I hope this is the right place to ask this question, as it was first asked on SO itself by someone else, then at English.StackExchange, and both were closed.

Which is fair enough, but it is something I feel is important - especially as hard-to-read English may deter others from answering or even reading what (could have been) a great question.

So, I'm looking to build up a reference of the most commonly used awkward/ambiguous/plain wrong English that you see cropping up in SO questions time and time again, in the hope that others can avoid repeating the same errors.

In general, I'm thinking of those things that instantly "turn you off" from reading or answering a question; constructs that ring alarm bells as to the quality of the question that follows.

To start you off, a few of my personal turn-offs include:

  • "Can you suggest me..." - this awkward construct invariably precedes a request for someone to provide a complete working solution with minimal explanation.

  • Missing (in)definite articles - whilst often simply a symptom of English as a second language - which isn't an issue in itself - it also correlates strongly with questions that just don't scan properly and require several reads through. Something not everyone will be bothered to do.

  • Anyone who uses "plz" and "thx" - probably not so strongly correlated with bad questions, but still grates with me and makes me think "sloppy".

I'd be interested to see if everyone else has their own fair share of these 'red flags' that make them hit the back button faster than a teenager whose mother has just walked in on his browsing session.

No doubt Muphry's Law has manifested itself somewhere above - please correct me if so! I am too new to make this Community Wiki myself, so feel free to amend that too if it keeps the question open.

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    The question is.. what do you want to do about it? – slhck Oct 5 '11 at 11:26
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    I agree with slhck: you could probably compile such a list, but it's useless busywork, unless you can actually do something productive with it. – Joachim Sauer Oct 5 '11 at 11:30
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    If I could spend 10 hours a day editing every one of these that I see, believe me I would! I'm no 'Grammar Nazi', but these things certainly bother me. For these oft-repeated errors, then I'd like to think that having a list of them as a reference would be more productive than silently correcting them one-by-one, as those who make the errors won't be aware that it's "wrong" and when so many people are making the same mistakes, it makes sense to have a widely-available list of things to avoid. – Widor Oct 5 '11 at 11:30
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    By the way: while the language problems are slightly annoying, I think a much larger problem is the lack of ability to ask a good question: too often the question doesn't contain enough information to help: What was the error message? What kind of "didn't work" did they mean? What have they tried? – Joachim Sauer Oct 5 '11 at 11:34
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    > If I could spend 10 hours a day editing every one of these that I see – due to the amount of posts SO gets, this is just not feasible. It's actually much easier on SU. I'm probably the type of editor who is "annoyed" by these things. Maybe "annoyed" is the wrong expression. I consider editing a courtesy to those reading, not primarily a correction of those making the mistakes in the first place. – slhck Oct 5 '11 at 11:45
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    As soon as our API includes write privileges, I have a Rube Goldberg idea for harnessing the power of reddit's Grammar Nazis that involves posting our content in their comments section and waiting for the first "FTFY" reply. – Bill the Lizard Oct 5 '11 at 11:57
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    it would be nice not only to mention the error, but to show the correct way to express the same. – shabunc Oct 5 '11 at 12:02
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    It seems to me like most of the answers here are basically just racial profiling of Indians. (Whether we think it is justified by the types of questions coming from India is another question; I just want to make sure we all realize what we're asking for here.) – Kip Oct 10 '11 at 17:59
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    @Kip: You can't be serious. – user102937 Oct 10 '11 at 18:29
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    @RobertHarvey no, i'm not trolling here. the top-rated answer is "people who use the word lakh". The second covers "do the needful", "i have a doubt", "can you suggest me". All these are characteristic of Indian English. Both explicitly acknowledge in either the answer or their own comments below the answer that they've heard these from Indian developers. the hypothetical "identify questions that are confusing/bad" filter would also be a pretty good "identify questions from India" filter – Kip Oct 11 '11 at 1:43
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    @Kip: Bad English is bad English; I have an equal-opportunity dislike for it. – user102937 Oct 11 '11 at 1:54
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    @Kip, We're not profiling with the aim of exclusion here, (hopefully) we're profiling with the aim of editing and improving posts. The fact that over half the suggestions stem from Indian-English grammar only indicates the high proportion of Indian developers that use Stack Overflow. These are the mistakes we most commonly see. If we had more Chinese or Spanish speaking developers here, I'm sure we'd notice more grammatical influence from those languages. It's just a numbers thing. No one is trying to offend anyone here. – Bill the Lizard Oct 11 '11 at 14:34
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    @yms No, it's really not racist. Racism requires some form of discrimination or judgement based on one's race. My observation of runners is merely that - an observation. It's also objective and factual, not subjective. You cannot seriously think that mentioning that fact that a high proportion of runners are black is racist? Now, if I'd said that someone must be good at running because they are black, or that "blacks make good runners" then that would be racist. What I said is no more racist than observing that "East Asians have epicanthic folds" or "Caucasians are white". – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 16:27
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    @yms Yes, it's a very sensitive issue and people fall into the trap of trying not to appear racist. I'm not going to have a racial debate on here, but to answer your question: NO - observing the demographics of a country's prison population is NOT racist. Again, if you'd turned it around and said someone is likely to be a criminal because they were black, then yes, that IS racist. Actually, it's not even a race issue, it's simple correlation vs causality - get them mixed up and you end up looking very silly indeed. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 17:00
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    ... </czenglish> In other words, people from each region tend to use local idioms - derived from local language (in case of ESL), or from other local customs (from now on, I will give any number in dozens,that's the custom over here). Now, I could a) try to make myself understood on this global site, or b) leave that burden to others; whether from laziness or not knowing better is irrelevant. Alas, "deal with my idioms" is in the same boat as txtspk for me: edit and improve where possible, no race card involved. – Piskvor left the building Oct 12 '11 at 9:39

12 Answers 12


I've seen "I have a doubt" and "do the needful" quite a lot, but these have become so common that I don't think they really detract from the meaning of the post. The meaning is clear enough, but I think they get edited out pretty quickly.

You already mentioned "plz" and "thx" but these are particular pet peeves of mine, so I wanted to mention that if you're trying to be polite, then not spelling out your words is counter-productive to that goal.

Suggestion: The best thing we can do with a list of common idioms is to link to search queries to make it easier for editors to find and fix them.

  • "do the needful" (Change to a more specific directive like "tell me what I need to do to fix my problem.")
  • "I have a doubt" (Means the same as "I have a question" which is superfluous, so it can be removed.)
  • plz (It's over 5000!) (Change to "Please" or remove.)
  • thx (Change to "Thanks", "Thank you", or remove.)
  • "any one" (Change to "anyone".)
  • please / can you suggest me (Change to "can you suggest". For example, "Can you suggest me a solution?" should be "Can you suggest a solution to me?". Depending on context, can also be substituted with "can you give me".)
  • "I am having a ...(noun)" As in "I am having a DataSet..." or "I am having a code..." (Change to "I have a ..."). Incidentally, this one's particularly tricky to search for because you need to exclude the word 'problem' and 'a' is a stop word.
  • "this is happening since two months", or other amount of time. One can have a problem for a length of time or since a length of time ago, but mixing the two doesn't work. This example should either be "this has been happening for two months" or "this happened two months ago".
  • Use of "lakh" or sometimes just the "L" suffix for 100,000, e.g. I have a table with 100L records. Should either use the full number, or a standard SI suffix (k, M etc.).
  • Ending "how to" phrases with question marks — e.g. "How to frob a fizzbit?" — even though "how to" is not the start of an interrogative clause. (Or any clause. It's just a fragment.) Instead, one should use "How do/should/can I ...", or similar.
  • alot - "Alot" is not a word in English. Change to "a lot".
  • YES! How could I forget "Do the needful"!! I'd be curious as to the origin of that and "please suggest me" - literal translations of idioms from Asian language roots perhaps? – Widor Oct 5 '11 at 11:42
  • @Widor: I have an Indian friend who says "please suggest me" all the time. It probably is just a literal translation of a common phrase used in India. – Bill the Lizard Oct 5 '11 at 11:45
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    @Widor - It has it's own Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Do_the_needful. To summarize, it was common in British and American English until the early 20th century, but has since disappeared and now occurs only in South Asian English (which would include Bill's Indian friend). – Kevin Vermeer Oct 5 '11 at 11:54
  • @KevinVermeer Very interesting, thanks! Googling for "please suggest me" just turns up actual usage. – Widor Oct 5 '11 at 11:56
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    See also the English Language & Usage question "Can doubt sometimes mean question" for some etymology on "I have a doubt". – Kevin Vermeer Oct 5 '11 at 12:04
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    Also very interesting. From my reading of the usage examples and subsequent explanation, I'd perhaps suggest "I have a query" in place of "question", which seems more true to the Indian usage of a "doubt", which to me is a need for clarification rather than a stand-alone question. Of course, "query" could be confusing in anything tagged with SQL... – Widor Oct 5 '11 at 12:10
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    "I have a question" or "I have a query" is same superfluous as "I have a doubt". Don't replace, simply remove. – Paŭlo Ebermann Oct 7 '11 at 22:47
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    @xanatos It's grammatically incorrect in English, but the meaning is clear enough in context. "Suggest me" would be correct if I wanted you to suggest me to someone else. For example, "You should suggest me to your boss for the job opening at your company." Suggest always has three nouns around it, the person making the suggestion, the thing being suggested, and the person receiving the suggestion. "Suggest me an answer..." confuses the latter two. – Bill the Lizard Oct 8 '11 at 11:39
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    alot is a word. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 11 '11 at 15:23
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    @BoltClock Thanks, that makes me feel alot better. – Bill the Lizard Oct 11 '11 at 15:35
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    @Bill the Lizard: How does it feel? Is it fuzzy? – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 11 '11 at 15:36
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    Direct commands like "please tell me" and "please help me" gives me always a lot of itch. I often edit them into "How is this caused and how can I solve it?" or something more neutral. – BalusC Oct 11 '11 at 17:56
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    •"any one" (Change to "anyone".). This should be changed globally; there are plenty of places where it may be correct, e.g. 'any one of the following answers is suitable.'. – nicodemus13 Oct 12 '11 at 16:28
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    I have a doubt is one of the worst offenders. It has a subtle yet very different meaning between India and most of the English-speaking world. – Yuck Dec 16 '11 at 14:47
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    @Yuck: I have no doubt on that. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Dec 16 '11 at 19:41

Use of "lakh" or sometimes just the "L" suffix for 100,000, e.g.

I have a table with 100L records

This is common with questions from Indian developers, but a lot of the rest of the world has no idea what it means. (I certainly didn't before Stack Overflow.)

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    I had never heard of lakh until today (@JoachimSauer actually noted this in the original comments above) but now I see it written as a suffix, it does ring a bell. I always assumed it was a typo for k (thousands). – Widor Oct 5 '11 at 12:36
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    I learned that word from an in-flight Bollywood movie. I didn't know it could be genericized to any subject; in the movie, it was used only to refer to money. Yeesh, I haven't even started seriously browsing SO today, and I've already learned something from Jon Skeet. – Pops Oct 6 '11 at 13:38
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    I never encountered it, but I'd have thought it would be 100 as a long integer... – MPelletier Oct 6 '11 at 13:55
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    Personally, I think you're all madh (10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000). Sorry, couldn't resist. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 11:21

Like slhck and others, I have reservations about how useful this list will be. It's commonly stated — and, in my mind, mostly true — that the people who need posts like this on MSO the most are the ones who visit this site the least, and vice versa.

That said, one mannerism that isn't already listed and that I've been seeing more recently is the practice of repeating words three times, as in "please, please and please," "thanks, thanks, and very thanks" and "enough, enough & finally enough" (although that last example is from a known troll). I don't know if this is the beginning of a trend or just a weird coincidence.

I've also noticed a common pattern that isn't technically a single idiom: ending "how to" phrases with question marks — e.g. "How to frob a fizzbit? — even though "how to" is not the start of an interrogative clause. (Or any clause. It's just a fragment.)

One more I just remembered: "this is happening since two months" (or other amount of time). Past tense issue aside, one can have a problem for a length of time or since a length of time ago, but mixing the two doesn't work.

  • +1 for "the people who need posts like this ... visit this site the least" – Widor Oct 6 '11 at 14:28
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    "How to" is the start of a Google search. – John Oct 6 '11 at 14:47
  • "enough, enough & finally enough" (although that last example is from a known troll) made me laugh a bit. – Octavian A. Damiean Oct 11 '11 at 10:15
  • +1 for mentioning the "how to" thing. Yesterday, I asked a question on English.SE about that just to make sure I wasn't the only one that saw something wrong. – Jason Plank Oct 11 '11 at 11:51
  • Wow, I never noticed the "How to" part and thought it's valid with a question mark. Even if this list is not useful, this post was useful for me as a non-native speaker. Thanks! – alextsc Dec 15 '11 at 19:29
  • You're welcome, @alextsc! I'm glad this actually helped someone! – Pops Dec 15 '11 at 19:36
  • I wish I knew about How to before I phrased most of my questions like that. Thanks for pointing that out! – Goran Jovic Dec 17 '11 at 0:20

Here is a list of writing problems that make my eyes bleed:

  • Not capitalizing the first word in a sentence, and the 'i' when the poster is referring to him or herself.

  • Usage of chat speak: "thx," "plz," "coz," etc. This makes Stack Exchange look like Yahoo Answers. Please stop it.

  • Not using punctuation and paragraphs. This makes a post look like it is the output of a random word generator.

  • Incorrect usage of than/then, their/there/they're, you're/your, its/it's. For the love of Cthulhu, the apostrophe is not optional or used for decorative purposes.

  • Misspelling common words. It's weird, not "wierd;" definitely, not "definately;" losing, not "loosing." (yes, I realize loosing is a valid word, but 99% of the time it's just a misspelling of "losing").


If everyone refrained from doing what I listed above, my blood pressure when reading posts on Stack Exchange would be significantly lowered. I am not asking for posts with impeccable grammar and spelling, but let's keep SE professional-looking. Pretty please, with sugar on top.

Oh I know what some of you are going to say: "B-bu-but... English is not my primary language!" Well, welcome to the club. English is my 3rd/4th language. Plenty of SE users aren't native English speakers, but they still manage to write good posts. This is not an excuse.

See also:

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    "B-bu-but... English is not my primary language!" someone had to say it... – Lorem Ipsum Dec 21 '11 at 1:32
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    @yoda Did you mean "My primary language English is not"? – NullUserException อ_อ Dec 21 '11 at 1:37
  • You gotta love the fact that small edits are shunned. That "i", "wierd", "alot", et al. will sting your eyes forever. – MPelletier Dec 21 '11 at 14:32
  • Love this answer. Half the battle is getting those who do use 'wierd', 'loosing' and the rest to care about getting it right. What better way to do it than with a bit of humour? I often find the Grammar Nazi approach simply makes them put up their defences and dismiss your criticism as a fanatical rant. Would be a nice touch if you found room in your meme-heavy infographic for an "over 9000"... – Widor Dec 21 '11 at 15:03
  • SNOWFLAKE!!!!!! – FastAl Sep 11 '19 at 21:11

As a second language speaker myself (and former ESL teacher), I have to step in for a minute (even though this question is 99% about venting repressed frustrations, IMHO).

English and programming go hand-in-hand. There's no denying it. Most popular programming languages have a basis in English (with keywords and libraries in English). This might seem normal to English speakers, but to others, it's a daunting reality. Comments in code are usually also written in English, even by non-native speakers, because it's a direct extension of code.

At the same time, it is not required to know English to code (thankfully). The basic concepts can be translated into the myriad of other languages out there. So if you don't know English all that well and you have a question about a programming language, you're starting with two strikes already. What does it take to ask a question in poorly written English? Research, trial, error, and courage (admittedly not all the time, but still).

StackOverflow has really created something unique. Expanding the model to the original trilogy (SU and SF) was a bold move, and moving on to other areas beyond computer science was also bold and great. The next logical step would seem to be opening to the international community, the one for which English is a barrier. Even though English is a powerful force with 1 billion native and non-native speakers (of varying degrees), that still leaves out 80% of the world population.

Simply put, reserve stackoverflow.in in.stackoverflow.com today.

EDIT: Excellent wikipedia-like prefix suggestion by Phira

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    I suspect that your hypothetical stackoverflow.in would have a lot more questions than answers... – Benjol Oct 11 '11 at 5:38
  • @Benjol Perhaps, but it might also be a way to address "the problem" head-on, it would become another community, working at its own pace, with its own level of acceptability. – MPelletier Oct 11 '11 at 10:14
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    As in wikipedia, it is always a good idea to indicate language with a prefix instead of a country postfix. The German wikipedia is not the wikipedia of Germany. – Phira Oct 11 '11 at 20:09
  • @Phira Damn, that's a very good example. Altering my answer. – MPelletier Oct 11 '11 at 20:17
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    I just Googled for "stackoverflow.in." After telling Google that no, I wasn't looking for Stack Overflow interview questions, I saw this: "Stackoverflow.in offers Activex Control, Joel Spolsky, Protection Mechanism, and Infinite Recursion. Stackoverflow - your number one choice for Memory ..." – Pops Dec 15 '11 at 19:02
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    @PopularDemand Awesome, my very own Spolsky! I'll take him home and take good care of him. – MPelletier Dec 15 '11 at 19:25
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    I'm going to wait until they have Jeff Atwood and waffles back in stock. Getting the boxed set is cheaper than getting them individually. – Pops Dec 15 '11 at 19:28
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    Yeah but, you're trying to fragment the knowledgebase. This is a bad idea. – bobobobo Dec 16 '11 at 21:44
  • @bobobobo Practically, I'd say no. both knowledge bases would evolve in parallel. Like Wikipedia. – MPelletier Dec 21 '11 at 14:30

The lowercase i's bug me... a lot. So do missing apostrophes, as in " i dont know why it isnt working " Especially "im" for "I'm"...

I'm seeing awkward closings too:

"Thanks You, Uncle_Billo"

The "plz" and "thx" are certainly vexing, but since they're quite common online, it's OK to me.

Recently I encountered a their/there error. This guy used 5 theres instead of the correct their.. it's like the proverbial water dripping. Funny thing is nobody got around to fixing it yet(is it bad netiquette to bolden all the corrections? Please say no).

Then there are subtle misspellings. "sever" for "server" or "apple" for "applet", etc.

But overall, I'm happy we're helping people learn both technology and some English.


it would be interesting to see what would happen if the system blocks entering questions with text containing idiom

didn't work


doesn't work


did not work


does not work

...oh and of course there's their evil twin, hiding under fake respect,

do the needful

According to Wikipedia, above implies that the other party is expected to "understand what needs doing without being given detailed instruction".

- My code doesn't work. Do the needful.
- Yeah sure. Just give me a minute to read your mind.

  • Users will say doesn't work more often instead. It probably won't have any noticeable impact in the long run :) – Frédéric Hamidi Oct 7 '11 at 18:53
  • @Frédéric Hamidi good point – gnat Oct 7 '11 at 19:43
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    To automatically block posts containing that text would have tremendous unintended consequences...there would be a ton of false positives of perfectly good questions containing those strings. – Michael McGowan Oct 7 '11 at 21:41
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    @MichaelMcGowan do you assume that someone capable of composing perfectly good question is nevertheless unable to wipe out dontwork from it? I don't think so. Anyway, I worry about unintended consequences too - that's why I didn't make that feature request – gnat Oct 8 '11 at 4:42

Once upon a time, most Anglophone programmers in the world spoke either British English or American English. That's fast-becoming history: Perhaps there are already more web-connected programmers out there now who write Indian English than who write American English; if not now, then there will be soon.

Claims that Indian English is "bad English", but American English is "good English", are parochial, and risk alienating one of SE's major potential growth markets. If American English is good, but Indian English is bad, one might wonder where Australian English, British English and Kenyan English come on this arbitrary value scale?

In summary, any idiom that doesn't appear in International English is going to risk confusing a chunk of your potential audience: but that's as true of American idioms as British or Indian ones. And any language error that obscures meaning to an intelligent reader is going to make a question tough to read. Words perceived as sloppy, such as "plz" or "thx", might niggle, but do they really obscure meaning?

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    As a Brit, I'd have to say American English is most certainly not 'good English', but that's just a personal gripe and I'd never edit anything purely on that basis. I don't think anyone's claimed that "Indian English" is 'bad' per se - it's more that use of words such as 'Lakh' aren't clear - this is a technical site, let's at least use an internationally-recognised scientific numbering system so we can all understand each other. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 11:36
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    A pound to a penny (!) says that there are more people in the world who use "lakh" and "crore" than "kilo" and "mega" ;-) But still, I agree with any call to standardise on SI units (and goodbye & good riddance to gallons and inches). See comments on the Bill the Lizard's answer re "Bad English" – 410 gone Oct 11 '11 at 11:55
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    @EnergyNumbers - Just because there are a lot of them doesn't make them right. There are many more people who also speak Mandarin and SO isn't using that either. – JNK Oct 11 '11 at 12:46
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    @JNK - Is StackExchange a set of sites for American-English speakers, or International-English speakers? If the former, then Widor, I, and thousands of others should go somewhere else. If the latter, then American-English idioms are no more or less acceptable than Indian-English ones. – 410 gone Oct 11 '11 at 12:59
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    @EnergyNumbers - I think regional idioms should be avoided altogether. The issue is that the Indian-English speaking community puts a lot more into their questions, and ask an increasing percentage of the questions. – JNK Oct 11 '11 at 13:04
  • @JNK - I agree that regional idioms should be avoided. As I wrote in my answer: "any idiom that doesn't appear in International English is going to risk confusing a chunk of your potential audience" – 410 gone Oct 11 '11 at 13:13
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    I'd say that SO is a site that is designed for use by people who can speak standard English. It's not about permitting or rejecting a certain region's idioms, it's about using language as an efficient tool. Whether you enjoy putting a 'u' in 'favourite' or not, it's still recognisable, understandable English, so fine. But words like "lakh" and constructs such as "please suggest me" are not going to appear in any standard English dictionary or thesaurus any time soon and should be discouraged simply because they're hard to read & require an extra level of 'decoding' before the meaning is clear. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 13:23
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    @Widor, but just like in software development, there are multiple standards. Things like "I have a doubt" are standard Indian English, just like "I'm at hospital" is standard British English and "I'm at the hospital" is standard American English. That's why it's ignorant and potentially hostile to characterize Indian English as "wrong". – JSBձոգչ Oct 11 '11 at 15:06
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    @JSBᾶngs But this isn't an Indian English language site, therefore it's the "wrong" language to be using here - same goes for Creole, Lowland Scots and Mediaeval English. If they became prevalent here, would you tolerate it? They're all recognised forms of English, after all. And as an aside, we'd say "I'm in the hospital" (if we were inside, usually as a patient) or "I'm at the hospital" if we were just in the building or location. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 15:17
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    "Words perceived as sloppy, such as 'plz' or 'thx', might niggle, but do they really obscure meaning?" I'm a dick, but, yes. Sometimes, I get so caught up being irritated with those things that I can't focus on the actual question being asked. Too bad for me, I guess. – BoltClock's a Unicorn Oct 11 '11 at 15:31
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    @Widor, are you seriously suggesting that we only allow British and American English on SO? Seriously? (And by the way, I'm American, and I understand the American idiom just fine.) – JSBձոգչ Oct 13 '11 at 13:48
  • @Widor is suggesting nothing of the sort. The clear meaning is that if you want a good answer (or any answer), you should write a good question. The definition of a good question includes making it understandable. I don't see why that's such a problem. – RivieraKid Dec 21 '11 at 10:42

Isn't it way more important that a question provide enough detail, discuss what was tried, and request specific solutions? How does peeving about using too many exclamation marks or question marks or short forms or foreign words ("lakh") have anything to do with answering programming questions? Poor grammar affects everyone sometimes and makes questions hard to read, but grammar is a huge topic and has nothing to do with programming. And if programmers can't learn a couple Indian English idioms then they shouldn't be programmers. What's learning a new programming language if not learning new idioms to say the same things you already say?


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    "grammar is a huge topic and has nothing to do with programming" Erm, ok then. Tell my compiler that. It gets VERY 'peeved' when I start playing fast & loose with my language. I mean, if you can't understand Please Dim MyString as a String object then you shouldn't be a compiler. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 15:10
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    @Widor: Are you serious? Because computers are nit-picky as hell (and only sometimes for good reason), we should be too? – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 11 '11 at 15:14
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    @Shiny: Yes, I'm serious - as a programmer you have to be acutely aware of grammar and syntax for that very reason. If you ever write technical specs or user guides as well, then your language has to be precise and unambiguous there too. So I'd say grammar (and more accurately, syntax) has a lot to do with programming. – Widor Oct 11 '11 at 15:20
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    @Wildor: most programmers are completely unable to write useful technical documentation. Technical documentation is a one-sided conversation and usually doesn't involve a wiki-edit approach like SO does. English is a NATURAL language. It is flexible, and ambiguous, and redundant and lots of other things. That's why you can still understand the guy who says "Plz do the needful, I have 100lakh records to insert", and complaining about his spelling, grammar, and word/idiom-choice is not that productive. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 11 '11 at 17:19
  • How about this then? If you want me to take time out of my day, read and understand your question on my own time, then the least you can do is make it as easy as possible. The SE network is a collection of English Language sites, after all. Part of the problem stems from the perception that if you can't be bothered composing your question in the native language of the site, why should I accept the extra burden of trying to understand it? I downvote and move on. Yes, I could edit, but I won't since if I already don't understand it, editing may make it worse or change the meaning which is bad. – RivieraKid Dec 21 '11 at 10:32
  • Complaining about bad spelling, grammar, and word/idiom choice is absolutely essential to help understand a question. You are totally correct that English is a natural language with all sorts of flexibilities and ambiguities, but don't you see - that's precisely why you need to be as clear as possible in your question. Those ambiguities are what lead to spelling, grammar, or foreign idioms at best making the question harder to understand by breaking the flow, and at worst could change the whole meaning of the question. – RivieraKid Dec 21 '11 at 10:35
  • @RivieraKid: So what you're saying is that you can't be bothered to learn a handful of foreign idioms (which are merely strange-sounding and not difficult to understand) or foreign words when dealing with people who speak a different dialect of English than you do. You're saying that you seriously can't understand when someone's grammar is a little bit non-standard. Gods I hope you never have to read someone else's code or learn a second programming language. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 21 '11 at 13:03
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇: So what you're saying is that you can't be bothered to bothered to ask for help in a manner appropriate to the forum you are asking in? You're saying you seriously think that colloquialisms that are either based on, or come directly from your native, non-English language should be implicitly understood by everyone? It's a pretty basic concept that if you want answers to a question, then having an understandable question is a requirement. For the record, in my time I've programmed in at least 11 programming languages. – RivieraKid Dec 21 '11 at 23:08
  • @RivieraKid: For one thing, some of the colloquialisms being peeved about are not non-native, such as "do the needful", that one's simply archaic outside of India. Others are simple mistakes that even native speakers make. Maybe you're complaining about "lakh", which I admit is a bit odd, but jeez, if Stack Overflow was written using the Metric system would everyone be whining about people asking questions using miles? And don't forget: most people don't know what parts of their idiolect is local and what part is Standard. Everyone has to be a linguist before they can post? – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 22 '11 at 13:32
  • @RivieraKid: Note: My answer SAYS that people should ask good questions, but I fail to see how a spelling mistake or odd use of a phrase completely ruins a question. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 22 '11 at 13:34

Whilst reading this thread I celebrated a common sentiment with many of the previous contributors. I have always considered 'plz' and 'thx' to be slightly discourteous. Who is in such a hurry as to begrudge the extra effort to type 'thanks' as opposed to 'thx'? It's discourteous.

I would agree that a mumble-jumble syntax sometimes defeats the author's intent of obtaining a speedy and unambiguous answer, but would have to concede that there's no silver bullet to cure it.

For the zealots who advocate correcting or enforcing syntax and sentence structure, please be mindful of Skitt's Law, 'Any post correcting an error in another post will contain at least one error itself'. This has served me well from the day it was first formulated in the early '90's.

Source: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Skitt's_Law


One pernicious mistake I see non-native speakers make repeatedly is, whenever they are unsure of a word or how to phrase something, to omit words they are not certain of. In extreme cases this can lead to someone repeating a single word over and over, incomprehensibly.

This is the worst tactic you can possibly use. If you are unsure of something, you have to add more information, not omit it. Different phrasing of an idea, and redundant information, can lead someone to a concept even if each individual word or concept is unclear.


Ffs, just learn the peculiarities of the language speaker and edit the post.

The way the question is stated is definitely dog whistling.

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