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Because of the strong feelings associated with much of the subject matter at Christianity SE, the need for a polite, academic tone is particularly important. However, some people coming to Stack Exchange might not be familiar with what constitutes a polite, academic tone.

Providing guidelines on this could be useful to new users and to those seeking to help new users adapt to the Stack Exchange culture.

Possibly related questions from elsewhere on meta (auto-suggested):

So, what qualities actually comprise a polite, academic tone?

What practical steps can be taken in composing posts so that they do not come across as confrontational or accusatory?

  • I posted a community wiki answer with only an extremely limited amount of content to start this off. I am hoping that a substantial amount of specific advice can be provided. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to articulate what exactly makes the tone of a writing polite and academic (even though I have some sense of when writing misses the mark and can often approximate that tone in my own writing). – Paul A. Clayton Jul 2 '13 at 11:30
  • I think this is a good idea, but I think it would be helpful to use the voting system to sort suggestions so the most urgent ones will get seen first. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 11:33
  • @Caleb That makes some sense, though I admit that also find some attraction for narrative flow. Separate "answers" also allows vetting of less certain guidelines. (BTW, thanks for making the question community wiki.) – Paul A. Clayton Jul 2 '13 at 11:38
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    No problem, the major thing is that now all answers will automatically be CW. I like narrative flow myself but I think that is better compiled by one writer or editor later after a bunch of suggestions have been vetted. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 11:40
  • @Caleb Regarding an outline "answer", I agree that such should wait for a more complete set of answers. (The idea came from the development on What makes a good answer? at the Writers SE. (Unfortunately, the asker of that question provided the outline "answer", so accepting would not have the effect of giving the outline top billing. I may ask someone to repost that answer so an acceptance would move it to the top.) – Paul A. Clayton Jul 2 '13 at 12:08
  • @Caleb By the way, would it be possible to purge the deleted answer? – Paul A. Clayton Jul 2 '13 at 12:09
  • No I can't actually purge it, but we can certainly re-purpose it. I'm totally fine with seeing it edited into something else and undeleted. By the way it looks like you've already worked through this problem a lot farther than I'd expected and if you plan on bringing in a lot of other content across feel free to organize it how you think best, I was just trying to help and not actually trying to hijack where you were going. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 12:11
  • @Caleb On this specific topic, I do not have a good grasp of what guidelines to provide. I really want a lot of "hijacking". As for the formatting of the question at Writers, Monica Cellio proposed this idea. – Paul A. Clayton Jul 2 '13 at 12:25
  • Does this comment count as polite and professional? – David Stratton Jul 4 '13 at 0:43
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Prefer descriptive over than prescriptive language

Words such as "believe", "conclude", and "teach" should generally be preferred over words such as "recognize", "know", and "affirm".

10

Avoid we/you and we/they phrasing

The use of "we", "you", "they", et al. may seem innocent, but such can easily be perceived as meaning "We right-minded Christians recognize" or "You [Those] misguided so-called Christians suppose". For example, rather than writing "We Presbyterians recognize that Divine sovereignty mandates limited atonement" a more neutral phrasing would be "Presbyterians believe that limited atonement derives from the principle of Divine sovereignty".

8

Stick to the Facts

The internet has plenty of forums that provide the opportunity to share user-generated editorial content. Christianity Stack Exchange specializes instead on providing factual content that is verifiable by reference to various historical documents and/or evident reason.

5

In This Setting, Theological Language Can be More Effective than Devotional Language

Christianity Stack Exchange understandably attracts many individuals who self-identify as Christian. Perhaps owing in part to the fact that a significant amount of Christian literature is intentionally and appropriately devotional in tone, users -- especially new users -- sometimes offer content that seems almost prayerful.

While worship is an important aspect of religious faith, C.SE is a secular site that seeks to provide factual content about history and doctrine. The most effective questions and answers usually reflect this perspective.

  • This is a difficult point, particularly for some answers (and perhaps some questions). Avoiding a dry academic tone typically involves expressing some enthusiasm, and an enthusiastic tone can be difficult to distinguish from devotional tone and can easily flow into a devotional tone. (I also suspect that reasoned and somewhat devotional answers tend to get upvoted and not just because they are more moving as literature but also because the tone/content is agreeable to a large fraction of the audience.) Perhaps advice in distinguishing the enthusiasm of a teacher from that of an ... – Paul A. Clayton Jul 5 '13 at 11:12
  • ... evangelist or a worshiper would be helpful. As noted, this seems to be a difficult point. – Paul A. Clayton Jul 5 '13 at 11:13
  • @PaulA.Clayton: There are many elements to a good C.SE answer, on that we agree. If in this particular meta question, however, we are focusing on the specific characteristics that lend the qualities of "polite" & "academic" to an answer -- only a subset of the many elements that make for a "good" answer -- then I would continue to contend that theological language serves that goal more readily than devotional language. – Philip Schaff Jul 5 '13 at 13:07
  • @PaulA.Clayton: Your comment gave me the idea for a new meta post, similar to this but with a broader scope. It sounds like you may have some good answers for it. Thanks for the thought. – Philip Schaff Jul 5 '13 at 17:05
  • I already linked in a comment to the Writers SE What makes a good answer?. I had hoped that such would be an exemple for SE sites--writers should be good at developing general writing guidelines. (I started it before I discovered the FAQ for SE sites.) I should work more on that, but I was hoping for more community involvement there. Even what is currently there may be useful for your new question (C.SE does have site-specific concerns) – Paul A. Clayton Jul 6 '13 at 3:39
3

Polite guidelines extend to comments too

Your post might be good, but if you quickly show a poor attitude in comments, it will taint your post and people will downvote it based on that. Not really fair, but that's just the way it is. It's just easier and better to be polite all the time.

2

Do your own research

If you reference a Bible verse, at least look it up, consult it to be sure you remember it correctly, and quote it in your post. The same goes for any prominent theologian from antiquity or book that you have read.

1

Avoid slang and use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

-3

Consistent Moderation

Someone along the way complained that one of the sites' most popular questions was, plain and simple, a Truth Question posted by Caleb. As one who at the time was experiencing some frustration with how to word questions here, I'll admit it was infuriating. It's not that you don't need standards, and that you don't have folks with an agenda trying to harm either C or SE, but the standards were either very poorly defined or wielded inconsistently.

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    There are litterally 3-4 hundred straight up truth questions from our early days still floating around. Yes, a a large handful of them are mine. I've gone through and outright closed a number of my own questions ( sample ), deleted a few and edited others so they wouldn't be as bad, but a few of them still need to go. I'm happy to deal with these as they come up and as the community feels they need dealing with. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 20:22
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    However this seems like a separate issue. This meta post is more about writing guidelines. If you have an issue with moderation, please do bring it up in a meta post dedicated to the issue. I've never used those old posts of mine as evidence of anything except that we made mistakes early on. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 20:25
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    P.S. Refraining from voting since it's about me personally, but I'd really like to see you open this up as a separate meta post. – Caleb Jul 2 '13 at 20:26
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    I am guessing your early, highly upvoted Truth questions made a very positive contribution to C.SE. – pterandon Jul 3 '13 at 3:36
  • Consistent moderation is a valid point. And we've got it. To pull up questions and answers from early on in the site's history and say "See... this moderator asked truth questions" is not valid. At the time those questions were on-topic. The site guidelines hadn't been established. if you look at history over the last year or so, you'll see incredible consistency. – David Stratton Jul 3 '13 at 4:51
  • When those posts were made, they were perfectly within guidelines. Just like all fallible humans, we learned along the way. If you look at posts over time, Meta posts, discussions, etc, you'll see that the moderators and the community zeroed in on the current guidelines, which have remained unchanged for at least six months, if not the last full year. Referring back to old posts from before the guidelines were settled is like holding a sinners old sins against them after they've been saved. There's a whole before/after reality to deal with here. – David Stratton Jul 3 '13 at 4:52
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    Leaving Truth Questions on the site provides opportunities for the bickering they engender, and make a frustrating example for those looking to high-rated people for example. Another inconsistency: I write a good question, it's threatened with closing for being a "List Question". Next question I post is poorly worded, and Caleb comes along and edits it to a perfect SE question, and a List Question. THIS inconsistency creates frustration that leads to "tone" problems, moreso than cracking down on use of "they" would. – pterandon Jul 3 '13 at 12:22
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    I know this is two years old, but I think you've gotten the friction here because this isn't really in the right place. On this post, we're just trying to lay down some guidelines for being polite and academic. Moderation regarding site scope is a different issue. – 3961 Jun 19 '15 at 17:57

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