The following question was posted this morning:

Is this use of "Whenever" ... "So" correct?

The question asks if the following paragraph uses the word "whatever" and "so" correctly:

I think she is a good friend and she has lots of information about everything. Whenever every person need help, she can help them because she want to learn everything that know about it to others. So I am happy because I have a good friend in my life. When I have any problem I can ask her and she guides me. I think good friend is very effective in personal life to everybody.

What should we do about all the additional grammar problems with this paragraph? I will generally edit and correct grammar problems with the question itself (e.g. "What are wrong with this sentence?"), but I wasn't sure how to handle this situation.

I can think of a number of options:

  1. Fix anything and everything in the post that doesn't directly relate to the question being asked.

  2. Use the answer to point out all problems, even if they're unrelated to the question. Contact a moderator if it looks like someone is trying to abuse the system in any way.

  3. Answer the question, and point out that there are other problems that also need to be addressed without saying what those problems are.

  4. This situation isn't common or important enough for us to have to agree on how to handle it. Everyone should use their discretion.

I'm new to this site, so I'd like to know how people have been handling this type of post. Let me know what you think...

  • 2
    I think this is a good question. I personally prefer if the question text remains unedited, except by the questioner him- or herself. I can then make certain (possibly unfounded) assumptions about his or her English proficiency and craft my answer accordingly. I am interested to know what the site moderators recommend.
    – Shoe
    Dec 31, 2013 at 7:33
  • 9
    Oh. I always just silently corrected everything that didn't have to do with the actual question. I think of it as helping the OP improve their English beyond that question. They can look at the edit and learn from it. While regulars who want to assess OP's proficiency can still check out the original version.
    – ЯegDwight
    Dec 31, 2013 at 16:45
  • 7
    My rules are: don't silently correct something that needs to be addressed in the answer, and don't edit a direct quote. Apart from that, fix up the question. Why? Because future visitors shouldn't have to muddle through broken English and hard-to-read questions just to get to answers. (And if nothing else, the asker can learn from the edits.)
    – user230
    Jan 1, 2014 at 5:19
  • I understand that editing a poorly-worded question may benefit the questioner, and can spare potential answerers the trouble of deciphering what the questioner is asking. But an edit can render comments below the question meaningless, when these comments ask for clarification or point out extraneous problems in the question. Should such comments be deleted if the user has such privileges? (I assume this has all been addressed before, but I have not been able to find where.)
    – Shoe
    Jan 1, 2014 at 8:05
  • 1
    @Shoe: Comments are ephemeral. I'm not sure what the standard practice is at ELU, but generally I would recommend flagging such comments as obsolete. Here at ELL we treat comments a little better than on most other SE sites, so we usually don't care about deleting comments unless they contribute literally nothing to future visitors. ("You misspelled 'the' in your first paragraph." "Fixed, thanks.") It's not in perfect conformance with Stack Exchange ideals, but it works for us. Jan 2, 2014 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


On other Stack-Exchange sites, the simple answer is you edit the question to correct it, so doing this on ELL isn't wrong. That said, since the whole purpose of ELL is to help non-native speakers to improve their English, here's what I normally do:

  1. In all cases, answer the question being asked. Try to avoid clouding your answer by discussing both the answer to the question and then having a side-discussion about the grammar of the question itself.

  2. If the question has major problems (e.g. basic errors or is barely comprehensible), edit the question and leave it at that.

  3. If the question is nearly right, or contains constructions that are grammatically valid but unidiomatic, then I tend to leave a comment on the question telling the questioner that this is the case. This allows other people on ELL to upvote the comment to express their agreement, or to leave a different comment if they wish to add something or disagree.

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