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It's become well-established that the purpose — or, at least, one of the primary purposes — of the "exact duplicate" close reason is to minimize dispersion of information/duplication of effort while keeping information easy to find with a wide variety of search terms.

Don't just take my word for it; Jeff said so (and he did it more eloquently than I did).

I used to be a pretty gung-ho editor, because poor-quality writing looks unprofessional, and I thought that that would harm the site in the long run. After all, what sort of experts want to hang around a place where people can't even figure out how to capitalize or use commas correctly?

I'm not so sure that's the right way to go anymore. Fixing incorrect or alternate spellings, and perhaps bad grammar, may make it harder for people to find the questions they're looking for using the sites' built-in search or the "Ask Question" page's title auto-search thingadongdong. Should we leave some or all "poor-quality" closed questions the way they are, to make search a little better?

Some points made in chat about this:

  • this could be resolved by making search use all of revision history, not just current posts, possibly weighting the results to favor current posts
  • this may be a non-issue for most people, who access the site via Google
  • it may be helpful to have better spellchecking built into the SE engine
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+1 for thingadongdong –  Adam Davis Jan 4 '11 at 19:24
    
My concern is that correcting every grammatical mistake leads to a homogenization of the site: every question looks as if it was written by the same person. Furthermore, you lose some potentially valuable information, namely, a large set of area-specific content written in "international" English. –  rlandster Oct 1 '12 at 10:24

3 Answers 3

I would rather fix the spelling errors and use google while waiting for SO to upgrade their search engine than let the spelling errors persist and have those result NOT show up when someone uses the CORRECT term.

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I would certainly never prefer an incorrect or infrequently used term to a correct/popular one. It's more about whether "leave both" is superior to "correct only." –  Pops Jan 4 '11 at 19:32
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@Popular - But searches for the correct term won't bring up questions with the incorrect term. I suspect that searches for the correct term happen far more frequently than the incorrect term, so we should probably optimize for the common case. Further, if we only allow the correct term to appear on posts, then when people use the incorrect term they'll get very quick feedback that they should find out how to spell the term first as the results page will be blank. –  Adam Davis Jan 4 '11 at 21:00

Think of it this way: Does Wikipedia (and remember that one of the four original pillars of SO in that 4-way Venn diagram was "wiki") allow "alternative spelling" to help searchers?

The answer is "somewhat". Articles are supposed to be spotless, and aim towards some standardized English. Some common misspellings will point to the right page, but ultimately, the destination page is (supposedly) good English.

If we could have better spell-checking on search (a "did you mean" thing à la Google), that would help.

But allowing bad grammar just spreads confusion, and allowing "alternative spelling" is not going to prevent duplication. It just won't work that way.

Example of alternative spelling which should be allowed would be:

  • program (US) vs programme (UK)
  • center (US) vs centre (UK)
  • color (US) vs colour (UK)

Otherwise, if it's a genuine misspelling, policy should be to fix.

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Doun't encourauge the UKians and theire perverse spellings. –  Shog9 Jan 4 '11 at 19:20
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A computer program is a "program" in the UK, but a TV programme is a "programme". –  ChrisF Jan 4 '11 at 19:30
    
I see your point, but the analogy isn't perfect, since Wikipedia doesn't have exact duplicate articles. –  Pops Jan 4 '11 at 19:35
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@Popular: sure they do. They just don't tend to leave them laying around - articles are combined, redirects and disambiguation pages are created, etc. The "ownership" aspect on SO makes this tricky, but merging comes close... –  Shog9 Jan 4 '11 at 19:49
    
@Shog9: I'm Canadian myself, colour me shocked at your comment. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:06
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@ChrisF: What about a program to list your favourite TV programmes? –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:07
    
@PopularDemand: Wikipedia has a merge indicator or notice of some kind. One example of a terrible duplicate concerns The Outer Limits (a favourite of mine): case 1 and case 2 –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:10
    
Yes, I did use favourite twice (now thrice) on purpose. –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:13

this may be a non-issue for most people, who access the site via Google

Ding!

That said, I'll often leave the grammar in titles alone if I'm trying to close as a duplicate. Assuming the title actually describes the question in some meaningful way; we probably don't need more hits for "C# problemz !?"

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This is me. I don't correct titles as often as I do bodies. –  jcolebrand Jan 4 '11 at 19:56
    
Incidentally... –  MPelletier Jan 4 '11 at 20:13

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