I suggest agreeing on a common code of conduct when editing questions and answers: it happened to me several times that questions were significantly altered by users, to the extent that the meaning of questions was altered/lost. Moderators also on occasion resort to such changes, although with more noble goals - like making a question more neutral or more aligned with the SE guidelines. Unfortunately, being human they often make changes that the author would disagree with.

I suggest that:

  • every edit be preceded by proposing changes in the comments section, so that the author could themselves implement changes or state that such changes are undesirable (if I am not mistaken, this is also one of the main reasons for the existence of the comments section)
  • if the author refuses to comply, use the appropriate SE tools to express your disagreement - voting to close, delete, flagging or downvoting the question.

Changes altering the content (beyond the basic grammar editing, formatting, etc. described here) risk offending author, affecting opinion of other users about the author, and may attract the up-/down-votes that the author does not deserve.

I am particularly interested in the moderators' input on this issue, so that this community could build its own set of rules for honorable conduct.

(While the author has the ability to rollback the edits, it might take a long time before they notice the changes and do so - either due to the time lag or because they are not visiting the community on a daily basis.)


3 Answers 3


That's not how Stack Exchange works. I suggest reading https://politics.stackexchange.com/help/editing. I'll quote some relevant sections:

this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, edit it!

Editing is important for keeping posts 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.

Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to suggest an edit, you are welcome to do so.

There is nothing dishonorable about making edits in a way that is consistent with the Stack Exchange guidance on edits.

This site is designed to be a place where people can collaborate to build an archive/library of knowledge that will hopefully be helpful to others. Edits can be useful in supporting that goal. They need to be used properly, and there is a lot of guidance available on what kinds of edits are and aren't appropriate. If you encounter bad edits that are not an improvement or that change the meaning of the question in an unacceptable way, you can roll them back or flag a moderator.

I completely understand why you might prefer a different model, but if so, maybe Stack Exchange isn't the format you're looking for. Stack Exchange has a particular model that is part of its format.

  • every edit be preceded by proposing changes in the comments section, ...

The problem here is every. So, no.

  1. There are occasional posts with repeated words, lack of capitalization for proper names, incorrect tags, etc., that are easily and appropriately corrected.

  2. There are posts where block quotes (rather than in-line quotes) should have been used or that contain pre-formatted text that should be in a markdown table but the user may not know how to do so. In those cases, informing the user is of little value.

  • if the author refuses to comply, ...

The problem here is refuses to comply. How does one determine that a user has refused to comply? (Unless, of course, they post a comment saying so.)

In the first case, "voting to close, delete, flag[] or downvot[e] the question" seems rather extreme. (Having said that, I may have edited a question that was subsequently "rolled back" which I may have then downvoted as "not useful", because, well ..., without the edit, the question was, IMO, "not useful".)

In the second case, it amounts to punishing the user for lack of knowledge about how to use the available tools.

In both cases, different users commenting on proposed edits risk the possibility of driving away new(er) users.

Where comments may be used, instead of editing, is requesting proper citations for quotes and images. (We can't read their minds.)

And, comments requesting clarification of any statements made in the post.

  • I disagree. Trivial grammatical edits is fine, but if edit changes the meaning of the question it shouldn't be acceptable at all. On another stack I participate often the general accepted practice is for mods/high-rep users to revert such changes and let the OP edit their question if they so desire.
    – littleadv
    Apr 16 at 5:43
  • My question speaks clearly of changes going beyond the basic grammar editing, formatting. Apr 16 at 8:05
  • 2
    @FourLegsGoodTwoLegsBad - Clearly, the word "every" does not mean "some". Nor does it mean "except for those mentioned elsewhere".
    – Rick Smith
    Apr 16 at 11:56

Something somewhat resembling this proposal has been adopted on Math.SE.

But an issue I see is that math is not politics. For the latter we sometimes have Qs asked by throwaway, or at least later-inactive accounts. And sometimes people use such accounts to write a certain amount of personal commentary, which may not even be necessary for the Q.

Take this Q for instance, where I deleted a small amount of soapboxing. Some other users were annoyed enough even by the remainder to vote to close it. But since the 7-year inactive account is probably not coming back, should the question remain in its original form, even though that's hardly necessary to answer it?

BTW, something like what I did there has been mentioned here (in a highly upvoted post, although it says many other things):

Propose or perform edits to questions and answers which are useful, but contain unnecessary editorializing and rambling.

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