Lack of Precision in Questions, Answers and Posts I have seen many questions, answers and posts since I joined eNotes. It is noted that some of these are not written meticulously and at times do not convey what is intended. I think there is a need to find the root cause for the lack of precision in writing and address the same by taking corrective measures.  May I have your views on the issue. 

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I believe that post #7 is right on the money.  I agree with much of what has been said with the most important point being to meet students where they are. Students have emailed their thanks to me at times because they truly did not understand and didn't feel comfortable admitting that to the teacher because everyone else seemed to understand.  This format is essentially anonymous so students feel that they can ask whatever they need to.

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A lack of precision in the question relates directly to a lack of precision is answers. Also, there is only supposed to be one answer for each question, and 9 for discussions. So discussions will get more detailed answers in general, but each answer will be short. Discussion answers are supposed to be around 40 words, so usually each answer contributes a small part and leaves room for others so everyone gets a chance to respond.
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I think that we have to meet students where they are, just as we do in the classroom. I have never been shy about asking students to clarify questions, and I see that others do it very often as well. As for answers, I try to make mine as detailed as possible, and frankly I probably err on the side of too much detail. Should effective communication, including communication in online contexts, be emphasized more in classrooms? Of course. But I don't think we can or should hold students accountable for that here.

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I think that sometimes the space limitations pose some difficulty for the student asking the question, and sometimes the student may be working from a mobile device rather than a computer, which could make it harder to ask a lengthy question. However, there are other times when the lack of precision may be a sign of honesty - the student is trying to paraphrase something that the teacher asked, rather than attempting to get us to do his/her homework. I am comfortable with that.

I try to provide enough links so the student can access the detail he/she needs to understand the answer thoroughly.

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When I'm responding to questions, I try to give as much detail as possible that will answer the question without overwhelming the student.  I think the biggest challenge to doing that is figuring out what the student is asking.  Sometimes the question is vague and there is no immediate way to clarify the question with the student, while other times the question is asking for extensive detail that really goes beyond one question.

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When I began responding to questions, it was annoying to me, too. However, I have acquired some perspective on this over the years.  For one thing, there are space limitations.  For another, students are often in a hurry when they ask their questions.  But most importantly, they are here because they need help.  If they don't know how to properly formulate a question, that is part of the help we can give them.  Often I see a question on a literary text that has no indication of what the text is.  I simply email the student to suggest that the student clarify, so we can answer.  Who amongst us has not made a mistake?

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My view is that answers of the length that we provide are inevitably going to be incomplete.  It is also the case that there will sometimes be misunderstandings and people who write answers might not fully understand the meaning of the question being asked.

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