Someone recently closevoted this question, as "Proofreading" (that same person or someone else also downvoted the question, which may or may not mean something):

Error in sentence construction

Sentence: Roger dressed in is his best shirt, silver tie and black jacket.

I have been told that this sentence is erroneous. Please tell me where the error is and why is that the error. Please tell the correct sentence as well.

I don't really want to focus on that specific question, but I've just leafed through a few previous meta posts on proofreading, and can't immediately find anything directly addressing my concerns.

What bothers me is that I'm willing to accept the OP's assertion that "someone told him" his sentence Roger dressed in his best shirt, silver tie and black jacket was "erroneous". I'm also prepared to accept that the OP doesn't know why.

I'm guessing the closevoter was motivated by Proofreading questions are off-topic unless a source of concern is clearly specified in our guidelines.

My position is that at least some questions of the general format I think there's something wrong with this utterance, but I don't know what aren't really "proofreading" as I understand it. So the two specific questions I'd like to raise are...

1: Am I right to say This isn't actually an Off-Topic Proofreading question?
2: If so, can we identify what exactly makes it (and others like it) acceptable?

  • 4
    I understand why someone might mistake it for proofreading, but I think this is actually a "needs more detail" situation. I think many "proofreading" and "answerable by a dictionary" close votes would be better as "needs more detail" votes. I don't see much difference between this sort of question and an "error spotting" type question except in the amount of detail about where the sentence came from and which part of the sentence the asker is confused about.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 15:57
  • @Colleen: Well I didn't want to particularly focus on that one question, but unless the OP there could go back to whoever told him his text was incorrect, I don't see how he'd be able to respond to requests for more detail. I may be completely wrong in my guess re that specific question (that someone misparsed dressed [in X] as an adjectival modifier rather than the main verb). But it still seems plausible to me, and it does involve features of English that I'd have thought were well On Topic here. But I see the closevotes are clocking up, so I won't get too worked up here Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 16:22
  • If you compare that question to their other questions, the close votes are really an objection to the lack of effort. Where did this sentence come from? Who told you it was wrong? Did they say why they thought it was wrong? There is a huge loop-hole in the "proofreading" close reason that doesn't exist in the "details" reason. PIck a word in what you want proofread, and ask if that's correct. Then, our friendly community will also correct the rest of the text for you. (And I'm speaking in general, and not about this example). Some respond to low-effort questions with low-effort close votes.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jul 8, 2017 at 18:25
  • @Colleen: When I posted this meta question, I really wasn't expecting the one I linked to to be closed. I don't want to be swimming against the tide here, so I guess I'll let it lie. I just thought it might interest some people here (and resolve that OP's problem) to consider that with some verbs the "subject + past participle" construction can work as a noun phrase OR a standalone sentence - as in [I saw] John dressed in his tuxedo. But with others it can't, so John covered in suncream can only be an NP, not a valid "sentence". Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 13:03
  • After a long while looking at the question, I gave up and cv'd it on the assumption that the <strike> tag was introduced by the OP to somehow reproduce her instructor's markup of the sentence, and that the question therefore asked us to explain the struck letters: in other words, that it was a question about proofreading! I see now how dumb this was. It wasn't until this minute that I exhibited sufficient intelligence to actually look at the revisions. I'll sit in the corner now in dunce cap yclad and remember this Q&A as an admonition to take my time when going through close votes. Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 5:41
  • @P. E. Dant: I assume that oversight was because when you're going through the cv review queue you don't necessarily "drill down" and look at any comments. At the time when I made that edit I thought it was just a slight imposition on other users (by leaving an irrelevant and potentially distracting "strikethrough" that only really concerned the OP himself, so I should have confined myself to the explanatory comment). So really the error was mine, not yours, in that I shouldn't have assumed all potential closevoters would see and read my comment. I'll go get my dunce cap and join you! :) Commented Jul 10, 2017 at 12:23

1 Answer 1


There's no actual question from the asker in your provided example.

The asker is literally dumping a block a text, saying there's an error, and telling ELL to find it and explain why. I sympathize with the poster but this is a Q&A site, not a error-finding service. So you have to have a question.

I would have commented to the OP "what's your question?" and downvoted.

  • 1
    Okay, I'll buy that. In short, I was mistaken - as regards the specific example I cited, This is actually an Off-Topic Proofreading question (or at least it's "Unclear", since no explicit question is being asked). Commented Jul 11, 2017 at 11:56

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .