Over the past few years, I have spent some time on ELU and ELL. (I deleted several accounts, so my current account is very new, in case you are wondering.)

I understand that ELL was formed because of the dropping standard of questions asked by mostly learners of the language. If I recall correctly, however, Robert Cartaino never saw the need for a separate ELL, and it was Jeff Atwood's intervention that made ELL come into existence just before he left SE. (Forgive me if this is wrong.) At that time, I agreed with Robert's view that there should not be two separate sites. I will list a number of observations I have made which you may not agree with:

  1. In many cases, it is difficult and largely subjective where to draw the line between whether a question fits better on ELL or ELU. Many questions that can benefit one community of users also benefit the other, if one is seriously interested in the language.

  2. Learners of the language actually learn grammar formally and ask many interesting and technical questions about grammar on ELL that many native speakers do not know about. On the other hand, many native speakers actually ask questions such as single word requests which should not be the focus of ELU anyway.

  3. Many questions asked by learners are actually non-trivial but get interpreted as trivial by some native speakers. Hence they get downvoted and closevoted more than they actually deserve. Sometimes, a seemingly local question may be part of a larger, global theory of the language, and illuminating answers can salvage a less than perfectly phrased question.

  4. On some days, the quality of questions and answers on ELL seems way higher than that on ELU. ELU, despite what is advertised, is not actually for linguists, etymologists, and serious enthusiasts, and never will be. The point is that standards on ELL are so high and ELU so low that the two sites really are the same.

  5. It seems pretty arbitary which posts on ELU get migrated to ELL, and looking at some of these and how similar they are to other posts, we might as well migrate half of ELU to ELL. If the sites are merged, we will not waste time migrating questions between them, and the single merged site can benefit from shared human resources. It would be easier for genuine enthusiasts to see all questions at one glance, and users not interested in particular kinds of questions can just choose to ignore them.

Before you downvote this post, do spend at least a month on each of the two sites, and perhaps you will realise that you agree with me. I propose that ELU and ELL be merged, because they were never meant to be separate in the first place. Thank you for considering this suggestion.

(This post is also on ELU meta.)

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    All of this seems very focused on the members of the community that are answering questions and seems to ignore the needs of the people asking the questions. ELU seems more concerned about "interesting" and "quality" and "standards" while ELL is concerned about our mission. ELL's standards aren't so high, it's just that most of our community is focused on the same goal - helping people learn English - and we have some active users that put a lot of time and effort into helping learners improve their questions and making sure they get decent answers.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:14
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    Another thing that is worth noting - because we know that the askers here are learners we (or I, at least) make an effort to keep them in mind and write things in a more understandable way. Some of the posts on ELU are so full of jargon that I have no clue what they mean. I'd hate to do that to people who aren't even native speakers.
    – Catija
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:27
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    Most of this post seems to be talking about ELU problems, not ELL problems.
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:30
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    @Catija I think that's a really good point. Here's one discussion that would probably never happen on ELU: When should I correct an ELL's grammar?
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:30
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    Can downvoters articulate more about why they'd prefer separate ELU/ELL? Oh and upvoters too their reasons.
    – Mitch
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:38
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    @ColleenV actually that discussion does happen, a little more generally, namely do you fix or close an interesting but poorly formed question?
    – Mitch
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:41
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    @Mitch Fixing a question by say adding research is not really the same discussion as correcting the grammar. I would assume that if there is a grammatical mistake in ELU content almost all of the community would agree is should be fixed, no?
    – ColleenV
    Dec 5, 2016 at 21:50
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    @ColleenV that question and answer and comments and all their nuances could easily be identical on ELU
    – Mitch
    Dec 5, 2016 at 23:15
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    @Mitch: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/2769/… may be more representative. Dec 5, 2016 at 23:31
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    After thinking about this a little bit more, I need to say something about point #5. ELU and ELL aren't sites with human resources that can be directed according to a grand plan, they are communities, each with their own culture, norms, relationships, and all that messy human stuff that screws up well-laid plans. Merging two communities with very different goals and interests is not going to make things more efficient. ELU can't just annex ELL and force the community to handle all those pesky learner questions to save reviewers the effort of migrating them.
    – ColleenV
    Dec 6, 2016 at 18:33

1 Answer 1


This has been a perennial topic of discussion since the first day of the proposal, and the split has always proven sufficiently valuable to justify. WendiKidd ♦ has a good explanation of many of the nuanced differences between ELL and EL&U.

Your point 1 has been addressed many times in the past for many other sites on SE. Put simply, scope overlap is not a problem. The ability to ask about essentially the same thing on multiple sites is not a weakness, and those sites do not need to gerrymander their scope to avoid this. Instead, each site will tend to give different answers depending on their viewpoint, as J.R. ♦ explored through concrete examples of how basic answer approaches differ.

Point 2 does not clearly explain why ELL should be part of EL&U, unless you're approaching this from the mistaken idea that ELL answers should be drawn from the raw intuition of any random native speakers. Such answers are very often wrong in part, and usually unhelpful even when they're broadly correct. ELL requires expertise in explaining language patterns to those who did not grow up with them, often on extremely foundational subjects that are so central to English speakers' thought patterns that they are difficult for them to grasp on a conscious level.

Point 3 is, of course, an excellent argument for keeping the sites separate. If they can be properly handled by the voting, editing, and answering population here, but not there, why would we consider here and there to be essentially equivalent?

Point 4 is founded on a mistaken idea that ELL is for questions that are terrible, or even for questions that are kind of lame. But ELL is not EL&U's trash can! ELL is not and has never been for questions that are too poor-quality to be useful on the "real" site; it's for questions that are useful for learners.

Point 5 is another aspect of scope gerrymandering. Questions can be on-topic on more than one site, and if EL&U wants to get rid of them and they fit here, that's fine, but if they fit over there too, that's fine too. It's not as though the same answerers can't be active on both sites if they want!

However, that last qualifier deserves a bit more attention. Looking at our mods, you can see that most of them have much higher rep here than on EL&U. When skilled, prominent community members have such a large disparity in answering focus, it should be plain that there's a real difference in the sites that drives this different focus. (My own answering pattern is similar. I just don't really gel with EL&U, despite having been a member there for two years.)


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