I've recently received the privilege to review suggested edits and I can't quite agree to the suggestions. I'm talking about https://matheducators.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/567 (this answer).

To summarize the corrections, there are two types of edits that have been suggested:

  1. Fixing punctuation (commas), fixing spelling (their/they're, student/students)

  2. Reformulating (we will discuss $\rightarrow$ ask them to discuss, Come to find out he had used the cheg website $\rightarrow$ It turned out that he had used the Chegg website).

How do we want to work with this? Do we want to make MESE as legible as possible, or do we want to maintain a degree of personal style in questions and answers (even if it's no Pulitzer prize material and contains style and/or grammar errors)?

Please feel free to post your views and/or up/downvote others to indicate your agreement/disagreement.


3 Answers 3


First I'd like to quote from the Help Center page on editing posts:

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

When should I edit posts?

Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to suggest an edit, you are welcome to do so. The original author of a question or answer may always edit their own post, regardless of reputation level.

Edits are expected to be substantial and to leave the post better than you found it. Common reasons for edits include:

  • To fix grammar and spelling mistakes
  • To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
  • To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place
  • To correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages
  • To add related resources or hyperlinks

My own philosophy towards editing is that you should endeavor to make edits that clearly help the original post, and will not annoy the original poster. It's important to preserve the meaning of the posted question as faithfully as you can, but it's fine to clean up the wording of a badly worded question. There are really two conflicting goals here:

  1. Improve questions.

  2. Don't annoy other people.

Any edit that clearly satisfies both goals ought to be fine.

In the example you link to, I thought the proposed edits ranged from clear-cut (e.g. "their" to "they're", "student" to "students", and "cheg" to "Chegg") to marginal, but overall I think I would approve the edit.

In general, I think the following types of edits are usually fine:

  • Fixing capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

  • Adding paragraph breaks to long posts that don't have any.

  • Adding LaTeX to posts that include non-LaTeX equations, and fixing LaTeX mistakes

  • For a post written by a non-native English speaker, changing word choices to those that a native English speaker would make, as long as the meaning is preserved.

  • For a very poorly written post, changing it in such a way that it meets the minimum quality standards for a question, while roughly preserving the meaning.

  • For a very unclear question, adding material from the comments that seems necessary to clarify the intent (assuming the original poster does not add such material themselves).

  • Improving the title of a question so that it better represents the body text. For example, if you find a question with a vague title like "Problem Students", I think it's fine to change it to something that better describes the body text, e.g. "How to handle students who monopolize class time with questions?"

  • Improving the tags of a question.

For major edits (such as those near the end of the list), I think it's also polite to leave a comment mentioning that you have made the edit. I see a lot of users doing this with tags, and I hope that someone would also do this if they changed the title, or made major changes to the text of a question.

Finally, if you make an edit and the author of the question (or another user) reverts it, please don't get into an edit war. Just move on to another question!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I would also suggest inserting links to the answer or question (sometimes, answers refer to each other; or someone says that he/she uses something which is uncommon, then refer to Wikipedia; or when there is an article or book which can be linked) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 16, 2014 at 7:30
  • $\begingroup$ I would also add formatting improvements like using the built-in list environment or blockquotes where appropriate. $\endgroup$
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ Why should you leave a comment on major changes? Isn’t this what the edit summary is for? The OP gets informed about an edit anyway and everybody else can check the edit history. $\endgroup$
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 8:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Wrzlprmft I just think it's polite. I don't feel strongly about it. $\endgroup$
    – Jim Belk
    Commented Apr 17, 2014 at 12:44
  • $\begingroup$ Indeed "If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you." - I don't think we should allow people to be precious about their work, and changing the phrasing whilst leaving the meaning intact is absolutely OK in the rest of the stack exchange network, when it improves clarity. $\endgroup$
    – AndrewC
    Commented May 6, 2014 at 11:40

I propose two technical changes to the site operation:

1) Users who can apply edits immediately should also have the option of submitting edits to take effect only after approval.

2) When someone edits a post, it currently appears in the main list of questions with the editor's name and reputation. I propose that edits appear there with the original poster's or last answerer's name and reputation instead.

The current system overemphasizes the importance of edits. This proposal would provide a better view of the relative contributions, emphasizing the original posters.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree with much of your answer. I tend to edit things that are clearly typos, their/there it's/its, etc, and would prefer not to see I was last edit, given the choice. $\endgroup$ Commented May 9, 2014 at 20:28

Edit with caution.

I think that we should promote to edit spelling errors, grammatical errors, typos and MathJaX typesetting. However, I do not think that we should edit style issues or improve formulations.

We are an international community where not everyone's first language is English. It's not uncommon to make some mistakes, and it's nice if you can correct slight oversights. But I think that questions and answers should represent the poster's personal style.


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