On a Stack Exchange site where users must post in English, a user who said their native language wasn't English asked on its meta site whether having poor grammar should stop them from posting (on the main site).

For some context, among the post was

Sometimes I use bing or google translate but as you might understand it is not perfect neither really translates properly the intended meaning in a question.

My question is: Should the grammar flaws found in that meta post be left alone, or fixed?

I chose to edit them, as fixing grammatical issues was one of the main reasons editing exists, plus their post was pretty detailed and linked to a few of their posts on the main site displaying how users had to edit their posts substantially. But the edit got rolled back, and later I got linked to this chat:

User1: Also, should I edit their meta question? I'm leaning towards "no"
User2: Leaving it as-is sounds better, as editing it would remove some of the context
User3: @User1 probably better to leave it as it is

A few days passes

User1: Someone edited the "is my bad English hurting my puzzles" meta-post to... clean up the bad English. I'm feeling like rolling it back - thoughts?
User2: +1 to "roll it back"

User1 rolled back the edit & linked me to the chat for discussion

Me: @User1 I disagree. There is no need to downgrade a good post to display one's grammar. Besides, it's clear to the readers that they can look at the revision history of the 2 posts links in that meta post if they want to see what they meant.
User1: @Me the context shouldn't be behind a few clicks - the slightly-off grammar really should be clear on first view. Also, that post was a question by the person with off English, and you editing it fundamentally hurts the point of it and makes it no longer "true" to its purpose. Or something like that. I'm not great at explaining myself under time pressure.
User4: @Me Got to be honest - I love that the person writing the post about having bad English wrote it in their natural 'bad English'! It instantly gets their point across, whilst also demonstrating the truth of the supportive answers which explain that even with this 'bad English' it's still possible to understand their gist. For once, personally I would suggest leaving it as it was first written, almost like a museum exhibit - it has more value to the community in its rough-and-ready form!
Me: @User4 Oh, okay!


2 Answers 2


Irrespective of whether a post is written on a Meta or Main site, I think poor grammar, unless it is within a quote, should be corrected as part of any substantial edit to that post.

Doing this helps us to build repositories of clear answers to clear questions i.e. the main aim of every Stack Exchange site.

  • 6
    Eh... I'd argue that the "build repositories of clear answers to clear questions" is a lot less clean-cut on Meta sites, which is where the post in question is from. The idea is still there, but the Meta sites exist to host commentary concerning the main site, and if clarity was actually lost by correcting the grammar in this particular post, I'm inclined to disagree with removing it.
    – zcoop98
    Sep 20, 2021 at 23:58
  • 2
    @zcoop98 Irrespective of whether it's Meta or Main I think our aim should be to try and distil any messy questions and messy answers down to clear questions and clear answers so that viewers can find it easy to upvote/downvote on whether they find the posts useful.
    – PolyGeo
    Sep 21, 2021 at 0:02

On editing while keeping true to the OP's character is a question I don't see asked often. One post that does stand out is How to balance personal style vs. language correctness. It addresses these technicalities in good detail, and the posters have obviously given the issue a lot of thought.

I remember seeing a few other posts on MSO (although I can't find them now) that mostly advocate for editing posts to correct English and make personal style a secondary priority. This is in keeping with the technical core mission of SO.

But this may depend on the specific community. For example, on a language site if a language learner who is not a native speaker introduces serious mistakes I'd correct typos and syntactic errors keeping to simple past and simple present. The reason being the OP will probably be the first to take profit from the corrections, as well as the broader audience. I would, however, be less worried about conciseness or accuracy.


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