Is there a particular reason this particular stackexchange site is so brutal to its contributors? It's almost at StackOverflow levels of hostility.

Is it perhaps intercultural mismatches in expectations for politeness and decorum? Is it overzealousness, or does the site just attract folks with limited tolerance for what they see as incorrect (even though they all disagree about what is correct)?

how does one have a decent experience here? at least without providing a link to a dictionary site on each and every word you type?

  • 7
    I see you have posted three answers, all three standing at zero score, and only one being +1/-1. Neither answer seems to contain 'brutal' or hostile comments. Could you edit your post to include some instances of hostility, so we can figure out what's wrong? My personal impression is ELL is too lenient.
    – M.A.R.
    Jun 12, 2019 at 20:02
  • If you see violations of the Code of Conduct, you should flag it for moderator attention. Keep in mind that we often have a language barrier, so assume good intentions. Still though, flag it.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 12, 2019 at 21:00
  • 5
    Please provide actual evidence of this brutality. If you don't want to name and shame, you can post a screenshot of the comment(s) with the username cancelled. Out of all the sites of which I am a member, ELL is not just the most tolerant and forgiving towards newcomers, it's definitely the friendliest.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 13, 2019 at 4:49
  • 3
    I’m taking this as final evidence that no matter how warm, welcoming, and inclusive a stack site is, it will be inevitably accused of being hostile. I think the reality is that any curation that helps the build a library which disseminates useful information to the world at large will be perceived as hostility by someone. It’s either a free-for-all destined for the Yahoo! Answers tarpits or endless defense against such accusations.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 17, 2019 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


Brutal? Cut-throat? Hostile? Those are strong accusations.

I don't see anything wrong with leaving a comment if an answer is incorrect. Of course, the comments should be civil and constructive, but it's better to correct erroneous information than to lead our learning community astray with assertions that are not accurate.

As for "without providing a link to a dictionary site on each and every word you type," I think that's a bit of emotional hyperbole. That said, links to dictionaries or other credible references are encouraged here, and with good reason. When talking about language, anyone can say anything – but how can we judge if someone's assertion is factual or wrong?

For example, let's say someone asks:

Word for a choice between three options

My daughter is trying to choose between three jobs, none of which appeal to her very much. What is a good word to describe her situation? I've heard the phrase "between a rock and hard place," but that seems more appropriate for a choice between two bad options.

I could leave an answer like this:

You could consider using the word trilemma.

but trilemma is not a common word, and some folks might even wonder if it's an established word, or a neologism I've just made up. Why send everyone wondering about the legitimacy of my answer scurrying for their dictionaries? Why not just slake their curiosity and bolster my credibility at the same time? That's why a better answer would look more like this:

You could consider using the word trilemma. Wordnik defines this word as:

trilemma (noun)
A situation that requires a choice among three options that are or seem equally unfavorable or mutually exclusive.
A state of things in which it is difficult to determine which one of three courses to pursue.

I might improve my answer even more by adding something about how common this word is, and, if it's not very common, demonstrate how it still gets used from time to time:

This word isn't nearly as common as dilemma (see the Ngram); however, that doesn't mean it never gets used. For example, a recent article called The trilemma of Big Tech reports:

The economist Dani Rodrik has framed the discussion around the state of the world economy as a trilemma, where hyperglobalisation, democratic policies and national sovereignty are mutually incompatible.

By including references and links to outside sources, we bolster the credibility of our assertions, and we make it easier for curious learners to learn more about the topic at hand.

As for how to have a better time here, I'd say this: regard any comments you get as though they were meant to help improve the site, and not meant as a personal attack. Many people leave comments hoping to nudge new contributors toward providing more sound and helpful answers, which improves the site as a whole. Don't think, "Why are they attacking me?" Instead think, "How can I use this feedback to improve my answer?"


I do not think it means what you think it means.


ELL is far nicer than some of the other sites; however I will agree we have a very low tolerance for poor quality questions, even when asked in good faith, and perhaps even less tolerance for new contributors who answer them, even when answered in good faith.

I suppose the reason for this is to encourage better questions, and to discourage answers to questions that break the rules. It doesn't really work, but that's no reason to stop trying.

The only time I've ever seen rudeness on here is when someone answers a question in a way that someone else thinks is clearly wrong. Then discussions can get pretty heated, but are often quickly moderated out of visibility.

(Edit) I will add that new contributors do have a fairly short, shallow learning curve with regard to answers that are ambiguous, unsubstantiated, poorly written, or incomplete. SE is not like other sites that allow random comments -- answers are supposed to be akin to dictionary entries, in that they not only answer the person asking the question, but also help anyone who searches for answers to similar questions, any time in the future.

Once new contributors get this, they can usually rely on common sense. You don't have to provide links to reference every word you use, but it's not a bad idea to do this with any key words in the question. Example sentences are nice. It's also good to consider any exceptions where the answer may not apply: unusual situations, dialects, archaic speech, etc.

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