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The question titled Can I use “there” twice in the same sentence? asked whether the following example was correct...

There is many food there

I initially posted a comment drawing attention to the "plurality" error (and pointing out that this was irrelevant to the usage aspect being asked about.

A while later I noticed that the first two answers seemed to be more concerned with addressing that plurality error than the actual question as asked. So I edited it to...

There is are many food foods there

The way I see it, the only justification for leaving obvious but "irrelevant" errors in question text is to alert other users to the fact that the OP probably has limited competence in English (which is rarely necessary on ELL, since we can normally assume that anyway).


Someone subsequently reversed my edit, giving as justification the text reproduced as my title above. Since I don't want to start an "edit war", I'm asking about it here.

Particularly given that by using "strikethrough" my edit did actually retain that information about the OP's competence in using plurals (even though it was irrelevant to the issue being queried), I think it was a mistake to roll it back.

So far as I'm concerned this is an issue where it's quite important we should have a site consensus. So if you think my original edit should have been left unchanged, please upvote this meta question (obviously downvote if you disagree).

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    You know that I'm a proponent of not over-correcting questions, but I see this particular edit as clarifying the question by keeping it focused on the redundancy and not on the grammar. On the other hand, the question in the body was "is this sentence correct?" and the edit does impact the answers already written. All three of us left a duplicate sentence in the body (I just touched the tags), so from where I sit, none of us did a good job of making the question clearer. Ideally the author would incorporate the feedback, but it's an unregistered account, so I don't think it likely. – ColleenV Feb 13 '17 at 15:41
  • @ColleenV: Part of my reason for using "strikethrough" was specifically to avoid partially invalidating those answers which had already addressed the issue. But the substantial point of principle to me is that a question should ask about one and only one thing. Obviously the OP didn't intend his question to risk being closed as mere "proofreading", so it seems to me there's no justification whatsoever for leaving irrelevant errors that simply distract from the whole point of the post. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '17 at 16:06
  • I agree with your edit, and I personally wouldn't have rolled it back, but I can't really fault someone else for doing it. (I'm not being particularly helpful here, am I?) My point is while we were rearranging the deck chairs, the ship was still taking on water. We should have noticed the duplicated text and replaced it with the question in the title, done your grammar correction with the strike-through and maybe even pinged the folks who had answers that the edit impacted. The question has 6 up-votes and two well scored answers, so maybe we should do a more comprehensive edit. – ColleenV Feb 13 '17 at 16:13
  • @ColleenV: It's only since reading your last comment that I've realised the example usage had been written incorrectly twice (I only fixed one instance, obviously). But now I feel diffident about touching it at all, because I see you've added the tag "redundancy" - which I also disagree with ("existential" there is/are has no real connection to "locational" over there, in that place). Still, the fact of the matter is both of those "highly upvoted" answers devote far more attention to the irrelevant plurality issue rather than the real usage being queried. It's a mess. – FumbleFingers Feb 13 '17 at 19:10
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    I don't disagree that it is a mess, however I think the redundancy tag fits the question based on the guidance for the tag: For questions about whether the same word appearing two or more times in a sentence is appropriate... Tags are supposed to help learners find the question, and we have a bunch of questions about whether using the same word twice in a sentence is a problem. I don't think that the answer should prevent this question from being grouped with the other "is using this word twice in one sentence OK" questions. Maybe the tag needs a better name. – ColleenV Feb 14 '17 at 2:15
  • @ColleenV: Point taken. I suppose it stands to reason that even though we as native speakers might recognise that just because a word occurs twice in proximity, it's not necessarily "redundant" (or even "awkward"), many people in the target user base won't realise that. And the specific question in the frame here is far from unique in that the OP is clearly concerned that it might be either redundant or otherwise undesirable. So okay - the tag just has to be understood as indicating possible redundancy (not necessarily actual). – FumbleFingers Feb 14 '17 at 13:54
  • FWIW, as anyone, even not-logged-in users can access revisions for a post, and thus the competence level of the asker isn't really lost, IMO leaving grammatical mistakes in questions is inconsistent and shouldn't be done. – M.A.R. ಠ_ಠ Feb 16 '17 at 19:30
  • I can say I'm one of those who "has limited competence in English", I prefer that other expert members fix the grammar in my questions. so I can avoid these mistakes next time. or at least add comments with these mistakes so I can learn from my mistakes. – Shannak Feb 20 '17 at 10:51
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    @Shannak: That sounds sensible. Does it make any difference to you if a correction is made using <strike>strikethrough</strike>? I only ask because sometimes I do this specifically so that other users can see the original errroneous text as well as the correction. The advantage being that this might help others avoid making the same mistake, but the downside is everyone can see that you made the mistake, even if it was just some stupid typo that you might be a bit embarrassed about later. – FumbleFingers Feb 20 '17 at 16:05
  • I'm now confused about how to vote on this question. I believe a suggested fix in plurality was entirely appropriate and should have been left alone. With the subsequent comments, I'm not sure if an upvote is proper. – David W Feb 21 '17 at 20:36
  • @David W: I don't see what you're getting at. Apparently one user (you? or whoever ) has actually downvoted my meta question here (i.e. - someone thinks my original "strikethrough" edit should not have been made). But I don't see any comments here supporting that position, and having just checked the question on the main site I see a mod has rolled it back so my edit now stands again. I'm just happy to see that currently the votes are 13:1 that users here do not endorse the principle that Fixing the grammar should be done in answers not the question, as specified in my title. – FumbleFingers Feb 23 '17 at 15:52
  • @FumbleFIngers I support the original edit. The rest of the question here made it unclear to me what the proper vote for this question would be. All the negatives "not upvoting a question about not endorsing that something not be done" just made me kinda dizzy :) It looks to me like an upvote here is appropriate. – David W Feb 23 '17 at 15:58
  • @David W:: There's often confusion about the significance of votes here on meta (what do you do if you're thinking, for example, I do approve of the fact that the OP has brought this matter up, but I don't endorse what he says about it. But I did try to make things as unambiguous as possible in the last line of my question: If you think my original edit should have been left unchanged, please upvote. – FumbleFingers Feb 23 '17 at 16:06
  • Already done. :) – David W Feb 23 '17 at 16:22
  • I thought your edit was bang-on. By itself it didn't overtly explain that the two theres play different roles and are thus both legitimate, but t'me it at least implied they were legitimate. – MMacD Feb 24 '17 at 23:37
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I couldn't agree more. Simple errors help to assess the learner's current English level. While it's tempting to correct these in the question, unless they make the question more difficult to understand, they should be left alone (and corrected in the answer). I frequently reverse these kind of edits when I see them.

A good answer to this kind of question should first address the specific issue asked, and then later (as an additional note) address other grammar, spelling, or punctuation issues -- unless, of course, those issues affect or even prevent the question from being properly answered. Then it's a judgement call.

  • Lemme get this straight; you agree with the title, but not with Fumble Fingers' edit? – Mari-Lou A Feb 13 '17 at 19:05
  • I think there's a typo here Simple errors like help to assess... – Mari-Lou A Feb 13 '17 at 19:07
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    @Mari-LouA what, you don't like speak California? :) (fixed the typo) – Andrew Feb 13 '17 at 19:11
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    Ahh, like valley girl /valleyspeak. Now, I get it. – Mari-Lou A Feb 13 '17 at 19:13
  • Totally! Fer sher! – Andrew Feb 13 '17 at 19:14
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    You'd like this video youtube.com/watch?v=N4sGU_eFc40 the great English divide, Miriam Margolyes: Please, stop using the word "like" – Mari-Lou A Feb 13 '17 at 19:19
  • I completely agree. It's a bad habit, but unfortunately a common dialect. – Andrew Feb 13 '17 at 19:20
  • I'm making a judgement call and leaving your "its a judgement call" untouched :D. (Especially since it also wouldn't hit the edit minimum :).) – Teacher KSHuang Feb 15 '17 at 10:57
  • @Mari-LouA: "great English divide"?? – MMacD Feb 24 '17 at 23:38
  • @MMacD poor phrasing, I wanted to say divided by a common language, but the words came out wrong. It happens with an alarming frequency. Some call it senility :) – Mari-Lou A Feb 25 '17 at 1:17
  • @Mari-LouA: Thanks for the explanation! 's funny, I seem to be doing that more often myself...typing words I didn't intend to type, dropping out whole phrases, .... The words I put down to what's called "capture error" (completing a more common action that starts the same way as the one intended), but I'm not sure how to explain the phrases [sigh]. – MMacD Feb 25 '17 at 13:15

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