I notice that a large proportion of questions are poorly written. By "poorly written" I mean both poor English grammar and usage, and also poor composition. I realize that many questioners are not native English speakers and writers, but if these questioners are in academic programs where English is the primary language, then it is imperative for them to be able to express themselves effectively in English.

My question is: What can we do to improve the quality of question writing in Academia.stackexhange.com?

Yes, the "edit" option is useful for people who have enough reputation points and have the time and the willingness to take the time to rewrite questions.

But it would be better if there was some way to help people as they were entering their question.

For example, it should be possible to use NLP software to determine whether the posted question actually includes a question. I should also be possible to use NLP to test the sentences for grammatical correctness. If these can be implemented, then I can imagine that there would be a feedback cycle where, after the user posts the question, that they would see a "feedback" page where their English grammar and question composition structure is evaluated. If the post does not pass some minimal score, then the user is prompted to improve their question, with guidance: "Your question does not include a question sentence. Please add a sentence that starts with 'My question is...' and ends with a question mark."

  • My question is: Why would you like to read thousands of questions starting with "My question is"? How boring! You know, there are other ways to introduce a question. Moreover, there are indirect questions too. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 12:57
  • @MassimoOrtolano I would happily risk boredom if we could gain comprehension and effective communication. Commented Jul 16, 2015 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


While I would certainly love to see a higher level of quality in the writing here, I'm not in favor of an approach that places more restrictions on the form of the question, in addition to the content-related restrictions that are already difficult for newcomers to navigate. To quote from a related answer on main meta:

If you start telling people what words they may or may not use, you're gonna find words that are a lot worse than txt-speak coming your way. It'll make the list of Things Not Allowed On Stack Overflow even more intimidating without really improving the quality of questions and answers. I'd rather have a thousand good questions with questionable grammar, spelling, and usage than a thousand perfectly composed bad questions.

  • Thanks. I'm not suggesting an approach that tells people what words they may or may not use. To the contrary: is it too much to ask that a question post should include a sentence that is actually a question? I think that this is completely reasonable as a minimal threshold for anyone that posts to academia.stackexchange.com. To simplify my suggestion, we could offer this template on the post-a-question page: 1) Context statement; 2) Background; and 3) Question statement. 99% of acceptable question would fit this template. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 7:21
  • The people posting questions are graduate students! (for the most part) Nearly all are in graduate programs where English is the primary language of publication. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to expect them to write in proper English. Put another way, I expect questions on Academia.stackexchange.com to be more like academic articles and letters, and less like Facebook or Snapchat posts. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 7:24
  • @MrMeritology Don't forget there is a major selection bias in what we see!
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 11:51
  • @jakebeal Yes, I realize that. Even so, it would be good if there were some mechanism to promote better writing in questions. Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 16:51

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