We sometimes get questions about word usage, critiques of individual sentences, and grammar. So do English Language & Usage and English Language Learners, and those two sites have overlap with each other too.

Where should the boundaries among our sites be? What makes a question in this area on-topic on Writing? Note that it is perfectly ok for a question to be on-topic on more than one site on the network.

I hope that an outcome of this question will be better guidance in our FAQ, but I don't know if we're ready to jump straight to writing that yet -- hence this question.

For reference:

ELU permits:

  • Word choice and usage
  • Grammar
  • Etymology (history of words’ development)
  • Dialect differences
  • Pronunciation (phonetics and phonology, dialectology)
  • Spelling and punctuation

ELL permits:

  • Word choice and usage
  • Grammar
  • Dialect differences
  • Spelling and punctuation
  • Practical problems you encounter while learning English

Writing permits questions about (see help for more):

  • Non-fiction, technical, scholarly, journalistic, or blog writing, including the presentation of examples, charts, and diagrams.
  • Writing fiction, poetry, or song lyrics.
  • General copywriting, style, and organization.
  • Questions asking for help expressing a concept or an idea, within limits. (See this meta post for more information.)
  • The publishing and editing process itself.

Writing does not permit:

  • Proofreading requests
  • Requests to critique your work
  • Questions asking what to write about
  • Questions about the strictly interpreted correctness of English grammar or syntax rules
  • Questions seeking to interpret or analyze an existing work] (except when applied to a real-world writing project)

The biggest areas of interaction with the other sites are "general copywriting" (permitted), proofreading (not permitted), and language correctness (not permitted).

Writing used to allow critique questions but no longer does.

  • Nice! A good summary of what Writers permits in relation to EL&U and ELL: If your question is about the details of words and grammar and syntax, it belongs on ELL or EL&U. If it's about writing in a more general sense, or style or formatting, it's more appropriate on Writers. Apr 30, 2013 at 19:06
  • 2
    Would you mind adding a similar list for those of us who came to this question from ELU and ELL who don't know what Writers tends to permit?
    – Mitch
    May 3, 2013 at 12:36
  • @Mitch, good point - done. May 3, 2013 at 16:15
  • Note - Looks like style may now be off-topic at ELU. Have asked the mods there to clarify, we'll update this when we have something to link to. Sep 23, 2013 at 16:23
  • I wonder where you draw the line between editing and proof reading. I translate and sometimes wrack my brain for a better formulation. Is that relevant to any of the stack exchanges. And should I even be posting this question here?
    – S Conroy
    Jul 29, 2018 at 0:46
  • 2
    @SConroy it might be better to ask a new question, for visibility -- I don't know how many people will see a comment on this meta post. Thanks. Jul 29, 2018 at 2:49

3 Answers 3


The key difference between these groups is the community that each one exists to attract and serve.

  • Writing is trying to create a community of writers, so it invites questions which will interest writing experts.

  • ELU is trying to create a community of linguists, etymologists, and other academic experts, so it invites questions which will interest these academic experts.

  • ELL is trying to create a community of language teachers and learners, so it invites questions which will interest teachers and learners.

To put it another way, consider how a grammar question might fit with each site:

  • If it boils down to writing advice (which construct will be easiest for the reader to comprehend) it is probably an ideal candidate for Writing.

  • If it gets more into linguistics or etymology (how should something be parsed, or how did the language evolve in this direction) it is probably ideal for ELU.

  • If it is about a common problem faced by English learners (what is the natural or idiomatic way to express this thought) it is probably ideal for ELL.

  • 3
    I would object to the term "academic" with respect to ELU. It's pretty far from that, and any attempt to make it that would require that 80% of the existing questions and answers be deleted.
    – Robusto
    May 1, 2013 at 18:29
  • 2
    I find it hard not to see ELU as an academic community by design and in practice. The ELU FAQ defines the community as "linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts". "Academic experts" is a fair gloss. Posting requirements contribute to an academic climate, such as research, citations, and the use of linguistic symbols. The community makes a great effort to edit posts to academic standards. To the extent that some questions and answers fall short, I think that is down to high demand for ELL help. The ELL site was only recently created to meet this need.
    – MetaEd
    May 1, 2013 at 21:19
  • I think the fair gloss is "experts"—not "academic" experts. I, for one, left academia a long time ago (sans fond farewells).
    – Robusto
    May 1, 2013 at 21:25
  • Also, @RegDwight never got any degree whatsoever, come to think of it.
    – Robusto
    May 2, 2013 at 13:40
  • @Robusto You are reading too much into the word. Academic standards and climate does not equal a degree requirement for admittance.
    – MetaEd
    May 2, 2013 at 18:01

This diagram may help folks see the overlaps between the sites. It's largely distilled from the answers on this page.

enter image description here

  • 3
    Nicely done! Yes, this would be a great resource for all three sites once everybody's agreed on the divisions. May 5, 2013 at 4:12
  • 3
    Anyone have any comment on this? I'd like to make it part of the help center, somewhere. Sep 23, 2013 at 16:15
  • "Style", "Style guidelines (AP, Chicago, etc.)", and "General copywriting questions" in the ELU bubble may mislead. ELU welcomes linguistic questions about English language variants. This includes not just dialect differences but also variations used in different social contexts, often called register, formality, or style. But ELU generally closes questions which request help with writing, etiquette, or following a particular style guide. @MonicaCellio FYI
    – MetaEd
    Mar 23, 2018 at 14:09
  • 2
    Neil, we've had some scope changes (and also a name change) since you made this diagram; could you update to align with our current help? Thanks! (Critiques, in particular, need to drop out, plus see MetaEd's comment for ELU.) Mar 23, 2018 at 14:22
  • 3
    @MonicaCellio I did some updating, further suggestions welcome. Mar 24, 2018 at 18:38
  • @NeilFein thanks! And good idea about adding Academia. Mar 25, 2018 at 3:37

I'll write it from my point of view. If the question would still be interesting and reasonable after translation to any other language, then it's useful for writers in general. Otherwise, there are groups dedicated for problems with particular language usage.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .