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What is the etiquette for modifying posts?

I posted a question, Git Pull Aborting, on Stack Overflow today, and it was immediately edited. I can understand if my topic was inappropriate, offensive, erroneous, or malicious, but I was corrected for my choice of punctuation. What is the motiviation behind that? I already dislike the fact that anyone can edit my posts however they like, but what is the motivation to fix someone's punctuation? Is this something that Stack Overflow promotes and encourages?

Is there a conformity code that we're supposed to follow?

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marked as duplicate by Cody Gray, kiamlaluno, M. Tibbits, Michael Petrotta, Sathya Aug 12 '11 at 6:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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And let the edits to this question begin! –  Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 3:29
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See also: What is the etiquette for modifying posts? –  Brad Mace Aug 12 '11 at 3:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Yes, of course this is something that Stack Overflow promotes. Editing a post to improve its content, spelling, and grammar are all legitimate uses of the edit system. In fact, to most people, the idea of "editing" would connote precisely those edits that improve grammar and style, like an editor of a newspaper or magazine article.

I honestly have no idea why you bristle at this. Improving the quality of each individual question improves the quality of the site as a whole. You are not penalized for having one of your questions edited. There's nothing wrong with making a mistake; we all do it. If someone else catches it and fixes it, then it makes sense to thank them for that, rather than complain about it or ask for a "conformity code". The conformity code includes both general standards of decency and a reasonable style guide for the English language. You could argue that editing code samples or changing the meaning of a question is "out of bounds" when it comes to edits (although there are cases where I think this is acceptable), but certainly repairing grammatical or stylistic mistakes is not one of those borderline cases.

If you really disagree with the edit that much, you are always free to roll it back.

But it's worth pointing out that this is specifically discussed in the FAQ (pay special attention to the last paragraph):

Other people can edit my posts?!

All contributions are licensed under Creative Commons and this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, click edit and help us make it so!

All edits are tracked in a public revision history. To view revisions, click the edit date on the post.

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.

And, in fact, related to this specific case, the site now automatically strips out multiple, superfluous punctuation marks from question titles containing them. They merely add noise, rather than imparting any actual meaning. I see very little reason why such a standard would be applied to question titles, without also logically applying to the body of a question. In this case, a real human being performed the edit, and did so carefully to ensure that there was no meaning or code inadvertently changed. Seems more than legit to me.

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I understand the spirit of the concept, I just disagree with the degree to which you, and evidently others, feel that it should employed. I personally think it's petty and actually rude to change the tone of someone's voice. Not their content mind you: that's fair game and should be moderated for fairness, accuracy, and effective benefit to the collective. But to go out of your way to declare that the exuberance of a triple exclamation point should be stricken from the record seems self inflating and elitist. I understand your argument, I just value the respect for a poster's dignity more. –  sisdog Aug 12 '11 at 5:17
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@sisdog: I struggle to understand how you think that you lose dignity when multiple punctuation marks get replaced with a single punctuation mark. Would it also be a violation of your right to misspell words if I fixed typos? I just don't understand where that argument is going. The content of the post is how you express tone, not grammatical errors. –  Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 5:27
    
+1 I see your point and have already conceded that. I know you don't see mine or perhaps have little tolerance for it. That's alright. Stack Overflow is an amazing resource and I want to be a good citizen and do my tiny part to help it thrive. Clearly from the negative vote beat-down that I'm getting though I'm heading in the wrong direction. So my apologies. Cheers @Cody, you win. –  sisdog Aug 12 '11 at 8:25
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@sisdog: Just for reference, the "negative beatdown" here on Meta just means that people disagree with you. You're right that I don't really see your point. There are cases where people make bad edits or change the meaning of your post, whether accidentally or on purpose. Even though I don't think this is one of them, we do allow you to roll back their edits to take care of cases like this. In my experience, it's rare. People who take the time to edit usually do it out of kindness and a wish to improve the site overall. That doesn't make us perfect, obviously. –  Cody Gray Aug 12 '11 at 8:38

The "how to edit" block, which is now visible to users without the privilege of editing any post, reports the following guidelines:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links
  • always respect the original author

If the punctuation made the meaning of a sentence not clear, then changing it is what the second point suggests; if then the punctuation was not correct, then changing it is what the third point suggests.

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