So lately we've been discussing how to encourage more ELL participation, and StoneyB brought up the fact that, while we can easily reward answers with bounties, there's not much beyond voting that we can do to reward truly excellent questions.

Well, that's about to change! I'm excited to introduce the first monthly ELL Question Spotlight, where top questions are nominated for recognition by our users! If you see a really great question that you think deserves more attention, please come nominate it here. We want to encourage our users to ask interesting, well-thought-out questions, because we wouldn't have a quality site without them. So let's recognize those who do!

This is how the process will work, at least the first time around. If you have any thoughts as to how the process could be improved as the month progresses, please leave a comment on this post and we'll take that into account for next month!

Nomination Process

For the rest of the month of October, keep an eye out for truly stellar questions. When you find a really great one that you think deserves more attention, come post a link to it as an answer to this question! It would also be great if you explain why you think the question is worthy of recognition. You should nominate a question when:

  1. The question is very interesting to you, and you think others should be made aware of it.
  2. The original posting date on the question falls between October 1st, 2013, and October 31st, 2013.
  3. The question is not your own question.

For now, you may nominate as many questions as you like for the duration of the month. If we see a need to set a limit on the number of nominations per user, that can be modified in the future. To nominate:

  1. Post the link to the question as an answer to this post.
  2. Ideally explain why you think this question is deserving of recognition.
  3. Please use a separate answer for each nomination.

Voting Process

Be sure to check this post periodically (it might help to sort the answers by newest) to see if a new nomination has been made. The way we will determine the best questions is by the number of net votes it has; that is, upvotes minus downvotes. So when you read a nomination, click through and read the question. If you agree it's great and deserves its time in the spotlight, upvote it! You can always upvote the answers to this meta post as well, if you think a nomination is very deserving, but note that this won't factor into the question's score.

Spotlight Winners

When the new month begins, the votes from all nominated questions will be tallied. The top 3 questions will be announced in a featured meta post, and their posters congratulated. It'll be a nice bit of extra attention for those who really go the extra mile in putting effort into asking great questions, and it will put our best questions out there for the world to see. In addition, having examples of great questions will help new users learn what really makes a question excellent.

After the October winners are announced, the November nominations post will open up, and the process will start again (this time with only questions posted in November being eligible). Hopefully everyone has a lot of fun picking out questions they really enjoy and seeing what others liked, too! And I hope our amazing askers will enjoy being noticed for all their hard work :)

What To Do Now

Go forth and read questions! Find a really great one and nominate it (right here, on this post!). Come back and vote for the questions you think are really great. And see if the question you nominated (or wrote!) ends up winning in the end! If you have any suggestions about how to improve this process, please share them in the comments!

Update #2

The intent was to pick the top 3 questions from the nominations; however only 3 questions were nominated in October. As there still seems to be interest in the Question Spotlight, I've decided to extend the nominations for this round through the end of November. So keep nominating those great questions, and we'll showcase the winners in a month! :)

  • One pitfall you might have missed: People can nominate a question to which his own answer is posted (agreeably good quality) to get the spotlight upon his own answer!
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 6:10
  • @Mistu4u People are naturally more likely to answer questions they consider "truly excellent"! No need to cast aspersions :-) Let's assume good faith.
    – user230
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 16:49
  • @snailboat, Let's pray so! :-)
    – Mistu4u
    Commented Oct 6, 2013 at 16:52
  • i haz a sad; I was just about to nominate one for November. Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 20:05
  • @StoneyB Fixed! I've updated the post; go ahead and post your November nomination here! I'm glad to find that someone enjoyed this :)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 13:53

6 Answers 6


I nominate If you were to have asked.

  1. This question addresses a common idiom, BE to do something, which appears to have been experiencing a resurgence over the last twenty years. enter image description here

  2. The idiom is ordinarily presented to learners only in the indicative mode, as a sort of future (I am to go to London tomorrow). This question, however, asks about the irrealis (subjunctive) form, which has a distinct meaning which cannot be readily derived from the indicative meaning—and which is also becoming more frequent (I've been noticing this for about ten years among my clients, business and marketing people, in internal communications).

  3. Moreover, the question asks about the past irrealis form, which learners easily mistake for a kind of perfect construction.

It's a complex idiom which users are quite likely to encounter in business and journalism contexts—and quite likely to be baffled by.

  • This is a great nomination, and a great question I agree! I'd already upvoted both the question and your answer, and I'm really glad you nominated it! Thanks for participating :)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Oct 11, 2013 at 23:17

I'd like to nominate this question about honorifics and their order. The asker poses a clear question about a subject that may not be immediately obvious to non-native speakers. Additionally, in situations where honorifics are necessary, it is doubly important to be sure they are correctly used. Combined with Matt's excellent answer, I think the question is worthy.

  • Great nomination! Fabulous question :)
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 15:24

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on this proposal which I believe will be the centre of a lot of attention for the coming time. I am fairly sure it would be a successful idea.

Tense when saying "This is the first time" you've been somewhere

This is my first nomination of this month. As ELL is dedicated to basically people who use English as foreign language and who are English language learner, I love the basic questions posted in this site.

This particular question asks to clarify which tense should be used in situations described there. As tense is the most basic and confusing part for most non-native speakers and a vital one for translation from their mother tongue to English, I found this question immensely helpful. Just after, your meta I was browsing through the questions posted this month and found this one. (In fact, I am thinking to post an answer just after writing this one; so I guess your trick started working very soon :-) ).


I nominate Should we say “fruits and vegetables” or “fruit and vegetables”?

I thought this question provoked a very interesting discussion. The questions like these, which truly make us all think, are the ones I enjoy the most. Especially since both usages are valid, just in different situations. So I really liked this question!


Maybe the nominations are closed now, but if you're taking late nominations (or if we do this again in November), I would draw attention to the Hunter vs Predator vs Preyer question.

Clearly, if you only read a dictionary, all three seem like valid options – although one might be tempted to steer clear of predator. However, I don't think that's the right answer to the question.

This is something I probably wouldn't have thought much about, but answering that question made my day, and helped me appreciate how wonderfully puzzling English can be.

  • I've extended the nominations through the end of November :). Thanks for the great nomination!
    – WendiKidd
    Commented Nov 5, 2013 at 13:53

This question strikes me as thoughtfully asked and addressed to a matter which must concern many learners. It's one of three questions this visitor has asked (so far) about "Phrasal verbs", a subject which doesn't seem to be very well understood even by the teachers and textbooks.

You must log in to answer this question.

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