Recently, I’ve been seeing a lot of questions that follow this format:


Sentence with 1 or 2 words changed

Which one is correct?

In some cases, I’ve been flagging these questions for ‘proofreading’ when one is wrong grammatically and the other one is correct; this could easily be checked using a website. But then there are some where both could be correct, but they have a slightly different meaning, and in these cases I haven’t flagged them.

Is this the correct thing to do, or am I flagging inappropriately?

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    There's another close reason that might apply. Questions should include any research the author has done and let us know what they already know about their topic. To write a really good answer, we need to know why someone is asking. Why are they having trouble distinguishing the two sentences? Is there a feature of their native language that makes it difficult? You could also look to see if that question has been asked before and close it as a duplicate. Addressing every variation of every possible sentence with simple past versus past perfect, for example, is not productive in this format.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 13, 2022 at 14:22
  • @ColleenV This is what I also what I go off of; if it's just plainly asking 'this or that' with no further context, I tend to flag it
    – Buzzyy
    Apr 13, 2022 at 18:06
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    I have never thought much of the "research required" idea on this stack, and this comment makes me think a bit less of it. I do not see this as a good reason to close such questions. Apr 13, 2022 at 18:10

3 Answers 3


If the question is only the format given without any explanation, nor demonstration of research or significant thought put into it, then it's off-topic for proof-reading. I mostly just close them, expecting the close message to be enough feedback for them to either improve the question, or not ask similar questions in the future.

If it's a topic where I don't think an Internet search would yield much, I might give the OP the benefit of the doubt and drop a comment asking them to improve the question to include their thoughts or what particular aspect they're unsure about. I may still also close the question.

If it's a new user, I nearly always leave a helpful comment.


I strongly disagree with some explicit assumptions in the question:

In some cases, I’ve been flagging these questions for ‘proofreading’ when one is wrong grammatically and the other one is correct; this could easily be checked using a website.

Phooey! You cannot look things up on a website unless you know the name of the issue that's confusing you. And if you knew the name of the particular issue, it probably wouldn't be confusing you. It's not easy to look up grammar information on the web unless you already know all the meta-language. And even of you know the meta-language in your own language, it won't be the same in English. And even if you've learned some English meta-language, there's a good chance it won't be the same meta-language as used by other books, websites or scholars.

Proof-reading questions are meant to be off-topic just in those cases where the Original Poster does not highlight which issue or part of the sentence is confusing them. If the OP does in fact give two sentences with just one or two words that are different: that is highlighting exactly the issue that is confusing them. Just because they do not know the name of the issue or how to articulate it conversationally is irrelevant. They have highlighted the specific issue to the readers.

No need to shoot users for assuming one might be correct either, even if both of them are (correct or incorrect).

There is nothing wrong per se with short, simple questions if the issue at hand is clear for readers.

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    When I say 'looked up on a website', I meant that the websites where you can put a sentence in and it'll correct it for you, such as grammarly, not that you can search up the term. Even then, I think you could search X + Y or X?
    – Buzzyy
    Apr 23, 2022 at 7:25

I have been answering such questions and intend to continue. I see no reason to flag them whether either, both, or neither sentence is correct. I also see no reason to close such questions.

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    Hey downvoters! We're all here to learn and discuss. How about dropping a comment on why you disagree?
    – gotube Mod
    Apr 13, 2022 at 17:53
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    @gotube On meta, downvotes indicate disagreement, not "this answer is bad". I don't think anyone is obligated to explain why they disagree with answering questions that don't meet ELL's very tolerant quality requirements. See Details Please or How much effort is enough? We all have sympathy for learners, but encouraging low quality, low effort "which one is right" questions is not a good idea.
    – ColleenV
    Apr 13, 2022 at 18:29
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    @ColleenV I don't feel the OP's question was about whether to answer off-topic questions, but whether any "X or Y" type question is off-topic by default. I don't think they are. I've laid out my thoughts in my own answer. I'm encouraging discussion. If we want to be productive here, "I disagree" is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of it.
    – gotube Mod
    Apr 13, 2022 at 18:35
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    @gotube The downvotes are on the content of this answer, not on the content of the question. I gave an educated guess on why folks were downvoting, and why they weren't commenting (there's not much to say other than "I disagree with this assertion".)
    – ColleenV
    Apr 14, 2022 at 19:00
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    You got my upvote. Apr 18, 2022 at 23:32
  • @gotube Voting is anonymous, downvoters can choose whether or not to leave a comment.
    – user150280
    Jun 11, 2022 at 5:46

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