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Should others downvote my posts for “grammatical” reasons?

I expect people to put some effort in their questions. This IMHO also means basic formatting of the text.

Sometimes I see questions without any punctuation or capital letters. My general reaction is a downvote (with a comment why), because it does show a lack putting some effort in a call for help.

I'm not talking about grammar mistakes by non native English speakers, but style stuff which is in all languages the same (AFAIK).

Is this the correct way to handle it or should I refrain from downvoting? What does the community think about this?

  • Sometimes, I would edit such question. I don't downvote the question, unless it is totally crap. – nhahtdh Jul 9 '12 at 9:11
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    The system agrees with you (in part): non-capitalised i's (apart from in code) are considered in the metrics for post quality. – Benjol Jul 9 '12 at 9:30
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    A (somewhat old) but similar discussion: Should others downvote my posts for “grammatical” reasons? – Josh Darnell Jul 9 '12 at 12:39
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    FWIW, when I see a question littered with the lower-case i, I just edit it. I don't consider this a part of down-vote consideration; it's not the type of laziness that makes a question "bad" and it's not always laziness anyway. I will down-vote the question if it exhibits other criteria but those are judged separately IMHO. – Aaron Bertrand Jul 9 '12 at 13:15
  • Do whatever makes you feel better. – Brian Jul 9 '12 at 14:30
  • @0A0D For the better of the community that's not something I want to do ;-) – PeeHaa Jul 9 '12 at 14:54
  • The impact you have will be such a small percentage, that it's not too much of a ripple. – Brian Jul 9 '12 at 14:56
  • @0A0D Never ever underestimate a ripple in space and time!!!111 – PeeHaa Jul 9 '12 at 15:13

I wouldn't downvote just for lack of capitalization. However, I will certainly downvote if the post is not clear.

As a general rule, I don't see a lot of posts where capitalization is the only issue. Most of the truly problem posts have capitalization problems, syntax problems, formatting problems, and conceptual problems all rolled together.

If you can clean it up, please do. Whether or not it deserves a downvote will depend on context, and is really a judgment call. Don't be afraid to downvote a post that seems lazily written--downvotes are an important feedback mechanism, after all--but don't use downvotes as a grammar lesson, either.

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I'd not downvote such questions; it's the content that matters, even if the packaging is a little shabby.

Besides, languages using pictographic, ideographic or logographic writing systems don't use capitalisation, so perhaps people posting without capital letters are not native English speakers but Japanese, Korean or Chinese.

Why not edit such (otherwise worthy) questions and help the OP with a comment?

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    +1 . Additionally, editing can help you towards your copy editor badge. – Rory Alsop Jul 9 '12 at 9:24
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    I used to think that content was all that mattered. Now I'm more interested in the information transfer - we need all the information to be present, and conveyed as well as possible. Answers are judged partly on how well they convey the information - why shouldn't questions be judged similarly? I'm only disagreeing with your first sentence, by the way - I wouldn't downvote, and editing is obviously helpful... but I do think that presentation matters. Aside from anything else, I think it's a sign of respect for the people who will read what you write. – Jon Skeet Jul 9 '12 at 10:32
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    @JonSkeet: Yup, but the assumption that someone didn't put in effort to a question because capitalisation is missing does not hold, in my opinion; I don't think that incomplete command of the English language should be held against a poster as strictly as some people seem to do. – Martijn Pieters Jul 9 '12 at 10:34
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    @MartijnPieters: I would be surprised if people who have English as a second (or third) language aren't aware of capitalization. I realise it means they need to put in more effort than others - but fundamentally, one person putting in the time scales better than everyone seeing a poorly written question... especially when presumably that person is going to benefit from answers. I'm not looking for perfection, but some indication of effort would be nice. – Jon Skeet Jul 9 '12 at 10:37
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    Stack Overflow is not a help desk, it's an information repository. Posts which aren't clear need to be fixed or tagged as such by the community. – CodeGnome Jul 9 '12 at 11:59
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    @JonSkeet I agree that presentation matters, but if you had a typo in an otherwise useful answer I hope there isn't anyone reading this question that would down-vote you. Although I don't know if the SE network allows anyone to down-vote you anyway... :-) – Aaron Bertrand Jul 9 '12 at 13:04
  • If the grammar/spelling/capitalization/formatting is so poor that it makes the question more difficult to answer, I can understand downvoting. But I would also edit it, and I would definitely not downvote a question with only minor grammatical issues. – Liz Sander Jul 9 '12 at 13:42

I personally think that formatting is a bigger issue than capitilization and punctuation. Some posts are perfectly acceptible but really hard to read because of arbitrary code blocks, links, and walls of text.

My philosophy: If you like having warm fuzzy feelings in your heart, rather edit than downvote.

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How will we ever get those editing badges otherwise?

because it does show a lack putting some effort in a call for help

If a question is so badly formatted that you can't understand it, I believe there is a "poor/low quality" flag you can use.

But for minor spelling or grammar errors, I give the OP the benefit of the doubt and do the edits to make it clear.

Now if the question itself is vague, overly broad, that's a different story...

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    I already have all the editing badges ;) – PeeHaa Jul 9 '12 at 13:38
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    @PeeHaa ALL of them? So now that you're done editing, all you want to do is downvote? :) – JimmyPena Jul 9 '12 at 13:49
  • Yup. I never edit questions any more since I got the badges only downvotes... ;-) – PeeHaa Jul 9 '12 at 14:23
  • @PeeHaa You should reconsider. Clearly you know what you are doing so Stack Overflow would benefit from your editing skills. – JimmyPena Jul 9 '12 at 14:27
  • stackoverflow.com/users/508666/… :-) – PeeHaa Jul 9 '12 at 14:43
  • @PeeHaa I thought you never edit anymore. :) – JimmyPena Jul 9 '12 at 14:45

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