) consistently get wrong; we owe it to them not to allow such mistakes to go uncorrected, further reinforcing their misconception of what to native speakers is a glaring error. Dec 5 '15 at 21:10
  • @FumbleFingers I think that was a fumble on my part. I saw that the corrections weren't complete, and intended to fix it up but rejected instead of reject and edit, then got distracted and never went back to correct my mistake.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:16
  • 3
    Ah, right. Yeah - I do that myself sometimes (reject a proposed edit because I intend to do it better myself, but never follow thru). I mostly upvoted you here because of the gives a false sense of what level of fluency the asker has bit. So long as there's no major problem re comprehension, I tend to leave clumsy phrasing in questions alone (except things like a software, which get right up my nose because they happen so often). But if an answer is essentially good, I'm often happy to address niggles (which also helps the answerer, I hope). Dec 5 '15 at 21:32
  • 1
    I'm not really sure that questions on ELL should be edited for grammar, even if it clarifies intent - by correcting a querent's grammar, the editor implies a greater level of fluency than the querent may in fact possess. I fully support correction of grammar errors in answers, and pointing out errors in grammar in both answers and comments; this to me forwards the stack's implied mission of assisting in the querent's learning process far better than 'silent' corrections directly in the question. Aug 3 '17 at 14:18
  • I put my grammar corrections of posted questions in square brackets as a comment under the question. Having learned two languages myself, I always appreciated "hot corrections". That way one tends not to forget them.
    – Lambie
    Sep 24 '19 at 22:52
  • @JeffZeitlin: Whether revisions to a question may benefit the author, such is not the reason for making them. The reason is rather to benefit everyone else who later would read the question, and then may be better served by standard grammar than by another learner's attempt.
    – epl
    Jul 23 '20 at 5:35
  • "Fixing up the questions too much can lead to answers that presume a greater command of English than the asker actually has." I suppose so, but an author's style, even with errors removed, conveys much information, and such corrections are not likely to make a an early learner seem to be an advanced one or a native speaker.
    – epl
    Jul 23 '20 at 5:39
  • If anybody really wanted to help learners and how they learn, the questions can be corrected in square brackets under comments and the question poster can then edit their own question using that sample. That way they actually learn something. When I see: "What means x", I figure the learner could do with learning: What does x mean? I disagree with this answer completely, and having learned four languages in my life, I believe I know something about this...
    – Lambie
    Feb 16 at 18:15
  • @Lambie I would agree with you, if the goal was for one user to teach that one learner how to write better in English. That's not ELL's goal. ELL is supposed to be a reference for many learners where they can find comprehensive answers from (ideally) multiple perspectives. It's better in my opinion to have multiple people over time address the learner's question and any mistakes in its formulation and let the best answer "float to the top".
    – ColleenV
    Feb 17 at 16:23
  • Yes, of course, for the answers. No, for not correcting questions.
    – Lambie
    Feb 17 at 17:03
  • @Lambie I have no issue if the author edits their own question because someone helpfully explained to them in comments the correct way to phrase something. My objection is someone other than the author correcting the author's post for them simply for grammar and not for clarity. Spelling, punctuation, making a descriptive title, and rephrasing slightly to try to make the question understandable--all acceptable to me. Changing "What means x" to "What does x mean" in the body of the question doesn't make the question clearer, it just makes it more grammatical.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 17 at 17:09
  • These discussions end up tiring me. As I said, to be a repository for helping people understand things about/in English is one thing. But learning is one by one. That's the problem with sites like this. It tries to systematize everything but language does not always conform to notions or orderliness.....
    – Lambie
    Feb 17 at 17:16
  • @Lambie You can disagree that ELL is the most effective way to learn, but when participating here we should make the best of it, not try to turn it into something its not. The way ELL is designed makes it unsuitable as a tutoring site.
    – ColleenV
    Feb 17 at 17:23
  • I still disagree with you. Not about tutoring. If you leave messed up questions, users who come upon these messed up questions may not have the knowledge to know that. And so it goes, round and round. I suggested the square brackets thing a long time ago, and it could include like a red tick mark so the question poster comes and corrects their mistakes, and then, the red tick mark and the square brackets correction content could be made to disappear....all this would greatly improve things.
    – Lambie
    Feb 17 at 17:26
2

I notice that both of these edits were rejected by a robot. (The Community♦ user is not a real person.)

I think that the first edit was perfectly appropriate: It corrected the capitalization of the example, whereas the question was about the pronunciation of the example, and the capitalization did not affect the pronunciation. The human reviewer also thought the edit was appropriate.

The second edit was marginal. The original poster's text was understandable. The proposed edit was more grammatical. The proposed edit changed both text that was ungrammatical (but understandable) and text that was already grammatically correct. One human reviewer approved. Another human reviewer disapproved, on the grounds that the edit did not make the post better.

I also notice that both human reviewers edited the second post. Weirdly, the Community♦ robot may have rejected the edit because a reviewer made an unrelated edit.

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  • 4
    That happens when a human reviewer selects "Reject and edit" instead of rejecting it outright. I rejected and edited the title rewrite because while I thought the idea to rewrite the title was good, the suggested title was a bit more complex than necessary.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:11
  • 2
    The bot rejects or approves edits if the reviewer decides to edit, and rejects automatically if the edit conflicted with another edit. i.e. the 'edit' button was twice clicked by the suggester and someone with the editing privileges of that post and the one with the privileges submitted the edit after the suggester. O_O A weird degree of complexity.
    – M.A.R.
    Dec 5 '15 at 21:56

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