I feel like I am flogging a death horse and the dead horse is telling me to keep doing it. Once again, what I would really like to say has been said here: J.R.'s eloquently argued and sufficiently convincing plea: Have we forgotten our mission?

Let's get practical. I have noticed a couple of recent posts on the edge of being closed which I think have specific on-topic issues about English identified and shouldn't be closed. I invite people who have voted to close or consider them close-worthy to work together and see if those questions can be improved.

Is it correct to say "demand somebody that something be done"?

This question as of now is sitting on three close votes. OP is asking whether the construction demand someone that something be done* is correct. There is a very informative comment under the question and the same information is explained in further detail in the accepted answer. OP may not know the correct form should be "demand (that) present subjunctive" and they would like to know the correct usage of "demand". Or they know "demand + present subjunctive" but are uncertain how to build a sentence with an action patient in the mix. Either way, I don't see how else the OP could have asked their question. Unless I am posting on the wrong site and this is not English Language Learners, we can't expect learners to know everything. And I believe the OP provided enough context for us to understand what they didn't understand. If you have voted to close how would you improve that question?

What is the common meaning of the word smell when used as a metaphor or in idioms?

This question similarly also sits on three close votes. I thought it was sufficiently clear that OP is asking about the figurative usage of "smell". Granted, this question could be answered with an explanation based on a dictionary entry, but I don't think this line from J.R. has sunk in with anyone who voted to close: "The O.P. is requesting clarification of how these words would be used – and we send the O.P. to a dictionary? C'mon, folks. We can do better than that. Shame!"

Usage questions are tricky and not evident even with a dictionary. The OP of this question at least apparently could use some explanation on the literal and figurative senses of "smell". How would you improve this question?

Is it correct to say "don't leave active fans or air conditioners directly facing your face when sleeping"

I see problems puzzling the OP specifically identified in this hanging-by-a-thread question (4 closevotes) which leads me to believe it is not a proofreading question. How would you improve this question in a way that it better solicits helpful answers?

Who or what do you read the "among others" refers to in this context?

Granted, this question could be a little clearer by the OP telling us why they are having difficulty making the connection between "others" and "controversy" but as it stands it seems perfectly clear to me that is where they are having trouble. So what other context would you add to this question?

Help me out here. Help the OPs out here. Let's talk about how these questions and questions like these could be improved.

  • 3
    They look fine to me. If posters knew how to write a perfect question in English they would presumably be on ELU not ELL.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 10:58
  • It would be easier to answer this question if you provided categories. As is, we have to read through them, and figure out what exactly they are. I asked a similar question to this one two or three posts back, and got basically no good answer (as far as I'm concerned.). I was told: ask for clarification, vote to close or edit. Harumph, sometimes that does not cut the mustard.
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 19:29
  • @Lambie You mean close reason categories? Hmm let me think how to do that.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 20:28
  • No, I don't mean giving close reason categories. I mean categorizing those different examples....:)
    – Lambie
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 22:04
  • 2
    Something about it feels "off" to me, but I wonder if instead of saying "check a dictionary and come back" (full disclosure, I told someone that recently), someone who is not the OP could edit in dictionary definitions and highlight where they overlap? It's kind of taking the question out of the OP's hands, but at the same time, might make it a better question that would still probably get answers the OP is looking for. (Apologies if I've missed community guidelines that address this already.)
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 16:57
  • @DanGetz Wholeheartedy agree. I have been a heavy editor but I tend to focus only on grammar, formatting and tags. It is only recently that I have started to rephrase questions in a fundamental way that makes them clearer about what OP is asking. Some veteran ELL contributors are much better editors and I have a long way to go with that. I think the practice of editing in helpful and clarifying information is in accordance with SE's spirit that questions, answers, and moderation all come from the community, for the community, and by the community. Collective effort.
    – Eddie Kal
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 17:06
  • @DanGetz there is something of a paradox here as if it is obvious how to make it sensible then editing is superfluous and if it is not obvious then it is harmful.
    – mdewey
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 10:38
  • @mdewey for many questions I agree. But would you consider definitions to be superfluous to a "I don't know the difference between these similar words" Q? Yes we can all look up the definitions, and it would be interesting and helpful to know the asker's thoughts. But if the asker isn't giving us clarify, editing in a summary of the definitions and where they appear to overlap might help? This is assuming that "what does the dictionary say?" is not an on-topic Q so the answer to that should go in the Q, not the A, but "what context is the dictionary not giving me?" is an on-topic Q.
    – Dan Getz
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 13:21
  • 2
    The asker doesn't know the answer to their question is obvious because they don't know the answer. I think some people are a bit trigger-happy with close votes on questions that turn out to be answerable with a dictionary, or turn out to be proofreading questions, or turn out to be a variation of the same mistake that's been explained on the site twenty times before. But how is the asker supposed to know that? Sometimes it's obvious due diligence hasn't been exercised, but often those are perfectly valid questions that just so happen to have an easy answer the asker has missed. Commented Sep 21, 2020 at 19:04


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