What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 130 Stack Exchange communities.

As a grammar and punctuation pedant, I spend some time on fixing the quality of questions (and some answers) on SO. In the vast majority of cases, I am quite sure the OP genuinely doesn't have excellent English, and so silently improving it — in my view — aids English and non-English speakers alike, whilst avoiding direct criticism of the writer.

However today I found a user who I suspect is making persistent writing errors deliberately for stylistic reasons — posts are all in lower case, and all punctuation marks have space prefixes, often resulting in orphaned marks. I politely pointed this out in the comments1 but the lack of reply suggests to me that they intend to persist. A quick click through some of their writing shows that it is a popular error to fix, so thankfully it isn't just my OCD!

In general, if a user — a very helpful one in this case — is deliberately creating edit work, what can be done about it?

1 Sadly, a moderator deleted this conversation, in which the user took offence, refused to justify their mistakes, and chose to ignore others who added their agreement.

share|improve this question
Realistically...you can edit it. There is no real way, besides leaving a polite comment and hoping for the best, to address the real issue. –  Bart Jan 29 '13 at 22:03
If the user is helpful, and its writing style is understandable and useful, who cares? –  Frédéric Hamidi Jan 29 '13 at 22:03
Maybe he's French. Space prefixes before punctuation marks are the norm there. I've also been told it's the norm somewhere in written English - maybe Canada? That I don't think is that much of a problem. The all lower case is really annoying though. I wonder where it comes from - I've seen professors do this –  Pëkka Jan 29 '13 at 22:04
@Frédéric Hamidi: Everyone on the Internet who reads Stack Overflow, but is not a member. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '13 at 22:04
@amanaPlanaCAnalPAnaMA - in the same vain? ;-) –  halfer Jan 29 '13 at 22:17
@amanaPlanaCAnalPAnaMA - heh, I thought you were misspelling deliberately on a spelling question for irony purposes. You're after the word "vein". –  halfer Jan 29 '13 at 22:18
@halfer ahh ha... stupid multiple spelling of different words.... I never will never understand it... and I am a native english speaker. –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Jan 29 '13 at 22:20
Unrelated, but... the user is also adding tags to their question titles, pretty consistently. =) –  J. Steen Jan 29 '13 at 22:21
@FrédéricHamidi Organized manhunt? But yeah, tricky... –  Bart Jan 29 '13 at 22:23
Some folks are just self-indulgent twits. My (embarrassingly many) mistakes are the result of rotten typing, poor proofreading and insufficient attention, and I would like to formally thank the OCD-inclined grammar-, usage- and spelling-police of Stack Exchange for their efforts. –  dmckee Jan 29 '13 at 22:39
@dmckee - damn, I can't find a single mistake in your comment! :D –  halfer Jan 29 '13 at 22:41
Good, I've edited all but one of his questions of this year. Let's see if the message is clear. And if not, at least those look better. ;) –  Bart Jan 29 '13 at 23:01
Sorry to break the news to you, but if you can't tell a hyphen from a dash, you are not a "punctuation pedant". You are not even a punctuation noob. You are not a punctuation anything. Seriously. –  ЯegDwight Jan 29 '13 at 23:43
@Pekka poor Canada! To defame them like that! Canadian English uses English spacing. And even in French, the space only goes before an exclamation mark, question mark, colon or semicolon. Though traditionally these are not necessarily full spaces. It also uses quarter-em spaces to offset quotation marks from the enclosed text. But never does a space go before a period or a comma. In fact I am not aware of a single language that uses spaces like that user does, so I am totally ready and willing to go on record as saying he has no idea what he's doing. –  ЯegDwight Jan 30 '13 at 0:04
1) downvote one (better two) of "annoyingly lowercase" posts 2) wait for a day (better two) 3) return to the post, edit into shape, revert downvote 4) repeat... Down-votes, "the community's way of telling peers that their content can be improved" –  gnat Jan 30 '13 at 7:10

2 Answers 2

up vote 25 down vote accepted

There is an expectation that users of Stack Overflow treat the site like a professional resource. For the most part, that means using proper spelling, grammar and punctuation. It's an important enough issue to be baked into the system in several ways:

  1. Automated low-quality posting blocks.
  2. Automated low-quality posting bans.
  3. Suspensions for repeatedly asking low-quality questions.

"This is my personal style" is not an acceptable excuse, nor is posting from a cell phone. Find a real computer to post your questions with.

Other Considerations
Users whose first language is not English are already at a sharp disadvantage, which is why their close ratio is higher than most. Like other rules, we do bend them occasionally if the OP manages to post questions that are so scintillating that we can overlook their bad grammer [sic]. We don't generally suspend users unless they demonstrate a persistent pattern of behavior that is harmful to the community.

What to Do
Flag one of their "stylish" posts with a custom explanation, describing what the problem is. We will take the appropriate action.

share|improve this answer
"... nor is posting from a cell phone. Find a real computer to post your questions with." I wish I could upvote more than once for this alone. –  ben is uǝq backwards Jan 29 '13 at 22:14
As an aside, people seem to get away with a lot in the Android tag. Android developers as a group... well, there's no nice way to say this, but... seem less sophisticated, as evidenced by the overall quality of posts in the Android tag; and folks participating in the Android tag seem to care less about things like proper spelling and grammar. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '13 at 22:27
@benisuǝqbackwards I upvoted for you. –  ryan Jan 29 '13 at 22:27
However, I might just downvote it now because of that Android comment. While it may be true, as someone who tries to use the correct spelling/grammar/punctuation, I resent being labeled because I also happen to develop Android apps! –  ryan Jan 29 '13 at 22:29
@ryanOptini: The person for whom this Meta post was created has posted literally hundreds of questions and answers with these kinds of grammatical errors, and nobody's complained about them at all until now. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '13 at 22:31
@RobertHarvey Perhaps they feel they ought to post from their Android phone for integrity's sake. I do very much wish mine had a `, because the workaround (copy-paste) is not fun. Apart from the backticks, I find it very easy to keep up my usual standards on my phone, so it's not a good excuse anyway. –  AndrewC Jan 29 '13 at 22:31
@AndrewC: The real question is, do we hold the Android tag to the same standard as other tags on Stack Overflow, when it is clear that the people in that community couldn't care less about it? Note that the OP of this question does not significantly participate in the Android tag. –  Robert Harvey Jan 29 '13 at 22:35
@RobertHarvey Yes please on the consistent standards. Let's Make the Internet a Better Place. –  AndrewC Jan 29 '13 at 22:40
Thanks Robert. Flagged as requested. –  halfer Jan 29 '13 at 23:02
@RobertHarvey: as per a comment on the main thread, I think I am out of options. I flagged a new example of the user ignoring the community's wishes, and it was rejected, and the comments on the original thread in question have now been deleted. I suspect this will act as a green-lighting for deliberately poor writing standards from the user in question, so I will I think just have to keep my pedantry under control :) –  halfer Feb 1 '13 at 16:20
It's difficult to solve a problem like this when it has gone on for so long, and the folks in the Android tag don't seem to care, so. –  Robert Harvey Feb 1 '13 at 16:25
Yep, worth a try - thanks for your help anyway. –  halfer Feb 1 '13 at 17:08

Well, first off, unless they come out and directly say "I'm deliberately doing this" we don't know that they're deliberately doing it - so nothing can be done about it but editing the posts to fix them. Even if they admit it, it's not something that would warrant any kind of suspension.

If they, however, were actively rolling back edits that corrected grammar, spelling, etc - that would be an abuse of the editing system and is something that should be flagged so moderators can take appropriate action in warning and/or suspending them.

The simple fact is, some people just don't care enough to use the Shift key, just like some don't care to hit the ' key when appropriate. They've adapted themselves to an alternate way of typing that is irritating to some people.

share|improve this answer
At a certain level of repetition and after enough edits they simply are doing it deliberately. The system notifies them when their posts are edited, so it's not like they don't know that they are making work or haven't seen exemplars of what is expected. –  dmckee Jan 29 '13 at 22:43
@dmckee the last time I noticed that a post of mine was edited was about 6 months ago. It's possible to completely ignore edit notifications - if you want to make sure the OP notices, commenting is the way to go –  Pëkka Jan 30 '13 at 10:53

You must log in to answer this question.

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