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How would you approach a poster with a difficult to read posting style?

PM the poster
29 (28.2%)
Mention the difficulty in the thread that contains an example of the posting style
17 (16.5%)
Do nothing
49 (47.6%)
Other (please explain)
8 (7.8%)

Total Members Voted: 103

Author Topic: How would you approach a poster with a difficult to read posting style?  (Read 15170 times)

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Everyone has different posting styles, but when those styles make it difficult for other posters to read them or if there is a grammar or noticeable spelling error (i.e. in the thread title), what is the best way to approach the poster?  I've seen it done in threads - mainly when a poster uses one huge paragraph without any breaks.  I've also noticed the ellipses thing - which I myself am guilty of and have tried to pay attention an limit their use. 

Does it make a difference if it's a new poster vs. an established poster? 

So what say you all?

“Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.” ~ Groucho Marx


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If a newbie posts a huge block wall of text, and no one else has mentioned it yet.  I will post a quick friendly FYI.  If I noticed an established poster that refuses to use let's say capitals.  I will PM once and ask if they can use caps.  If I got such a post, and it was worded nicely, I would thank them and try to heed their suggestions. 

In fact when I see posts in the Forum Questions sections asking about grammar, spelling, caps etc I will read it through and see if it applies to me.  One did recently and I am making an effort not to do it. 


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I voted other because I think it needs to be decided on a case by case basis. If it's a particularly egregious case of someone ignoring techno-quette, such as a very long post with no paragraph breaks or out of control ellipses (............ like that), where most everyone would agree something should be said, then it's okay to mention it in the thread. If the post is easy to read but has spelling or punctuation mistakes, ignore it unless it could cause or is causing a misunderstanding. For the in-between cases where the post is readable but is on the edge of being not readable, then a PM with a polite request makes more sense.

Since it's a judgment call, I think you need to be careful if you are particular about that sort of thing. Frankly I'm not all that particular, so I figure if it bothers me, it's probably a big enough problem that something should be said. I'm seriously the farthest thing from a grammar cop!  If you are strict about spelling and grammar, then you have to be more forgiving than you might normally be.
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If it's difficult to read because they're using text-speak and/or really poor sentence structure, I skip the post.


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It would depend on the error and whether or not the error changed their point or simply made it difficult to understand.  If they said, "I hate guppies!", but meant, "I don't hate guppies!", it makes a bit of a difference.  If it's style-related, i wouldn't mention it ("Dear Mr. Joyce, Your style of writing with run-on sentences and invented words is not suitable for publication....").  If the entire post of 12,000 words is presented in one long paragraph, I'd post whatever reply I had and I'd add a, "Hey, you might want to consider breaking your post up into paragraphs to make it easier to read." addendum at the end.

Grammar mistakes and typos I tend to ignore.  People generally won't appreciate a "heads-up" PM about them and if you post about them you'll start a flame-war about who is/isn't the "grammar/spelling police".  (Quietly grits her teeth over "its/it's", "your/you're", "they're/their/there" and "to/too/two".)


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I have seen obviously tipsy/drunk posters on here, people who know better but choose to type incorrectly anyway, people who aren't very good at conveying their ideas and people who are just typo-prone.

I generally skip the indecipherable ones, deciding within the first sentence or two that it's not worth my time to read them and try to understand them -- unless, say, the OP of a thread comes back drunk-looking and I think the post might still be relevant to the thread, or the post is repeatedly quoted in the discussion that follows.

If an OP is one of those tough-to-read things, I'll typically pass on the thread.

I'm not generally on eHell to be an editor (though I enjoy revising people's correspondence when asked, sometimes), so I don't feel like correcting people's writing publicly or privately is how I want to spend my time.

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If it's difficult to read because they're using text-speak and/or really poor sentence structure, I skip the post.

I do that too.  I also skip it if there are out of control ellipses like O'Dell mentioned as I end up ignoring the words and just skimming from over-long ellipsis to over-long ellipsis.

If I felt I should say something, I'd PM the author, but I'm far more likely to ignore the post.


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If it's hard to read or difficult to make sense of, I just skip it. 
Ask for what you want. Let's be clear on this one:
Subtle hints don't work.
Strong hints don't work.
Really obvious hints don't work.
Just say it!

-The Car Talk Guys


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I'm another one who will just skip the post if it's too difficult to read, for whatever reason. If it just has a few misspellings or grammar errors, I'm not going to correct them. If it's just a jumbled mess of incomprehensible babble I just skip it.

The funny thing is, even when I find it unreadable, there are still others responding so what the heck! Maybe it's just me! In which case I really don't want to presume to tell someone else how to structure their posts!


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I voted "do nothing" because I've learned - the hard way, unfortunately - that many people do not take these types of suggestions well. I am not easily annoyed by unusual posting styles, but if a post is written so atrociously that it would take some effort to decipher the meaning (e.g., textspeak, no punctuation), I tend to skip it.

The only type of error I would post about in the thread is one that changes the meaning, such as Fidgets' example of forgetting a "don't" or a mix-up of the OP's character names.

I don't think it's rude to post in the thread or PM someone with a heads-up that their posting style is hard to read, as long as it is politely phrased. I do think it's usually rude to correct someone's grammar or spelling when the meaning is clear. This is a conversational board, not an English class. The exception might be a glaring error in a thread title. I know if I had to see "Thread Titel" in my unread posts list all the time it would drive me slightly insane.
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I'd probably mention it in the thread in question that way there is a concrete example of the problem.  I wouldn't do this for simple grammar or typos, but for people who can't seem to figure out paragraphs or are using weird sentence breaks.  (Also when there are too many abbreviations--that makes a post unreadable for me.)  If a post is going to keep getting ignored for simple formatting issues, I would think a poster would be thankful for a heads up. 
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I voted "do nothing."  I just simply skip over their posts.


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I would not approach anyone who did not ask for advice about their style of writing. It's not my place to correct someone who doesn't ask for correcting of that nature on a forum.

I merely skip over any post that I cannot understand. If it's the OP that I cannot understand, then I just do not get involved in the thread.

It's not worth my time to decipher something on a site that is a pleasant pastime.

The consequence of not being able to effectively communicate is that people are less likely to attempt to answer their question. (That's not a "punishment" consequence. More like a cause and effect type consequence.) Now, if a poster was wondering what they could do to improve their posting, or to get more people to answer them, then I may dip a toe in the water and mention the issue. If I could figure out how to word it politely enough.

ETA: Newbie? Then they may learn over time from reading other posts. Established? Nope. They know how they like to type, even after looking over the forums.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2012, 12:08:51 PM by TheVapors »


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If the post is just too unintelligible, like wall of text, all caps, no caps, too many abbreviations like DD1, FMIL, DS3, I just skip those posts.

As another poster said, coming here is a fun leisure time activity. I am not going to expend any time or energy deciphering an unreadable post.
No matter where you go, there you are...


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I voted "do nothing" as I feel if I say anything it's a case of "pot meet kettle", I don't want to be *that* person. My biggest pet-peeve is slang. Not text speak, because I don't think that happens here often enough, but slang drives me bonkers.

It isn't about "hero" or "newbie" for me either. I think most of us, when receiving constructive criticism, take it as it's intended. As a nice way to improve how we write, how we organize our thoughts, or to make things easier to read. I suppose a PM would be the best way, as I have seen threads (not here necessarily) get way off track, when it's "in thread". I don't feel that a person has to be a professional editor to offer suggestions on posting styles, if one person mentions an issue, it's most likely an issue.

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