Can atrocious English in a question be a potential sign of rudeness?

Background: I'm wondering because of this question, but I'm not certain if the atrocious English is because the person

  • isn't a native speaker of English but is trying his/her best
  • isn't a native speaker of English and learnt LOLspeak instead of English
  • knows both English and LOLspeak but chose the latter for Stack Overflow
  • just didn't care to write a readable question

This isn't meant as a criticism of all people who aren't native speakers of English, or occasionally have trouble phrasing a question well. (I've had a little experience of speaking a "non-mainstream" language in a non-work forum myself.)

  • 12
    My rule of thumb: TXTspeak/LOLspeak is lazy, but rolling back a TXTspeak->English edit is rude.
    – Shog9
    Jul 7 '10 at 0:21

The first two are not rude behavior, and there are a number of cases where a foreign person will have learned their English from the internet. In some cases this turns out great, other times you wish they hung around in more educated locales. But as long as they aren't refusing to learn better English, it is not rude.

If the person doesn't care to write a readable question, then it is rude. A person who chose to use net abbreviations for Stack Overflow specifically can be an expression of rudeness, but it's also possible that the person is misguided (this kind of person is likely to not have looked at other questions on the site).

Overall, though, it's much better to assume good faith. Correct the errors when you can salvage the question. Only think about rudeness if someone actually refuses to learn better English. If they want to learn how to fix their problems, it really helps to learn how to properly express a question.


I have two strategies for sorting these out.

  1. Look at the user's profile for evidence of persistence in this behavior in the face of correction.
  2. Fix parts (if you're certain enough of the real intent), and if they put it back you can take it as intentional.

If it is intentional, then it is rude. Flag their post for moderator attention and the user can be dealt with by the powers-that-be.

  • Ok this is my favorite answer in light of my edit :) hope you do not mind
    – waffles
    Jul 7 '10 at 0:30
  • @waffles: As you wish. I've mostly had good luck with softly stated chiding. Jul 7 '10 at 0:54
  • 1
    You're both wrong. Without a good rollback-war, they'll never learn...
    – Shog9
    Jul 7 '10 at 1:16
  • And make comments if you lack the rep to edit? Jul 8 '10 at 21:56
  • @Andrew: what is this "rep to edit" of which you speak ;-P?
    – SamB
    May 18 '11 at 4:55
  • @SamB: Low-rep users are discouraged from doing grammar-only edits. May 18 '11 at 5:20
  • 2
    @Andrew: I'm pretty sure that's meant to apply to trivial nitpicking, not radical improvements in readability...
    – SamB
    May 19 '11 at 3:00

I'm not sure #2 is actually the case for anyone, it seems extremely unlikely. I group #3 and #4 together, and generally it's pretty easy to tell the difference between those and people in #1. Phrases like "I need the help to make compile" are people in #1; phrases like "GIVE ME TEH CODES SRSLY THIS IS DUE IN 1 HOUR.........." are people in #3/#4. Naturally, people in #1 can't help it, and they're making an effort. People in #3/#4 can, and choose not to bother, which I find stunningly rude

  • 5
    As hard as it is to believe, I have it on good authority that #2 is actually not that uncommon.
    – Shog9
    Jul 7 '10 at 0:19
  • 1
    I can vouch for the veracity of Shog9's statement, it is not unlikely in the slightest, no matter how much I wish it were.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Jul 7 '10 at 0:23

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