What topics can I ask about here?

The English Language and Usage Stack Exchange is for linguists, etymologists, and (serious) English language enthusiasts. Questions on the following topics are welcomed here:

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

But please, don’t ask any questions about the following topics. They are out of scope for this site.

  • Proofreading ("Is this right?", "Are there any mistakes?"), unless the source of concern is clearly specified
  • Writing advice (see Writers.SE instead) or critique requests
  • "How to improve my English?" (this is not constructive anyway)
  • Translation and non-English languages — please see the translation tag info for details
  • Naming, including naming programming variables/classes
  • Criticism, discussion, and analysis of English literature
  • Jokes that do not rely on the English language

In addition, if you are new to learning English, please consider whether your question might be better suited for English Language Learners.

What notation and symbols are commonly used here?

An evolving list of common abbreviations used on this site can be found here.

Symbols from the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) are used to describe pronunciations of words. Transcriptions in IPA are normally contained within slashes (e.g. /kæt/) or square brackets (e.g. [maʊs]).

In addition, some linguistic symbols are used to make it clear whether examples are to be taken as proper English or not. These include:

  • *: Used in front of an example word or phrase to indicate that the example is ungrammatical (e.g. *Me enjoy eating cookies.)
  • ?: Used similarly to *, but indicates a word or phrase that is potentially marginal or awkward, rather than fully ungrammatical (e.g. ?unbelievableness)

Where can I find answers to simple and basic questions?

If your question is simple and can probably be easily answered by looking it up, then you may find common online internet resources to be of some help. View our list of community recommended resources to find some that may be of help to you.

  • Try a dictionary if you want to know what a word or phrase means, how it evolved, or how it is pronounced.
  • Try a thesaurus if you want to know words or phrases that have a similar meaning to one you already know.

Of course, if your question isn't adequately answered by these resources, feel free to ask here on English Language and Usage Stack Exchange. Be sure to mention the research you've done and what you're still hoping to learn!

For more help, see "What types of questions should I avoid asking?" Please look around to see if your question has been asked before. It’s also OK to ask and answer your own question.

If your question is not specifically on-topic for English Language and Usage Stack Exchange, it may be on topic for another Stack Exchange site. If no site currently exists that will accept your question, you may commit to or propose a new site at Area 51, the place where new Stack Exchange communities are democratically created.