So far, there are two questions that seems asked about rephrasing a sentence that could be used in a legal context.

Should the FAQ say something about this type of questions (i.e. the questions are on-topic/off-topic)?

Saying that those questions are off-topic would mean that answering those questions is outside the purpose of the site.

In the case there is no reason to declare those questions off-topic:

  • Should the FAQ suggest the OP to declare when the given answers are used to change text that is going to be used in some legal documents?

  • Mi Yodeya has the following note, in its FAQ:

    Like Wikipedia, this site makes no guarantee of validity, and does not offer professional (particularly rabbinic) advice. Treat information you find here as if it came from a crowd of your friends.

    Should our FAQ say something similar about questions asked for sentences that will be used in some legal context?

  • I've just closevoted the one that's currently still open. I think both of them are Off Topic "proofreading", but the fact that the (same) OP is obviously trying to draw up some form of legal contract is irrelevant to whether or not we should keep it open. I just don't see any evidence that the OP (or anyone else) wishes to (or would) learn anything from the answer - he just wants to get it right. Apr 20, 2013 at 21:20
  • Notice that declaring some questions as off-topic merely means that answering those questions is outside the purpose of the site. The fact the OP is asked to rephrase sentence used in a legal context is probably irrelevant for closing those specific questions, but I am not just asking about those specific questions. I am sorry to disagree, but "I am editing some text that will be used for legal purposes" is relevant: If I say that, I am surely going to get answers that are different from the ones I would get if I don't say that.
    – apaderno
    Apr 21, 2013 at 5:03

2 Answers 2


I think the problem is important; but I think the proposed remedy is the wrong one.

It seems to me that questions which turn on the use and syntactical deployment of “terms of art” peculiar to any discipline except ordinary colloquial, academic and literary Engish language and usage are beyond our purview. We do not hold ourselves out as experts in mathematics, law, geography, information technology, sociology and the like, any more than we hold ourselves out as experts in Latin, Russian, Farsi or Urdu.

This is particularly true of legal usage, where courts in each jurisdiction exercise authority over what any word, phrase, sentence or mark of punctuation actually means. We cannot put ourselves in the position of giving legal advice to our visitors.

I believe that these questions should be Off Topic. This may be noted in the usual SE manner in the What can I ask here? section of the FAQ:

But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.

  • technical language used in a particular professional or academic field.
  • The part of the FAQ that is editable normally lists the topics that are welcome or not. That is what I was talking of when I asked, "Should the FAQ say something about this type of questions?"
    – apaderno
    Apr 19, 2013 at 17:04
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno Yah, my objection was to the 'disclaimer'. Apr 19, 2013 at 17:45
  • I'd be pretty sure that what the OP actually meant by the Legal Advisor will carry out the best service in Q1 is what the legal people often refer to as operating on a best endeavours basis. If that had been the only problem with the text, and if the OP had bothered to tell us exactly what meaning he intended, I'd have no problem supplying that as an answer. It's a bad Q because it seeks "writing advice", not because it's about legal/technical language. Apr 20, 2013 at 21:44
  • @FumbleFingers I can say with some confidence that ABC means XYZ and will do so to you and WendiKidd and Bill Franke and any other reasonable layman. I cannot say with any confidence that it will mean that to any Court, what similar expressions have been held to mean in any governing Opinion, or whether or not it conforms to what is required by law in any jurisdiction; and I will not put myself in peril of being regarded as having given legal advice without proper authority. Apr 20, 2013 at 22:11
  • Well, obviously I'll have to include the standard IANAL disclaimer before my next sentence! But I think you can rely on the implications of Robert's answer (HINAL either! :), and assume that Stack Exchange itself would vigourously (and I've no doubt successfully) defend both itself and its contributors from anyone who thought they had a claim against it/you for giving dodgy legal advice. And let's not forget Bill Clinton's "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is". Law is not language, obviously. Apr 20, 2013 at 22:29
  • Well said, Stoney; it all comes back to context. Seemingly suburban words can take on very specialized meanings; for example, a word like icing can mean something vastly different to the paramedic, the baker, the salesman, the mafia member, and the hockey player. This is not a problem with legal language per se, it's related to any kind of professional jargon. The narrower and more specialized the context, the less likely the question will be of interest and use to the community at large.
    – J.R. Mod
    Apr 20, 2013 at 23:41

My vote is no.

I'm just not a big fan of plastering a site full of disclaimers and disavowing anything that might potentially be wrong on the Internet… especially where so such promise is implied.

Stack Exchange hosts user-contributed content. Unless a site hosts content with inherently strong moral/legal implications, I just don't see the benefit of spotlighting such an esoteric issue in the faq.

  • Notice that "Should the FAQ say something about this type of questions?" was also referring to eventual notes about those questions being on-topic/off-topic.
    – apaderno
    Apr 19, 2013 at 16:56
  • I agree with this position anyway - but even if I didn't, obviously your position within Stack Exchange strongly implies that "TPTB" aren't worried about being sued by some idiot who used advice from ELL to draw up a legal contract that went horribly wrong. We might (if we're lucky) help some people to learn English. But we can't teach them Law, or Common Sense. Apr 20, 2013 at 21:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .