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Proposal: English Language Learners

As we know, proofreading involves checking for grammatical, spelling, and mechanical errors, which may include problems with verb tense, subject-verb agreement, parallel structure, sentence completion, alternate spellings, capitalization, and punctuation.

Since proofreading, as it is well-known, is quite instructive in the learning process, both for native and not-native of English language, I propose that ELL might allow this type of questions without the risk of having the standard answer "I'm sorry, but how is this not a proofreading request, and thus off-topic?"

Yes, I understand, it is not possible to consent very long text in question, but, then, we could establish a limit (number of words? number of sentences? or both?).

As an example, I think questions like the following should be allowed on ELL, being the example text one of mine "piece" posted on Skeptics.SE - https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/14190/are-men-smarter-than-women/14196#comment51777_14196):

English flavour in this piece[this is the title]

The following piece is a comment of mine posted on Skeptics.SE site, and I'm wondering if my phrasing has a proper English style. If not, what is wrong? How could I improve the piece?

I think there is a kernel of truth in stereotypes. Yes, men and women are much more biologically alike than not, but differences in the way our brains are built shed light on everything. As an evidence of that, think that the male brain is seeking and looking only for sex, while female is much seeking and looking for partnership and for choosing "the one."

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    I think SE is a really useful site to answer questions. And it would be so easy to allow such a thing in either ELU or ELL. But it seems proofreading is -always- easily identifiable as Too Localized, which goes against the expectations of the designers of the SE sites. So even if the community of ELL committers want to allow it, the SE super-mods may still think it is a bad idea. I am not convinced yet one way or the other, I just expect the super-mods to scream about this suggestion. – Mitch Harris Dec 26 '12 at 21:38
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    My objection to "proofreading" questions is not that they are too localized but they are typically far too broad. You are a far more sophisticated user of English than most of our questioners will be; yet your passage includes at least five different cruxes each of which could by itself be the topic of a good question. A question needs to be focused on a single issue, not half a dozen. In addition, "what's wrong with this" is an open invitation to address not only unambiguous formal errors but also highly objective ('Not Constructive') matters of style and lexicon. – StoneyB Dec 27 '12 at 0:26
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I think it would make sense if we put a limit of one sentence, not an overly long and complex too.

More sentences are allowed only to give context to particular proofread sentence, but not subject to proofreading themselves.

In particular, I expect useful and definitely not "too localized" questions that are essentially proofreading questions:

  • "Please help me identify/describe/explain the error in this sentence" (teacher asking for help in teaching),
  • "is this wording a natural-sounding English? If not, how to reword this?" (ELL)
  • "I was told this sentence is wrong/lost points, but I don't know how it's wrong." (ELL,student)
  • "I see everyone using this but it goes against the rules I know..."

In essence, don't allow proofreading per se, but don't close questions "because that boils down to proofreading". Especially if it's one sentence with one easily identified error of a fairly common type, or if it's a question about a language error the author keeps making - questions about learning recognizing errors, not about making particular example sentences flawless.

Also, per a discussion at ELU about answering all kinds of "useless" questions: If it is just a proofreading questions, allow answer, don't hurry with closing. Allow close through community votes, not through moderator's Fiat. Help the poor soul with their current predicament, then once they have the answer, clean up to keep the archive more useful for future generations.

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I vote against.

Instead of speaking in terms of "too localized" or "off/on-topic", let's get back to the root idea of SE. Q&A format is chosen because it may help further visitors. If you stick to a single user problem, a message board format seems to be better: someone may ask a vague question, others may offer suggestive interrogations, finally the problem is clarified and hopefully resolved.
As a result, only a single user benefits from such a discussion.

Proofreading questions also benefit a single user, here's why.
There are many ways of poor wording and only some ways to make a phrase correct. So it's unlikely someone who has a similar problem would be able to google for an answered question and get use of it.

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