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There is some dispute about editing questions here on ELL, specifically correcting grammar and spelling. Multiple Q&As exist, with different and mostly incompatible answers:

  • When should I correct an ELL's grammar? (May 2015)

    I think it's perfectly reasonable to correct the OP's errors if they're not inherently part of the usage being queried.

  • How to salvage/improve questions: a guide by example (July 2015)
    Showing a few questions that have been salvaged by extreme editing.

  • Is it really pointless to edit questions to use correct English on ELL? (December 2015)

    If correcting the grammar makes the questions easier to understand, I think the edits are worthwhile. If the question is easy enough to understand without the edits, I don't think we should correct the mistakes because it gives a false sense of what level of fluency the asker has, and often the sorts of mistakes can give a clue as to how the asker's native language may be influencing their understanding of English.

  • What's our editing policy? (February 2017)

    I think the policy for suggested edits doesn't change much from site to site [suggesting it is not different here].

  • How far does one go when copyediting? (December 2018)

    For questions I avoid fixing grammar here so that answerers have a good idea of the level of the OP’s English. But there is still quite a bit that I would fix [..]

    Linked in the comments below, this answer goes into more detail about fixing both questions and answers.

  • Editing questions (May 2022)

    • [accepted:] Yes. That is general Stack Exchange policy and there's no reason for us to deviate from that.
    • [more upvotes:] On this stack there is a general policy that we do not edit to correct grammar or spelling in a question, because those errors can give important clues to the English skills of the OP.

A few months ago I received an email from the ELL moderator team, pointing out that while my edits were appreciated, they obscured the English proficiency of the authors, and I was kindly asked to no longer correct the spelling of questions.

Now I'm seeing edits pass by in the Suggested Edits review queue that correct typos again (among other things), and would like to know, once and for all, what this site's current policy exactly is.


I believe the answers that seem to correspond most with the viewpoint from the email are one by ColleenV:

If correcting the grammar makes the questions easier to understand, I think the edits are worthwhile. If the question is easy enough to understand without the edits, I don't think we should correct the mistakes [..]

..and one by Laurel:

I try to fix mistakes in titles (except if it’s part of what’s being asked about), since it looks good if the question shows up in the HNQ or somewhere else. [..] For questions I avoid fixing grammar here so that answerers have a good idea of the level of the OP’s English. But there is still quite a bit that I would fix:

  • Formatting. [..] such as adding line breaks, removing inappropriate code format and changing bare urls to [text](url). [..]
  • Spelling, except where it’s the focus of the question. [..]
  • Digressions. If the question is being bogged down by a lot of information that is not relevant to the question, then it’s often wise to remove it. [..]

Could these last two (complete and consolidated) answers be considered site policy? If so, can we mark it as such (using the tag, or something similar)? Does it need to be expanded on?

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    I've written about my interpretation of the current ELL policy (as I understand it) before. However, I don't necessarily like that policy, though I will follow it until we replace it with a different one. There would be a lot of benefits to fixing all the errors; the only downsides I know are that it hides the OP's proficiency level (but the info is in the revision history—not that you should be writing for that specific person over all future readers) and creates a sense of incongruity (which you could just ignore).
    – Laurel Mod
    Mar 6 at 18:29
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    My impression is that nearly all experienced ELL users have similar opinions to those of ColleenV and Laurel. A different question is whether to make this the official policy of the site, or whether it's enough to refer people to their answers.
    – gotube Mod
    Mar 6 at 18:56
  • @gotube I'm only really asking for a clear policy, whether that's indicated here or in another place. Laurel's answer seems like a good starting point—if what it articulates is the consensus here.
    – Joachim
    Mar 6 at 19:29
  • @Laurel I am thinking a community wiki might be a good opportunity to flesh out a policy (or perhaps several answers, for voters, although I'm not sure that would work well). If you think that could work, would it be okay if I were to copy the answer you linked to as a basis?
    – Joachim
    Mar 6 at 19:32
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    I like Laurel's mention of formatting. Especially, I think it's totally appropriate when the OP has clearly tried to do some formatting and messed it up. Or, e.g., a bit of style that helps remove confusion without really altering the OP's tone, like "In Around the World in 80 days, Fogg says I forgot about the date line. What did he mean" -> "In Around the World in 80 Days, Fogg says 'I forgot about the date line.' What did he mean?" Adding the italics and quote marks helps us make sense of the sentence Mar 7 at 20:22
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    I think typos and formatting are almost always fair game. My objection to completely rewriting questions to be in standard English has always been twofold: It removes what the learner actually asked, and replaces it with someone's best guess, and it removes cues that help answerers remember that there's a language barrier.
    – ColleenV
    Mar 7 at 21:44

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