A type of question that pops up frequently - and gets closed frequently - is requests to rephrase a few sentences. Some recent examples:
Is this type of question on topic?
A Proposal For Allowing Rephrase Requests
Who better than a writer to ask what a more eloquent way of phrasing something is? I could give him a useful answer trivially; It would be no effort at all on my part; I would be glad to help him, and it would help the goal of making the internet a better place. Once I've done it, everyone could read it and not have to ask again, as I will make the answer very general and very useful. That is how I feel personally about the two questions above. To translate that to rules that the site can enforce and make the submissions manageable:
Suggested guidelines for questions in this format:
- Only one or two sentences can be asked to rephrase, do not ask us to re-write your entire paper or book.
- The sentences should have a clear subject and intention. Don't ask us to come up with your thesis statement, I probably could, but as a joke, I'd make the statement impossible to defend without a grasp of semantics as least as great as my own.
- In your question, ask exactly what you'd like the language to convey that you feel it isn't expressing now. A good example is "I'm sure that this could be more concise and have a more authoritative tone, can anyone show me how?" A bad example is "Pls make it better." The latter will be closed as "Not having a clear enough focus."
Suggested guidelines for answers:
Answers to these questions are subjective; there isn't a cut and dry right answer. That is the nature of the art of writing, it has to be so, and so this has to be a case where clear cut answers aren't required. As we all agree, this is a subjective value, and there will be no debate about which is best; guidelines for picking an answer are whichever the asker thought was best. Upvote all of the answers you think are good. Downvote if you think the answerer sucked, but please say why.
When answering, it would be more helpful if you could elaborate on why you re-wrote the sentence the way you suggested and include as much information as possible. Answers that don't attempt to do this should be downvoted or removed.
DO NOT attempt to answer the question if a better answer than the one you're about to suggest is already there. This point could be the undoing of these kinds of questions. Without it, we're encouraging list-style answers with no end in sight, but since it's subjective, it's possible for those less high minded than others to abuse. It's up to us as voters and site members to enforce this on ourselves and each other.
Why we should do this:
If we allow these questions, I feel I've placed the bar to entry high enough that I don't expect all of the questions to be accepted without edits. This will allow someone very great in their technical field to come to us and ask us humbly to help them express their greatness in writing, with eloquence. It will not allow Joe from the block to ask any random willy nilly "how can this be better" question, which is obviously not okay.
Allowing these questions will help anyone reading the site, I may see a way to phrase something I had never considered in one of these answers and so my writing will be forever improved. Someone searching on the internet may think that the internet is that much cooler of a place that someone else asked and answered a question so similarly that I didn't need to go any farther than my favorite search engine. This inclusion, with the way I've structured it, will give us only upside.
NOTE: In areas where the two questions above don't meet the standards of this proposition, if, at all, I would, in this case, edit them so that they did, which would at least make them actionable under the new guidelines. I'm doing this now because I feel this site doesn't get enough use, and I'm trying to help promote it.
The answer I've seen, which I would like to address suggests that if we change our policy, there will be more of these questions. Maybe, and maybe not, I can't speak to that. That's an assumption, I think. The point is that we WILL get these questions. As the answerer suggests, they are going to happen because people don't read instructions in this country. I am not saying we do anything other than treat the subset of questions that meets the above criteria differently. That's all. Since they are going to happen, and I believe that the subset I included with my criteria accounts for the small percentage of good questions that are a subset of the bad ones, why not account for them? If you disagree that the subset I've included is good, please suggest criteria or rules of your own that would only include worthwhile questions?
Additionally, please note, I suspect that if I asked the question that I am asking to be allowed to answer, it would get a response and not be closed, here is an example:
In my writing, I need to express to someone that they have been accepted to a program. I want the sentences to sound authoritative, with a congratulatory and not sarcastic tone. So far, I have:
"Congratulations, you have been accepted to the Young Geniuses Guild. We look forward to seeing your returned acceptance confirmation. You will find it enclosed, please sign and drop in the mail."
I think this sounds terribly bland, and I would like suggestions on how to make it sound, well, "smarter". Thanks.
Can you honestly say that you wouldn't answer this, or want to? Yes, in fact, I'm smart enough to have couched the question in terms of writing. I didn't lie; I said writing, if the writing was for a person's job or an email they were sending, it's still true.
What do you think?