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Many a question asked here is barely understandable, and it seems we're very reluctant to point this out, obviously because it's hard to do so in a polite and helpful manner, without knowing about the background of an OP.

Such questions then usually get ignored or closed as "unclear", which is not really helpful.

I'm wondering if we should perhaps have a "language" flag that, if raised, just shows the OP a notice that people have difficulties understanding him, and encourages others to help him out.

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    $\begingroup$ That's a VLQ, unless severely edited, closed as "unclear" or other suitable reason is proper action. If OP doesn't bother with writing coherently, I see no reason to care more then they do. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jun 1 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Mithoron That's not what I meant by "constructive", if you follow my drift. ;-) $\endgroup$ – Karl Jun 1 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ I would add that sometimes it is possible to infer easily from reading the question the meaning the OP intended, rather it is the expression of the question that is at fault. This may be due to lack of mathjax, broken image, etc. In such cases, we should take a step - if we can - to fix that mathjax or broken image. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Jun 1 at 17:05
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    $\begingroup$ Well, if OP is communicative then chances of "salvaging" the post rise, but if they didn't post it properly chances that they would do it when prompted are slim. Even if OP tries to improved, usually others need to edit it too. BTW flags don't work that way. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jun 1 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Mith it's sometimes not "doesn't bother", but "simply can't", but I do agree it's something probably no one can fix if it's severe enough. You have no idea how many comments I've gotten to the effect of "no, you changed my question completely!" trying to fix such posts when I wasn't fully sure what they meant. Well, I have no idea either. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Jun 1 at 21:28
  • $\begingroup$ @M.A.R.ಠ_ಠ Well "usually others need to edit it too" signifies that they don't know how to do it properly, or what should be doesn't equal what they imagine. Unfortunately most questions come from people who don't have any experience with the site. $\endgroup$ – Mithoron Jun 1 at 21:38
  • $\begingroup$ @GaurangTandon No, I specifically mean cases where that is not the case. Not formatting problems etc., but an OP who is not able to express himself in in our lingua franca a way that can be understood. Or in a way that is easily misunderstood. $\endgroup$ – Karl Jun 2 at 20:09
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One way (but by no means the only way) is to have a post notice. These are not often used, but I think they could accomplish what you're looking for. Here's an example of a post notice. Only moderators can add them to posts, but it's simple enough for a user to flag for mod attention asking for a post notice to be added.

Unfortunately, we cannot directly customise these ourselves (not even mods), but we could request to have one along these lines, if we think that is the best way forward. See also: What about site-specific post notices?

To do this, we would have to come up with a wording for the post notice, and then tag the question with .

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  • $\begingroup$ I see someone is also itching for more meta. Get in line. $\endgroup$ – M.A.R. Jun 1 at 21:33
  • $\begingroup$ "A word of caution: moderators will not be amused if you flag every answer you disagree with. Exercise restraint." Given how often problems arise due to lack of clarity, and given the comment in the preceding line from the link you provide, I question whether the post notice is a viable choice. $\endgroup$ – Buck Thorn Jun 2 at 16:43
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it seems we're very reluctant to point this out, obviously because it's hard to do so in a polite and helpful manner

Maybe we should be less reluctant? If a question is impossible to understand, then there's no problem with simply telling the asker that it's impossible to understand.

I undoubtedly didn't do a perfect job, but just now I came across a question like this, and I commented:

Welcome to Stack Exchange! This question is impossible to understand because it is written very unclearly. I recommend that you ask someone else to rewrite this question for you.

If there are any downsides to the approach I took, I'd be interested in hearing about them.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're right, one should be less reluctant, bu also your comment dances around the "bad grammar" issue. ;-) Can't we be more specific? $\endgroup$ – Karl Jun 1 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ I agree. We should point out the inaccuracies to the user as soon as we notice them, so that they would have a chance to fix them as them. $\endgroup$ – Gaurang Tandon Jun 1 at 17:03
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Such questions then usually get ignored or closed as "unclear", which is not really helpful.

Well, nobody said it is. Unfortunately, the truth is you often can't help these people in any way when it's a (new) user that vanishes till the cows come home. They call some of these "unsalvageable" for a reason.

If someone manages to come by and understand (not guess at, mind you) what the OP is getting at, and take their time and edit the post into shape, it'd be a true form of chivalry! But let's bear in mind that it's the OP's job to post something that's in the best possible form to answer. That's what @Mith is getting at.

A little chivalry goes a long way sometimes, when all the post lacks is a couple of miscapitalized I's or when the message is clear enough. Usually, if I don't have the time or the certainty to edit the question, I'd comment on why it's not necessarily unsalvageable. It's OK for the close voters to do some meta commentary on the post as long as it doesn't clutter it too much, and we all need to get 'em Marshal badges now, don't we? ;)

On the other hand, since you mention "vocabulary", sometimes people are just not familiar enough with the terminology. I saw one recent example (not linking it due to meta effect) with pretty clear English but a poor choice of terms, and these usually fall under the "general reference" I mentioned in my recent post. It's also typically an unfortunate situation, because best case scenario is answerer taking their time to write a perhaps lengthy answer, only to find out it was an XY problem, or a chameleon question, or a myriad of other bad words. The OP should have continued reading their textbook instead of impatiently posting their half-baked question. A no-win situation is best amended with the fast-firing bullets of close votes.

All in all, I do think the experience of such OPs can be greatly improved, but I don't think they're being unfairly treated, and usually, there's no one to help them immediately, not even themselves. I assume the "language flag" you talk about won't be in French/Indian/Martian, so it probably won't solve much ;)

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