Should we vote down a question because of bad English? How much effort should we have to put in to understand a question?

for example: What to do with a messy project when it's close to be finished

  • In that case, this question qualifies. English cannot be bad, but it sure can be poor.
    – BryanH
    Mar 24, 2011 at 18:20

3 Answers 3


In my opinion, downvotes should be used as a last resort. I've not always followed this rule myself in the past, but I've come to realize that some questions and answers can be salvaged with a simple follow-up comment.

You might try asking the OP (original poster) to clarify his or her question/answer if there is something you don't understand. Take a look at the question. I left a comment as an example.

As another option, if you can understand what is being said but there are lots of typos, you might consider suggesting an edit by clicking on the edit link under the question/answer.

Until you get 1000 reputation, you can actually gain 2 reputation points if the OP accepts your suggested edit. Not only does this benefit you, but it benefits the OP if the question/answer is upvoted, and it benefits the community as a whole by helping to create really great content.

Both of these techniques demonstrate positive re-enforcement. The more of this re-enforcement we give community members, the stronger this site will become, and the more likely it will be to succeed.

Of course, down-voting a question/answer that you disagree with, that you're sure can't be improved, is something that you are free to do.

  • Btw: the discussed question was fixed by original poster after jmort253 comment (and the comment itself got 3 upvotes so more people thought the same). Anyway it works :) Mar 7, 2011 at 16:41
  • This is proof that the bad can become good, and the good can become great!
    – jmort253
    Mar 9, 2011 at 6:07

We have a lot of people for whom English is a second (or third) language. I think we should cut them some slack, and if the question is unintelligible, ask for clarification.


I will definitely down vote a question if the English or grammar is so poor that it makes it difficult to discern what is even being asked. Obviously if I can think of a way to make it better I'll suggest an edit, or barring that I'll post a comment asking the original poster to clarify.

That said, I think the down vote provides the right motivation for the poster to improve their question, and once they've edited it the site will let you change your vote.

This is exactly how the system is suppose to work. Good questions are up-voted and bad ones down-voted. If someone wants more votes for their question and people have left comments suggesting improvements they either make a change or see their question buried in the weeds.

  • 1
    Sometimes just a comment can provide the right motivation to improve as well. Sometimes a little encouragement can go a long way, as evidenced by the OP's example, which BTW still has it's original downvote associated with it :( It seems that people don't come back to police their down-votes as often as we'd like to think they do.
    – jmort253
    Mar 20, 2011 at 1:47

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