This question attracted at least three downvotes, and was closed (it's since been reopened)...

[Question Title] Is the meaning of costed correctly refer time in here?

i am having following construction.

working with these steps costed much time, but they were worthwhile to get a good outcome.

does the word "costed" refers consumed?

(I've reproduced the original text for those who don't have the rep to view it from the question itself).

I find it hard to believe that ELL users with sufficient rep to downvote or closevote should really have any problem understanding that original text. The title makes it clear the OP is asking about meaning, not verb tense. And the last line makes it clear he wants to use the verb to cost to mean to consume.

I was prompted to check back on that user's other questions, and I have to say most of them struck me as "quite good" (literally, not in the sarcastic BrE sense of "pretty bad actually").

But I was also struck by the fact that most of those questions contained glaring grammatical and other errors which were incidental to the usages being asked about. That in itself isn't surprising (the OP is a learner, after all). But those errors had not been corrected by those of us who should know better.

My text here isn't a Question, it's a Proposition put up for discussion. So feel free to up/downvote according to whether you agree or disagree with my position, which is...

1: ELL users who have the necessary rep should be more assiduous in correcting errors in questions

2: Questions should not normally be closed as Not Constructive or Not A Real Question just because you don't understand them, until the OP or some other [more insightful?] ELL user has had at least a day to respond to requests for clarification. Obviously, if you do understand what the OP is geting at, but you still think one of those reasons applies, by all means just closevote as soon as you like.

  • Something to strive for: top editors on ELL
    – Shog9
    Apr 15, 2013 at 16:56
  • 1
    FF encouraging people not to closevote? What is this world coming to? :)
    – Martha
    Apr 15, 2013 at 18:48
  • Also, related: Wait a few minutes before closing new users' questions?
    – Martha
    Apr 15, 2013 at 18:49
  • @Martha I had not read the post linked in your comment above, thanks. It's all very well said.
    – user485
    Apr 15, 2013 at 22:40
  • 6
    @Martha: Most likely I've closevoted more often than you, I know! And I can't deny that sometimes I've closevoted in haste, and wished later I could reverse my vote (once someone else has shown there is merit in a question). Partly, perhaps, this is one of those "Do as I say, not as I do" situations. But I also think it's more relevant on ELL than ELU. I've never been happy with basic / badly-phrased questions on ELU - but they're what we should expect from learners here on ELL, so I think the onus is more on us to fix problems in phrasing. Apr 16, 2013 at 17:18
  • @Shog9 But that page doesn't say which posts those users have edited. :)
    – apaderno
    Apr 18, 2013 at 9:18

3 Answers 3


I agree in principle that we should try and improve posts where it is obvious what the OP is asking for, and the edit clearly improves, but does not change the nature of the question.

Where that is not possible - for example when it is not clear what the question is asking, or the question appears to be nonsensical - close votes are a valid mechanism to improve those bad posts.

In this case, none of the three sentences (including the final sentence which asks the question) or the question title were grammatical, making it actually really hard to see what was being asked. There's also no indication as to what other research the OP has done to solve their problem, nor context as to where the quoted passage comes from, making it not only a question that's difficult to understand, but also a generally bad quality question too.

With regards to your statement:

I find it hard to believe that ELL users with sufficient rep to downvote or closevote should really have any problem understanding that original text. The title makes it clear the OP is asking about meaning, not verb tense. And the last line makes it clear he wants to use the verb to cost to mean to consume.

Firstly, I didn't have any idea what the OP was asking for. That's why I eventually chose to close the question as Not a Real Question.

Secondly the first commenter on the post (WendiKidd) also explicitly states that she didn't understand the question:

I'm sorry, but I don't really understand your question. Can you give us a little more context, or perhaps make it more clear what you're asking so we can give you a good answer? I don't see the word 'consumed' anywhere else in the sentence, so 'costed' can't refer to it; therefore I'm not really sure what you mean. I will say this: in your second sentence, it should say cost, not costed. - WendiKidd

Thirdly the second commenter (jwpat7) apparently got the wrong end of the stick too. From his answer, it looks like he, like me, read the question thus:

I have found this sentence which contains a word I don't understand:

working with these steps costed much time, but they were worthwhile to get a good outcome.

I think the word costed might mean consumed, but I am not sure. Does it mean that?

To which a valid response is:

  1. You can look up the word costed in a dictionary (which is off-topic)

  2. The word costed in that sentence is ungrammatical, so the whole premise of the question is wrong (you should be asking what the word cost means) - i.e. the question is Not A Real Question.

This is clear by his comment which he answers by stating the definition of costed and then telling the OP that the sentence he's reading it from is wrong, and should be using cost instead.

Also see wiktionary's usage note for costed: «The only non-proscribed use is in the sense of “to give a cost to”. Where proper grammar is expected, use cost instead for non-specialized past-tense and past-participle uses such as answering the question “How much did it cost?”» – jwpat7

Indeed, even the third comment on the post - your own - can be read in such a way that it sounds like a scathing criticism of the quality of the post - although I'm not sure in hindsight that you meant it this way.

@jwpat7: That's now three of us who've all posted links to different sites making the same point about "costed". The grammar obviously bothers us at least as much as OP's actual question (is the meaning okay?). – FumbleFingers 1 hour ago edit

Which I (mistakenly) read as:

  1. Three of us have pointed out that your grammar is wrong.

  2. The grammar obviously bothers us.

  3. We are also bothered by your question itself.

This was the point at which I first read the question. The question was sitting there as -1/+0 with three comments which from my perspective were pretty unanimous in their dislike for the question (although in retrospect I think I completely misread your comment), and given the poorness of the question at the time, I posted my comment suggesting that the post needed to be rewritten to be a good quality question, because several people (including myself) were unclear what the question was actually asking.

Normally with such questions, I'd just rewrite them to be better, but as someone who didn't know what the OP was actually asking for, I felt unable to do so in this case. The question looked poor, and from where I was sitting, three other people seemed to think the question was poor or misconceived too.

20 minutes later, the question now having gathered an additional 2 downvotes (now sitting at -3/+0) and having seen no change to the question itself - I voted to close the question as Not a Real Question in a last-ditch attempt to encourage the author to correct the question.

All I can say is that my tactic worked. The question has now since been edited (by you) into a question that now makes sense. All of the downvotes have been removed, the post has been reopened, gathered positive votes and now your post is a better answer to the newly devised question.

  • 2
    I'd already answered the question before I posted that comment to jwpat. And you'll note that my comment specifically points out that (so far as I'm concerned) the actual question being asked was "is the meaning okay?". I'd have thought the clear implication of that comment was "Let's not get so hung up on OP's grammar - let's just address the actual question". Okay, I'll grant that it's possible to say there's a difference in meaning between (past tense) cost and costed, but it seems perverse to assume that's what OP was asking, given his limited command of English. Apr 10, 2013 at 23:53
  • 2
    Well, I guess you've made your point, and I've made mine. Granted, Wendikidd's comment said she didn't understand the question, but she did end it with the words I will say this: in your second sentence, it should say cost, not costed. Clearly she wasn't thrown by that trivial tense error - and nor should anyone else have been. They should surely read any comments by mods before giving up on the question. Apr 11, 2013 at 0:07

Those two actions aren't mutually exclusive - y'all need more editing and more close-voting.

If you understand the question well enough to answer it, you probably understand it well enough to write it in something approaching intelligible English as well. If you don't, you might want to re-think your plan to post an answer. Closing makes this explicit: until the question is fixed, no one can answer. This makes it a useful tool for encouraging the folks best able to fix things to get in the habit of doing so.

Of course, the best-case is a question that gets fixed (or doesn't need to be) quickly enough that it never has to be closed... However, that's not always feasible - so closing the question relieves the urgency somewhat.

  • Fix it if you can.
  • Close it if you can't.
  • Reopen if someone else fixed it.

My suggestions based on this question's activity:

  1. If you don't understand the question, comment as much as possible as to what is unclear and request from the OP a clarification or more context. This worked OK in the subject question (WendiKidd's original comment.)

  2. If you think you understand the question, answer it giving your interpretation and answer. (I tried, anyway.) The OP can decide if its correct/helpful, and if not it may help the OP to revise the question.

  3. Unless you are the OP, DO NOT edit the question itself, based on what you think was meant. If you are wrong, you will knock other answerers off-track. Or you have to try to figure out what was written before or after a question edit. Give the OP a chance to explain further.

  4. WAIT 24 HOURS before close-voting for not a real question, not constructive or off-topic unless it's clearly so. Since the OP is learning English, give 'em a chance to improve the question. As far as I can imagine there is no hurry.

  5. If you think an answer is wrong, its OK to say so in the comments. But if you get into what is correct instead, write another answer that you believe is correct. If it is all in the comments, it is just plain confusing. If in depth discussion is needed, volunteer to take it to chat.

Above all else, the most important point is to answer the question. That's why the OP is at this site. Its OK to add an additional detailed explanation, as long as its specifically related to the answer. But getting into detailed grammar points that you would find over in EL&U probably conflicts with the purpose of ELL, and depending on skill level the OP may be confused rather than helped.

Of course its important for questions and answers on any SE site to be correct and useful, and some other editing may be done for this purpose, but again waiting 24 hours will not hurt anything.

  • 1
    I agree with most of this, but not the 24-hour wait. 24 hours from now, the question will have scrolled down the page, and I'm unlikely to go back and visit it. If a question gets closed early, it can be reopened, or the O.P. can always ask an improved question.
    – J.R. Mod
    Apr 11, 2013 at 7:38
  • 1
    The third point should be changed. Even if somebody doesn't understand what the OP is asking, there are parts that can still be edited: Changing a word to be capitalized doesn't require to understand the question, nor does removing a non necessary that.
    – apaderno
    Apr 11, 2013 at 8:33
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno I think what user3169 means is, don't make huge edits that possibly change the meaning of the question because you think you know what the OP was trying to say. Minor changes are always a good thing, and I definitely agree we should be more proactive about editing our questions to reflect these things!
    – WendiKidd
    Apr 11, 2013 at 19:49
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno Yes, I meant edits that could affect the meaning or intent of the question. Also grammar errors that are likely due to the English skill level of the OP should be addressed in comments rather than automatically edited in the question. Regarding your comment "nor does removing a non necessary that", the OP may not know its unnecessary, so its better to mention the point in comments.
    – user485
    Apr 11, 2013 at 20:59
  • @WendiKidd That should always be the case: Edits should not change the meaning of a post. It is true for every SE site.
    – apaderno
    Apr 11, 2013 at 21:02
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno Agreed! The discussion seems to contain a gray area though, because if the question is nearly unintelligible then can you be sure you know what the OP means? You might think you're not changing the meaning of the question, but you actually do. So I think all user3169 is doing here is reminding people not to make those edits unless you're really sure (which, as you say, is SE policy :))
    – WendiKidd
    Apr 11, 2013 at 21:08
  • 1
    @WendiKidd Understood. I said 24 hours as an example of waiting longer, but this could be set to an agreed upon reasonable time period. Keep in mind that the OP may live in a different part of the world, and can't respond so quickly. Meaning if you allow 2 hours that are between 2AM and 4AM in the OP's time zone, it won't help.
    – user485
    Apr 11, 2013 at 21:11
  • 1
    @user3169 Regarding grammar edits vs. pointing them out in comments: actually this was brought up earlier on in beta, and SE staff said that you should always make the edits to clear up the post, not leave them there for the OP's benefit. The argument was that the site has to be useful to everyone who comes across it later, not just the OP. Unfortunately I can't find that question now, but I remember I was making the argument for your side and was told not to proceed that way. I'll try again to find the question later.
    – WendiKidd
    Apr 11, 2013 at 21:12
  • 1
    @WendiKidd Yes, I understand the need for the archived material to be correct. I am only saying it does not need to happen immediately. At least allow some time for the OP's benefit. Then if no edit from the OP or additional comment, go ahead and edit it.
    – user485
    Apr 11, 2013 at 21:15
  • +1 I like the 24 hours rule. This is going to give another opportunity for original posters/new users to improve on his/her questions or to add more details. Now, if we don’t see any activity after 24 hours, then maybe we can see what can be done next. Apr 12, 2013 at 13:04
  • 6
    #3 and #4 are terrible advice. If everyone answering has a different opinion as to what the actual question means, that's a trainwreck in progress - refraining from editing and closing amounts to pulling up a lawn chair so you can watch the carnage play out in comfort. If you can't (or won't) fix the question, then close it - waiting around for a fix from the asker (who may be the least well-equipped to do so - perhaps here even more than elsewhere) is a recipe for a site full of broken questions.
    – Shog9
    Apr 15, 2013 at 16:31

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