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In Please don't migrate low-quality questions to other sites , there's reference to "Some random guy who thinks that maybe he can get an answer, whether it's badly worded or not."

I often find badly worded questions a sign that the person asking it hasn't put a lot of effort into the question, and probably hasn't googled his question or even thought about it before asking. Likewise, we joke about "plz send teh codez", suggesting a link between question quality and English grammar.

However, is this a reliable indicator, or does it only apply some of the time?

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First, no. Second, yes. –  Shog9 Mar 13 '11 at 2:11
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@Shog9: My question must have been poorly phrased! –  Andrew Grimm Mar 13 '11 at 2:14
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4 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I see 2 distinct "analysis axes": the form and the content.

Bad form could be due to bad writing skills (some people are solidly impaired by that and there is almost nothing to do about it) and/or bad command of English. This, I think, is excusable to some extent.

As for the bad content, reasons could be the lack of knowledge about SE rules (what and where I can I post?) and/or the lack of knowledge about the core concepts of the discussed subject. The first type would most probably require a moderator action. The second type, I believe, could be tolerated to some extent if the question is somehow salvageable - naive, wrong questions could get an explanation of why they don't make much sense.

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Poorly phrased questions can be an indicator of a bad question. However, it can also be an indicator of a non-native english speaker among many other things.

What you really should be doing is applying multiple filters to try and determine if the question is a bad question or one that just needs some cleaning up.

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Bad grammar or spelling can mean that the writer is

  1. new to the English language, or
  2. dyslexic, or
  3. just plain stupid, or
  4. some combination of the above.

On the other hand, I've seen questions that were syntactically correct, but still made no sense whatsoever.

Writing skills are an important indicator, but you shouldn't use them as the only indicator.

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I'd also like to add that the non-native speakers are easy to pick out, because they don't make the same kind of mistakes that the native speakers do. It's probably because the natives learn to speak English several years before learning to write it. –  Mike Baranczak Mar 13 '11 at 2:44
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"Badly worded" is not necessarily the same thing as "Bad grammar or spelling". –  Aarobot Mar 13 '11 at 3:30
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I do have the impression that there is a certain correlation between very basic conceptual questions (i.e. questions that show a lack of understand of basic concepts of a programming language/API/...) and bad grammar/spelling. I'm very reluctant to actually type this out, because I'm not entirely sure of it and don't know exactly why.

But my current theory is this: those who learn English as a second or third language will have a hard time getting their information from all those "static" resources out there: documentation, books, ...

This means that they are more likely to have question about topics that should be explained by a good introductory tutorial on the topic.

That being said: the rate of plainly bad questions (i.e.: absolutely no work by the asker, badly phrased (irrespective of typos/grammar problems), ...) seems to be pretty much independent of the language skill of the asker.

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