Are you about to edit someone else's work? Before you do, think about what you are doing!!!!

I write this because of a recent rash of trivial and/or harmful edits.

Edits should materially improve the content or make it significantly easier to read. They should never change meaning or intent. If the change is trivial, let the original stand.

If you're editing commentary, think about what you're doing. First, remember that this is a global community. English may not be the author's first language. Their grammar and sentence structure may be in error, but can also serve as a signal that the answer needs to be more carefully phrased, making sure that any global audience can understand clearly (or even a computer translation.)

Never edit to change phrasing to the point of altering meaning or intent. That also means not deleting whole phrases because you think they're irrelevant. They often give nuances to the discussion or clues to the skill level of the author.

Never remove phrases like "thank you". It's just rude. Would you say to someone in a group discussion, "Don't say thanks!" ???


Code is very often posted as plain text. Changing it to a code block by marking it as code so that it gets put into a grey, scrollable code box is perfectly acceptable. Its also especially good for output that gets mangled when it isn't in a code box.

Re-indenting and reformatting C code is also fine to make it much easier to read. BUT when working with a language where indents are significant, it should never be changed.

NEVER EVER CHANGE THE CODE IN A QUESTION unless you are the author! This is the definition of causing harm!

Now, are you editing something just because it doesn't meet your personal standards? Think twice about it. Then think again. And again. We're not writing classic novels or english textbooks here. Don't change the character of someone else's work for this reason.

And my personal pet peeve, if you're changing something written by anyone with a reputation score over 1000, think it over. That score means lots of experience on this forum. High reputation members often choose their words and their code very carefully. Better to leave a comment and say "Did you mean to say this, or maybe you meant...." It will be received very well, usually getting a thank you response (and the author will change it themselves) or an explanation of why it's correct that will give future readers that much more insight! Hey, we all make mistakes!

So, when you edit, think about what you're changing before you do it and how you're doing it. We want to make the forum better, not worse. Colorful and unique phrasing, statements of success, uncertainty, frustration, etc., make our forum interesting and exciting. Nobody wants to read only sterile, dull questions and answers.

But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong! What's your opinion? Leave a comment.

Did I forget anything? Something you disagree with? Leave an answer!

  • Would you care to post this on every SE site? Please??? I'd give +1k if I could, not that it'd do any good in meta.
    – user22144
    Aug 11, 2018 at 6:45


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