On a Stack Exchange site I moderate, there is one user who repeatedly uses commas instead of other proper punctuation marks in posts, and often writes simple walls of text. At first, people edited the posts and left comments telling the user what their errors were, but the user got upset and stated that they were a non-native English speaker and were unaware of the rules. I suspect they're not used to using the Latin alphabet.

An example of their responses:

Im sorry,To be honest i write like this because i dont know how to use commas in my keyboard.I didnt reject your edition on porpouse,I was adding more information...Sorry

This was fairly tame, but came after they were corrected four times in the same post.

I understand that not being a native speaker can make communicating harder, but they have been told many times in the past what is the right thing to do, and they seem unable to follow the directions. It's adversely affecting how their posts are being received. I want to let them know that they're not writing correctly, without them getting annoyed. I don't think they don't have cause to get annoyed - I think that they're in the wrong - but I still don't want to seem overly antagonistic.

How can I politely tell them that they need to quickly change their behavior, without coming across as insensitive or rude?

I should also mention that this user has had other behavioral issues in the past, including asking poor questions, sockpuppeting, and not following other site rules very well. They have been mod-messaged multiple times and suspended. Making questions clearer is one of their major issues, but they do have a history, to put it kindly.

  • You can't confront them without confronting them. Which is it going to be? Jun 28, 2017 at 14:41
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    "How can I offer corrections to someone who receives criticism very defensively?" Is that what you're after? Jun 28, 2017 at 14:44
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    @John That's ok. My comment did not mean to be snarky. I apologize if I came across that way. As someone with ADHD myself, I'm familiar with reading things but somehow missing them.
    – Ramon Melo
    Jun 28, 2017 at 20:21
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    @RamonMelo I interpreted it simply as constructive feedback, which I always appreciate.
    – John
    Jun 28, 2017 at 20:23
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because Stack Exchange's meta support site was created to deal with social issues as well as technical. While this may be an interpersonal issue, I'm going to ask that we don't split these conversations between two sites and allow the broader Stack Exchange to community to benefit from whatever may be discussed here. Aug 7, 2017 at 16:30

3 Answers 3


From a non-native English speaker's perspective: getting used to punctuation rules in English requires practice, not lecturing. They can't just "change their behavior" because learning takes time, effort, and resources, which may or may not be available to them.

The best approach to this requires stop calling them out in comments, since the only thing you are accomplishing is putting them on the defensive. If you have already pointed them to the right resources, the only thing left for you to do is to keep on editing their answers and wait for them to put in the necessary effort to learn.

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    I might want to add that SE is moderated by users. Of course we frown on improper punctuations and typos everywhere, but then it is our duty to edit to make it clearer, or downvote because it's unclear - I was told you can use your vote however you want but sniping users. This is specifically only works on SE sites and not forums.
    – Vylix
    Jun 28, 2017 at 15:25
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    If I understand correctly - and do correct me if I'm wrong - does your suggestion boils down to "Edit and wait"? One issue, by the way, is that a multitude of users are making the (constructive) comments, and we can't really get them to stop.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 28, 2017 at 20:40
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    Another thing I'll add is that we've used this strategy by default for several months, and there was not an improvement.
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:08
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    @HDE226868 My suggestion is to point the user to resources you might find useful for them to learn, encourage them to invest the time and effort they require, and, then, allow them enough time to do so. In the meantime, keep the edits going.
    – Ramon Melo
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:17
  • @HDE226868 There's an issue in your (you and the other users) approach to fixing this issue: none of you can learn for someone else. As such, getting the person who's supposed to cooperate defensive will inherently fail. If you want the user to keep contributing (instead of just being banned), you need to convince him to change. About other users: open a discussion on meta and debate with them whether or not mass commenting on this user's grammar is really useful.
    – Ramon Melo
    Jun 28, 2017 at 21:23

Given the combination of behaviors I would lean towards being a little more direct and confrontational. If it was just a language learning curve that would be one thing, but if the user is showing a general disdain for the community's guidelines it tells you something more about the user's attitude and intent.

People who are making a legitimate effort to be apart of a community usually at least try to learn from past mistakes and direct instructions. When it comes to a point where they've already been shown the door more than once, you have to ask if they really intend to do anything differently this time around.

Once is a mistake, 2-4 times is a learning curve, 5 times and beyond is a pattern.

I'm not saying that you should be rude, just be direct. Something along the lines of:

"Your post has problem X, and we've already discussed problem X with you here, here and here. I'm not fixing it for you again. Please sort it out."

And if it continues to be a problem, consider offering longer stints in the penalty box...

I know it sounds harsh, but putting your foot down when it's called for is a completely healthy interpersonal skill.

  • This. Too much political correctness and sugar coating and treating disrespectful users with kid gloves. Apr 29, 2022 at 15:55

I would phrase it as an offer to help him so that the forum will be better.

Something along the lines of "we appreciate your input and the effort you put into the forum. However, your spelling make your posts less effective then they could have been".

Then list specific rules he can follow, and offer to help answer any questions he has about spelling.

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