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I just stumbled upon this edit. raven rewrote a user's use of the word "grok" and left the comment:

people just don't 'grok' how stupid they sound when they say 'grok'. it has to stop

Grok is a widely used word (especially in geek circles; eg. Jeff himself at the bottom of this blog) and it's included in several dictionaries.

Is it acceptable to rewrite someone's post just because you don't approve of their writing voice?

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Grok is a widely used word [citation-needed]. –  sudo Apr 25 '12 at 19:14
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@JacquesCousteau: Just because a word appears in a dictionary, it's not necessarily a widely used word. Especially for non-native English speakers, even if they're otherwise good at it, grok means a trip to Google to understand the meaning of the post. –  sudo Apr 25 '12 at 19:18
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@Dennis: The first link was the 6.5 billion hits on Google, which is nearly as many hits as "non-native" (which you used in your sentence). If we edit according to the metric "easy for non-native speakers", we'd replace all long or tricky or potentially obscure words with shorter/simpler ones. Is that really what we should be doing? I looked at a few of your posts and saw you used the words "shenanigans". Should I edit that into something friendlier to non-native speakers? How about your use of "heuristics", which gets about as many Google hits and is in as many dictionaries as "Grok"? –  Mud Apr 25 '12 at 19:27
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@Dennis: The same may be true of many uncommon English words (or more complicated sentence structures). Maybe we should convert SO to use Simplified English only? I don't think a quick trip to the dictionary is a huge burden here, especially since the overall pluggandisp can be glorked from context. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:28
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Grok is a made-up word, and it's US only. Substituting it in order to clarify the meaning of an answer is perfectly fine in my opinion. @JacquesCousteau: There's a huge gap between Simplified English and not using obscure words like grok. –  sudo Apr 25 '12 at 19:35
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@Mud: If you (or anybody else) wants to edit my posts to clarify their meaning, you're welcome to do so. I sometimes have a lot of trouble expressing myself. I do believe, however, that more people are familiar with the word shenanigans than the word grok. But, after all, if I'm uncomfortable with the idea, this may not be the site for me. Also, 6,180,000 are hardly 6.5 billions. –  sudo Apr 25 '12 at 19:36
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(I know it's millions; I noticed my mistake too late to edit) 'grok' is less obscure than "understand", but no less so than "shenanigans". I use it all the time and have yet to meet someone who didn't understand it. More importantly, replacing it with "understanding" is not necessarily clarifying. There are lots of things I superficial understand but don't really grok; grok implies a fuller understanding, really getting something. –  Mud Apr 25 '12 at 19:47
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You've never met someone who didn't understand "grok"? Wow. Can't say I share that same experience... You know it was coined in 1961 by a science fiction author in the book Stranger in a Strange Land? Not everyone has read that book. For example, I haven't. The only way I know about it is someone used it once, forcing me to go look it up. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:52
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FWIW I think overuse of "grok", especially in the tense "grokking" is a bit annoying. I personally wouldn't edit it or leave that rev comment, but it is a little annoying. However, if I was the OP I'd probably roll it back - there's nothing wrong with having a little personality to your post, and this is obviously a style choice, grammar-wise, and totally valid. –  Wesley Murch Apr 25 '12 at 19:55
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The word, at least in programming circles is not unusual. It has had an entry in the hackers dictionary for many many years. As such, any self respecting geek programmer should know it. –  Oded Apr 25 '12 at 20:04
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@Oded: Can you please edit your comment? People just don't grok how stupid they sound when they say 'geek', it has to stop. –  Wesley Murch Apr 25 '12 at 20:13
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I am more concerned about the revision comment than I am the edit itself. Fine, get rid of the word. I've personally never used it, have only once or twice heard it spoken, and have only read it, well, here. But that revision comment would raise my ire. –  Anthony Pegram Apr 25 '12 at 21:00
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@The Extablishment: "someone used it once, forcing me to go look it up" Which is to say, you knew what it meant. And you learned it the same way you learned many other words in your vocabulary. –  Mud Apr 25 '12 at 21:06
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@TheEstablishment: hopefully this experience will embiggen you to embrace popular, new vocabulary. –  user7116 Apr 25 '12 at 21:11
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I still don't know what the hell it means. Stop breaking the English language. It was broken enough before you started. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 21:12

3 Answers 3

Is it acceptable to rewrite someone's post just because you don't approve of their writing voice?

Yes, of course it is. So long as you're making it more clear what they're saying.

Changing the meaning of their posts is probably not a good idea.

And it's always good to refrain from excessively trivial edits. So while the one in question is less than stellar because it changes only a single word, that's not to suggest that rewriting jargon-laden or obtusely-worded sentences is a bad practice in general.

And remember, the user who made the edit has full editing privileges and their edits are not required to be peer reviewed. Thus, if they want to make trivial edits, that's their prerogative.

If this were a suggested edit that I saw in the queue, I would have undoubtedly voted to reject it as excessively trivial (which is different than rejecting it because it's incorrect or invalid).

Grok is a widely used word (especially in geek circles) and it's included in several dictionaries.

Lots of "txtspk" can now be considered "widely used", probably more so than jargon like "grok". And those "words" are beginning to be included in dictionaries. For example, here's the same site showing the definitions for "lol". That definition appears in at least as many dictionaries as "grok", and is definitely more universally understood by an Internet audience.

Of course, if someone had edited "lol" out of a post, no one would have gotten excited. You probably wouldn't even have posted this question. So what's the difference?

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«Thus, if they want to make trivial edits, that's their prerogative.» But it is also the prerogative of other users to review such edits. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:47
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No, users with full edit privileges don't require their edits to be reviewed. Note that I didn't say someone's edits should be beyond question; I just see little questionable here. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:50
    
@TheEstablishment: It comes into play when either making the decision to edit without privileges (should I edit this?) or when reviewing those edits (should I approve this?). In this case it wasn't relevant but it could be in others. –  Wesley Murch Apr 25 '12 at 19:53
    
@Wesley: Yes, getting confused at what I've said in comments and what actually made it into my answer. Added that distinction in. I think it is an important one. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:54
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Edits being "reviewed" is one of two main goals, as I understand it, behind bumping posts to the front page. They aren't required to be approved, but keeping an eye on privileged edits from time to time (for those one or two that are actually problematic) is one of the things that experienced members can do to contribute to site maintenance. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:56
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Yes. I'm not saying they should be beyond oversight. I never said that you should not question people's edits. Am I the one that's communicating this poorly? Feel free to edit my answer to make that more clear. The point is that there's a different standard for triviality when it comes to suggested edits than applies to users with full edit privileges. That say nothing about the validity of edits. My point is that this one is not invalid, it's just trivial, but since he has full edit privileges, that's not a problem. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:58
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If you can edit the word "lol" out of a sentence without changing it's meaning, then it was clearly fluff. This was changing the word in the middle of the sentence because the editor has a personal problem with the color of someone's language usage. It wasn't a superfluous word, it just isn't the word the editor would have chosen. It seems a rather capricious reading for editing someone's post (especially if you're then going to call them stupid). –  Mud Apr 25 '12 at 20:58

No, that's a terrible edit. If this little change were part of a larger grammatical cleanup of the post, that would be one thing, but "grok" is in the dictionary (as you've pointed out) and widely understood by the audience here anyways, and there's no reason to change it.

The edit should probably be reverted.

For the wider question you've asked:

Is it acceptable to rewrite someone's post just because you don't approve of their writing voice?

It depends on whether that voice makes the question difficult to understand or noisy. If a person's "voice" includes a lot of off-topic remarks, txtspk, lack of capitalization, weird formatting, or similar features that obscure the question, then, yes, edit that sucker.

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If/when txtspk makes it into the dictionary, is using it okay? Because, the only dictionaries that "grok" has made it into make it very clear that it is slang. And "lol" has made it into several dictionaries now as slang. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:38
    
@The An insightful question. I suppose it might be, but damned if I'm ever going to use it. Get off my grammar, you whippersnappers! –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:39
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No, I'm not going to use it either. And I'm going to continue editing it out. The point was a larger one about jargon and slang not necessarily belonging in answers, and that there's nothing wrong with editing that stuff out. Sure, they probably should have made a more substantive edit at the same time, but it's not a "terrible" edit, and there's definitely no reason to revert it. I'm a native US English speaker, and I encounter the word "grok" about once a year. At best. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:40
    
More seriously, I'd say the important issue is that this doesn't make the post unintelligible enough to justify editing only that word, just as a single "u"->"you" edit would be unjustified. I think we may disagree on that. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:45
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Indeed. Words need to be spelled out. When they're not, that's a grammatical problem and should be fixed. Diction is also grammatical. That said, standards are different for suggested edits than they are for those users with full editing privileges. I would have rejected this edit for being excessively trivial if I saw it in the suggested edits queue. But it didn't cost me anything for someone with full editing privileges to make it, so I don't see the harm. As long as it didn't negatively impact the meaning of the post, then there's no issue. –  Cody Gray Apr 25 '12 at 19:49
    
I'll concede the "should be reverted" point. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 19:57
    
I've never heard of the word 'Grok' before, so personally think the edit would be fine. Oh, and whilst on the subject of Grammar and slang, I'd have edited your answer if my rep allowed me to do so. :) –  Bryan Dec 2 '12 at 22:54
    
@Bryan: That's a pretty trivial edit to make, though I concede that anyway is more strictly correct. My guess would be that the s comes from speech, getting tacked on the same way many people (U.S.) say Daylight Saving_s_ Time -- it makes the spoken transition between phonemes/letters easier. –  Josh Caswell Dec 3 '12 at 0:54

I had no clue what that word meant and never heard it until I actually looked at the dictionary link you posted. So no, it's not as widespread as you think.

More importantly, in that particular case of "I'm having a hard time grokking classes in Lua", the context is not informative of the meaning of that word. Imagine that you saw:

I'm having a hard time xjensing classes in Lua.

Would you have any idea what the question is trying to ask? I didn't think so.

(Possible context-aware verb candidates: inheriting, implementing, using, writing, reading, staring at, understanding, asking Stack Overflow questions about...)

If someone omitted the verb completely and said "I'm having a hard time with classes" there would be three insta-downvotes, and five comments saying "be more specific" and "what is your question?"

Raven's edit adds value, by making the question much clearer and is therefore appropriate in that case.

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For a long time I didn't xjensing "grok", I thought it was a bash command or something. ^_^ –  Wesley Murch Apr 25 '12 at 20:20
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You can frob his question repeatedly. –  user7116 Apr 25 '12 at 20:28
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Put "I'm having a hard time xjensing classes in lua" back into its full context and it becomes much easier to ken. –  Josh Caswell Apr 25 '12 at 20:36
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@JacquesCousteau Not at all. What follows is mostly a bunch of code. Replace the verb with "inheriting" for example. Changes the question completely. –  trutheality Apr 25 '12 at 20:38

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