What advice do you have for users who have just discovered the edit capability? What makes a "good edit" on Academia.SE?

Note: I have made one suggestion per answer, so that people can vote on them individually. This way we can measure (to some degree) how strongly the community feels about each of these.


11 Answers 11


Make posts better, but don't impose your personal style

Usually we try to leave style up to the author of the post, and edit mainly for spelling/grammar, clarity, and readability (e.g. break up walls of text).

If you have a preferred style for your own posts, that's great, but it's not necessary to impose that on other users' posts.


Avoid edits to "on hold" questions that will never be reopened

Editing a post that is "on hold" pushes it into a review queue for reopening.

If you make cosmetic edits to a post that is "on hold" and is irredeemable (is inherently off topic for the site and won't be reopened), then it just wastes reviewer time: people have to review your edits if you have less than 2k rep, and people have to review the post for reopening even though the edits don't fix the reason that the post was closed.

(See this meta post for more details.)


Edits bump posts

Keep in mind that edits bump posts back to the front page. It's not a big deal to bump recent posts, and also not a big deal to bump old posts if it's only a few.

But if you ever have the urge to edit 100 old posts all at once, it's probably a good idea to ask about it on meta first. Many users don't like when the front page is full of old questions that were bumped for some minor edits.


Add Missing Body Questions

Sometimes, an asker will put a question in a title, but never actually put the question in the body, treating the two as though they were a single piece of prose.

For readability, it is best that both the title and the body be able to stand alone. Thus, it is good practice to add such a "missing body question" into the beginning of the body.

  • 5
    So, where did you hide the body?
    – JiK
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 12:40
  • On a more serious note, I've always hated these questions, or any other writings anywhere, that force you to read the title (again). And my teachers have told me not to do such things. But I've never found a good reference to a style guide or a research that I can refer to, as simply saying "I don't like it" doesn't quite work if someone is claiming it doesn't matter. Do you happen to have one?
    – JiK
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 12:43
  • @JiK Well, a verbatim repetition of the title at the head of the question is unhelpful, certainly. But inclusion of a rephrased/expanded version of the title in the main body absolutely is important IMO for a well-written question.
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 12:31
  • @hBy2Py For me, a verbatim repetition of the title is not unhelpful at all.
    – JiK
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 12:36
  • @JiK Interesting ... do you mainly interact through the mobile interface? On the web, the text and title are so close to one another that the duplication seems awkward, at least to me.
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 13:51
  • @hBy2Py In the browser version of SE, I often don't spot the title at all. Maybe the reason is that as an element of the web page design, it seems completely separate to the text: For example, the title and the line below it extend to the right, above the irrelevant metadata boxes in the right hand side, so it looks like the title of the whole page, not the question. And I didn't open the page to read the stuff in the right column, I only want to read the question and the answers, so my eyes hit the beginning of the question first.
    – JiK
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 11:19
  • 1
    @JiK Huh. I can see how that'd work; not how my brain works, I guess. Highlights the importance of UX.SE!
    – hBy2Py
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 14:35
  • FF524 has chosen h2 as her title style for answers. For consistency (and for semantic correctness; h1 is generally reserved for the page title), I suggest you follow suit.
    – user8762
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 20:29

Leave the problems you're not certain how to fix alone.

If a post has multiple things wrong with it, some may be easier to fix than others. Fix only the problems that you are certain that you have a good solution to, and leave the others for later.

Doing this makes an incremental improvement and easy approval. If your edits stretch too far, however, it can make a mess of good and bad improvements that is difficult for reviewers to sort out and your entire edit may be rejected.

  • I disagree. If a posts has some problems you don't know how to fix - ask for help on chat or on meta and get someone who can fix them. Partial fixes of posts that still need to be edited only put drudgework on the front page (cf. Edits bump posts).
    – E.P.
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 16:17

Fix all the problems in the post

Try to fix everything that is wrong with the question all at once. For example, if you are editing a question to fix a grammar error, also check if maybe some tags are not applied correctly and remove those, remove thanks and greetings, etc. (See the help center). If the author of the post has provided new information in the comments that is necessary to answer the question, incorporate that information into the post with your edits.

If you notice that people are making further edits to posts you have edited, try to learn from them for the future to see what else you could have done. Definitely be careful not to introduce new errors!

  • 3
    Personally, I prefer if somebody fixes only those problems that they are certain they have a good solution to. That makes an incremental improvement and easy approval. When somebody stretches too far, one ends up with a mess of good and bad improvements that I dislike having to sort out.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 15:39
  • @jakebeal Good point. Perhaps you could write another answer about leaving things alone that you're not sure about?
    – ff524
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 15:40
  • This is now done below.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 7, 2016 at 15:47

Don't engage in edit wars

If your edit is rolled back (either by the original author of the post or another user), don't get in an edit war.

  • If the edit is minor, let it go.
  • If the edit is substantial and you think the user may have reverted your edit accidentally, or without understanding why you have made it, you can leave a comment explaining your position and asking for clarification.
  • If the edit is important, you have left a comment, and the issue still has not been resolved, you can raise a flag asking for a moderator to take a look.

Be aware of culturally different spellings and word usages

It is well known that there are different, but correct, spellings for certain words. Examples are color and colour, behaviour and behavior, analyse and analyze. An editor should not change the author's version of the spellings to their own.

However, it may be acceptable to make the spellings consistent with one form if it is clear the author can't spell; but you should be confident with spelling in American, British or Canadian etc.

Culturally variant vocabulary is more difficult, and to avoid the semantic differences in words between readers it can be helpful to stick to a more academic style of writing. As this is Academia.SE we should be able to use language forms that might be acceptable in a disertation or journal paper. This often avoids those semantic variations that occur in more casual language.

If an article already contains typos and other errors, formalising the language may improve its universal readability.

  • What about if the spelling variation is a word choice that is quite regional, and a simple wording can make the question much more widely applicable? I am thinking of "Holidays" vs "vacation" or "Queries" Vs "Question" Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 4:13
  • 1
    @J.Roibal While they may be regional in usage, I find that your examples aren't very regional in intelligibility and would thus recommend they be left as is. Furthermore, regionalisms are actually quite valuable in inferring missing information about a question (e.g., are they in the UK vs. USA).
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 12:41
  • the question about 'holidays' has a very different meaning in UK compared to USA. there was a question about going on 'holidays' which lasted many weeks, whereas a 'holiday' in the US is generally 1-2 days off from work, or at maximum 1 week for Christmas to New Years. Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 15:29
  • 1
    @J.Roibal If you're referring to this, the question is perfectly understandable even to those more familiar with the US usage of the word "holidays". Even without reading the body of the post (which explicitly gives the duration) it's obvious from the title which usage is intended because you don't say "going on holidays" in the US usage.
    – ff524
    Commented Jul 10, 2016 at 18:14

Suggested edits by editors with <2k rep

If you have less than 2k rep, all of your edits have to be reviewed by multiple reviewers. Also, further edits to the post are blocked until your edit has been reviewed and either applied or rejected.

That is another reason not to suggest a huge number of edits all at once, and to make an effort to fix everything that is wrong with the post in one edit, since we have a limited number of active reviewers. If you're suggesting lots of edits to old posts and the review queue backs up as a result, that might mean that more urgent edits to new posts aren't being reviewed.


Leave a comment about your significant (particularly uncertain) edits

If you made a significant edit, particularly if you're not sure if you've preserved the author's meaning, leave a comment for the author saying what you did, possibly asking if it's what they meant. This may make the author more appreciative of your edits and mitigate reactions like this: Why can another user edit my answer to a completely different content without my review or permission?

  • FF524 has chosen h2 as her title style for answers. For consistency (and for semantic correctness; h1 is generally reserved for the page title), I suggest you follow suit.
    – user8762
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 20:30

Don't edit; ask questions or make suggestions

I generally prefer not to edit other people's posts, so as not to inadvertently change their meaning/nuances and because I have better things to do. If something is unclear, or I have a suggestion, I generally just make it in comments (though the OP does not always address this). This is not a blanket rule--I don't literally mean no one should edit anyone else's posts (I've occasionally edited posts of new users)--it can be more efficient/effective for an experienced/insightful user to edit rather than the original author. But if you're not sure of what you're doing, use comments and let the OP or someone more experienced edit if they think it's necessary.

  • FF524 has chosen h2 as her title style for answers. For consistency (and for semantic correctness; h1 is generally reserved for the page title), I suggest you follow suit.
    – user8762
    Commented Jul 19, 2016 at 20:30

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .