Recently I have made a couple edits to answers, which were recently rolled back for the reason that the conflicted with author intent. If anybody is interested, here were the edits (1, 2).

Question: What is the line between an edit changing the author's intent and removing superfluous information, and how can one identify which category an edit falls in?


2 Answers 2


It's in the eye of the beholder where relevant context becomes unnecessary information. Anyway, I'll give my view (on the specific edits).

I think the second edit makes less sense, but it's easier to consider because you made only one change. Specifically, you removed the bold part from the quoted sentence below (original here):

Better data need to be collected, and the voices of Asian Americans need to be heard.

So let's start with that one. You removed a call to action from a quoted paragraph. I'd say the benefits of keeping the quote intact outweigh the downsides. The benefits are, as I see it:

  • It's how the answerer chose to quote.

  • It's a quote of a full paragraph, so it reflects the message of the paper's authors.

  • It goes to the paper's main point. From the abstract, the paper argues: "Offenders’ race and all incident-related variables of hate crimes against Asian Americans, however, differ significantly from those of hate crimes against African Americans and Hispanics." So it's not a call to action reflecting the opinion of the answerer or the paper's authors, it's a recommendation based on the study's findings.

The only downside I can think of is that it might seem as though the answer is trying to make some racially motivated point. I think that's a moot point, if someone carefully reads the answer then it's clearly presenting that call to action in the context of that paper. To do that, the answer briefly describes the methodology and the the results that led to the recommendation.

In conclusion, I'd say the edit wasn't an improvement and it made sense to roll it back.

The first edit is more complicated because you edited multiple sentences. The first part makes sense to me, you removed the following sentence which seems to be needless antagonizing someone:

Now, Hari Singh was a stupid ruler.

It's making a point, though it might be an important one laying the groundwork for the reasoning that follows. I'm not sure if the statement is true, but it would be better if there was some elaboration in the form of examples or analysis from an external source. Editing it out removes part of the answer so it's probably better to be more careful about that. The same goes for your removal of the "realized his own folly clause from a sentence.

At the end you also removed a sentence which provided further context, this one:

Jawaharlal Nehru, India's first Prime Minister, was a Kashmiri Pandit and he has been accused by modern-day "nationalists" to be too emotional with the Kashmir issue.

I'm not sure why you removed that. I agree with the commenters on those answers that it's probably better to vote down and optionally leave a comment explaining that you think something's missing or wrong.

The other edits seem like an attempt at editing out noise, but they don't clearly improve the post. You removed two adverbial clauses: "Obviously," and "In any case," which aren't strictly necessary but they are added to connect sentences and make a bunch of sentences into a story. I don't think edits like that improve the post.

In summary, it seems the edit don't really improve the answer. Partly they're language edits without a clear benefit to the post. And the other part addresses sentence that might need more elaboration but instead of adding elaboration you remove those parts entirely.


Edits should not conflict with the author's intent. Per the help center page for the "edit questions and answers" privilege, suggested reasons for editing are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • to add related resources or hyperlinks

I'll talk about edit (1) so I'm not talking about my own answer.

If an author of a post says "Hari Singh was a stupid ruler." Their intent is quite clear. Removing that changes the meaning of a post. If you think that is wrong you should comment and downvote. You might also upvote another answer or write your own. If you think that violates the standards for the site you should flag it.

There may be an exception to this in the case of users who are unable or unwilling to fix a problem in their post, and the alternative to editing is a deletion or closure. You should use the comment system before editing. It would be better to comment or even flag and see if there is community or at least moderator consensus on the possibility of editing an otherwise good post that intentionally is unsuitable for the site.

I do think the language used by the answerer weakens their answer. It was worth a -1, but I don't think it breaks the code of conduct. So I'll downvote that answer and I hope a better one will be written.

  • For reference, the quoted guidance in your post is not from the relevant help center page, but from the "How to Edit" guidance shown when suggesting an edit (which has slightly different wording), i.e. when you don't have full editing privileges.
    – V2Blast
    Nov 16, 2021 at 18:38
  • I'm not sure what you mean by "not from the help centre page", It was copy-and-pasted from that page. The line "should not conflict..." is from the options for accepting or rejecting a proposed edit. But there is consistent guidance: "improve, but don't change the meaning"
    – James K
    Nov 16, 2021 at 19:55
  • 1
    The portion you've quoted doesn't match the text on the help center page I linked. ...Though I realize now that the quoted text doesn't match the version shown for suggested edits either (e.g. if you open this link in an incognito window/when not signed in). It's actually from the edit questions and answers privilege page (which is indeed on the help center). My mistake. I've edited a link to the relevant page into the post. (Sorry for the confusion.)
    – V2Blast
    Nov 16, 2021 at 19:59

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