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Much of the FAQ will be somewhat boilerplate: “be nice,” “how to create an account,” “how to ask questions” — it’s all pretty static. Even the sections about “what kind of questions should I (not) ask here?” comes primarily from the Definition phase of Area 51.

But the questions you want to discuss in meta are those issues specific to your site that need to be mentioned in the FAQ.

Take the Super User FAQ as an example:

Super User is for computer enthusiasts and power users.
If you have a question about …

  • computer hardware
  • computer software

and it is not about

  • videogames or consoles
  • websites or web services like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress
  • electronic devices, media players, cell phones or smart phones, except insofar as they interface with your computer
  • a shopping or buying recommendation

It took us almost a year to figure out the list of “we want these sort of questions” and “we don’t want these sort of questions” on Super User. Area 51 gave you a head start but you should also be working out other FAQ-related issues specific to your topic and your community.

8

A very, very rough guideline that should not be adopted, but from where more concrete ideas might hopefully spring:

On-topic: Questions about English to which the answers native speakers would intuit.

Off-topic:

  • Questions about English that do not reflect practical difficulties in learning and using English, such as questions of interesting academic curiosity. (migrate to EL&U)
  • Questions about linguistic aspects of English (migrate to Linguistics)
  • Questions not having to do with English (hopefully self-evident)

Community Opinion Needed:

  • Proofreading (if on-topic, should be limited to a single sentence for practical purposes)
  • Questions that rely on another language (e.g. Is there an equivalent word in English to this word in German?)
  • 5
    I think that Questions that rely on another language could potentially fit? I find when learning languages other than English I often search for (and don't often find) information about equivalent words, phrases, etc. We would need to define a strong scope/structure for those types of questions though – Deco Jan 24 '13 at 6:37
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    I think both Proofreading and Questions that rely on another language are acceptably within the scope of learning English. Proofreading should come with caveats, however, to make sure this doesn't become the place every non-English-speaking high school student comes to get the answers to their English homework. – Ken Bellows Jan 25 '13 at 12:37
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    Questions that rely on another language deserve a separate paragraph; they do fit but only providing they are properly phrased. The asker should make best effort to translate the foreign expressions literally and explain their special meaning. Don't assume users of this site know what 先生 means if you ask for an English counterpart conveying the full meaning! – SF. Jan 28 '13 at 4:04
4

English Language Learners helps people learn or improve their English language skills.

Before you ask

Ask questions which can have a definite answer that would be useful to many people. Ask about problems you actually face. Bear in mind that this is a Q&A site, but not a discussion forum.

There is a search box on the site; search before asking, in case your question has already been answered.

How to ask

Explain why you are asking.

Tell us where you tried to look for an answer already, and why the answers you found were inadequate.

Be polite at all times.

What to ask

Help with word meanings, pronunciation, and spelling (beyond what can easily be found in online dictionaries) ("What does 'bogus' mean in this sentence?")

Help with grammar (beyond what can easily be found in online grammars) ("When do I use a definite article before a noun?")

Specific resources for learning English ("What good online dictionaries are there?")

Also, questions about teaching the English language are welcomed here. Experts in language pedagogy are welcome not only to send their students to English Language Learners as a resource, but also to use it themselves.

What not to ask

Please don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.

Proofreading ("Where are my mistakes in this paragraph?")

Translation ("How would you say 'Mi cuerpo es su cuerpo' in English?")

Questions which are too vague ("How do I improve my English?")

Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature ("What does the white whale symbolize?") ("What does this joke mean?") ("What do these lyrics mean?")

  • 1
    Keep in mind that the FAQ part that is editable from moderators is the "What kind of questions can I ask here?" part, the first part of the FAQ, which starts with "[Site name] is a Stack Exchange site for […]." – kiamlaluno Jan 26 '13 at 0:28
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In addition to other answers.

This site is for English Learners. Unlike most of (all?) the other sites at SE.
Besides usual questions "I have this problem, how can I solve it?", learners require assistance with learning process.

Think of a book about any subject. It can be of two distinct types:

  1. Reference, like a dictionary or a vocabulary;
  2. Tutorial, a step-by-step guide;

The major difference is about who's leading: with reference (likewise most SE sites), the asker is leading by formulating their question. With tutorial, the book is the leader.

Since English Language Learners are learners, they require a leader more often.

FAQ is the best candidate for a leading role.

Besides general questions about how to use the site, it must contain a comprehensive list or references, including:

It sounds a bit different to what other sites have, but I really think that if ELL does not have such thing, it will sooner or later transform into a subdivision of ELU. A worse subdivision.

  • 1
    I think having a list of resources right in the FAQ is a great idea. – Kit Z. Fox Feb 11 '13 at 14:27
4

ELL is a Question-and-Answer site for English Language Learners—speakers of any language who are working to master Standard English.

This isn’t a textbook. We can’t teach you English. But we can help you learn. We answer your questions, we explain what confuses you, we provide practical rules you can use every day.

We’re like your friend next door, who already took the class and helps you study for the test.

We welcome questions about

  • pronunciation How to make the words sound right
  • words and phrases The little differences in meaning and use you weren’t able to find in a dictionary
  • grammar How to change words and how to put them together correctly to make sentences
  • idioms Common phrases and expressions which have their own rules
  • register What different ‘styles’ of English to use—and not to use—at school, on the job, and with your friends

But this site is only about the ordinary rules of Standard English. We don’t accept questions about

  • the scholarly study of English The history, dialects, and linguistics of English are addressed at English Language & Usage.SE.
  • proofreading We can’t check your writing for mistakes.
  • translation We can advise you about single words or phrases, but that’s all.
  • composition Advice on how to write an essay or story may be found at Writers.SE.
  • literature Analysis of English literature isn’t suited to the Q&A format.

And questions have to be about the language, not just any matter which uses the language. Don’t ask us how to strike up a conversation with the cute girl at the corner table!

  • 1
    Can I ask for advice on how to greet the cute girl in a way that lets her know I'm interested? – Kit Z. Fox Feb 11 '13 at 14:26
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    @Kit That's a matter of linereading, not language. Migrate to histrionics.SE – StoneyB Feb 11 '13 at 15:04
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    And questions have to be about the language, not just any matter which uses the language. Don’t ask us how to strike up a conversation with the cute girl at the corner table! This is a fatal flaw of this site, defining or considering language to be a set of rules rather than communication. We use language to carry out things, such as how to strike up a conversation with the cute girl at the corner table! – GoDucks Feb 13 '16 at 8:59
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    Mastery of standard English should not be about rules or grammar or test-based "training", but about how to get things done in English, including self expression, including the carrying out of tasks, no matter how imperfectly it's accomplished. – GoDucks Feb 13 '16 at 9:03
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    Unfortunately the designs (in more ways than one) of SE is not set up to handle language and language learning in a realistic way. Close voting questions about how to greet people, about how to apologize, express disappointment, etc, many labelled as opinion-based or too broad, show the failings of SE as a site dealing with language. – GoDucks Feb 13 '16 at 9:08
3

I'm sure one of the reasons it's taken a while to get ELL off the starting blocks is that not everyone agrees it's possible/desirable to differentiate it from ELU. It's heartening to see that currently the only relevant item in the FAQ says...

ELL is for speakers of other languages learning English.

...which I'd extend with...

...asking questions which could reasonably be expected to be adequately answered by most native speakers of English.

As an example, “in response to” vs “for response to”? simply asks which preposition to use. I know that could be closed as General Reference on the grounds that "I am writing in response to" gets 2 million hits on Google, whereas the "for" version gets only 2 hits (one being the question itself!). But it may well not be actually deleted, so I do think in the context of ELU it's just "clutter".

At this stage, I can't see any good reason why the ELL FAQ should be different to existing ELU version. I certainly don't want to see ELL accepting proofreading requests, or questions that require knowledge of another language, for example.


There will always be "marginal" questions. Take, for example, “How dare you” vs “How do you dare”.

Almost any native speaker could provide the OP with the basic information he sought, but obviously few could match John Lawler's answer on the "analytical" level, and not everyone could come up with the precision of Amir's answer. But practically anyone could have given the accepted/top-rated answer.

To my mind, that question as it stands would have been a good candidate for ELL, and would have been adequately answered there even if John's and Amir's answers weren't present. If/when it got refined to the point where either/both of those answers became necessary, the question could be migrated to ELL.

1

Adding some more, things not necessarily accessible to every native speaker

On-topic:

  • Asking for expressions briefly conveying given meaning
  • Asking about subtle differences between close synonyms
  • Asking to classify expressions as formal/informal or offensive
  • Asking for help in understanding and using dictionaries and other resources

Off-topic:

  • Asking why given exception/rule exists (->ELU)
  • In-depth questions about archaic words and expressions (Brief "Is [X] archaic?" or "What is the modern counterpart to archaic [X]?" are okay.)
  • Etymology

On an unrelated note, how would you explain why What is the American street naming convention? [closed] is off-topic?

  • 1
    Personally, I close-voted because it's not about the language. It's about government regulation. Why Fahrenheit vs. Celsius? Why "ground floor" vs. "first floor"? Why odd/even house numbering in Europe? – bytebuster Feb 4 '13 at 4:43

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