What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 134 Stack Exchange communities.

I sometimes look at the edit history of a question, mostly when something smells "off" in the way it is written. I took a look at the history of this question and it seems like the editor has "writer's envy": the edits do little more than rephrase (poorly in my opinion: how do you "hover a user's question"?) what has already been clearly asked.

Is this a misunderstanding of the purpose of editing on the editor's part? Hubris? Rep whoring? Something else?

Am I just being picky here? It bugs me because I respect an individual's writing "voice" and edits merely for style seem a violation of that. SO/SE isn't about literature per se and so long as the writing is clear, without any glaring grammatical errors, what is the point of making these kind of edits?

In my arbitrary sampling of edits I've seen many instances of this – even one edit which replaced all the contractions (e.g. "I am" for "I'm") – because I guess the editor didn't like contractions. Don't like my use of an "em dash" in the last sentence? Fine, but don't you have better things to do?

share|improve this question
Must... not... edit... to add... missing comma... in last... sentence... –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 29 '12 at 18:29
This has happened to me before. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Jul 29 '12 at 18:31
@ErnestFriedman-Hill - The OP has linked to an example. –  Oded Jul 29 '12 at 18:31
Yes - there is a link in my question. –  skinnyTOD Jul 29 '12 at 18:32
That 4th revision looks just fine to me. Cleaning up awkward phrasing good thing to do am. –  Ben Brocka Jul 29 '12 at 18:33
@BenBrocka - Not by cleaning it up introducing ones own awkward phrasing... –  Oded Jul 29 '12 at 18:35
@BenBrocka: how do you "hover a user's question"? –  skinnyTOD Jul 29 '12 at 18:35
If only there were a way to correct minor mistakes in what another had posted... –  Ben Brocka Jul 29 '12 at 18:37
+1 for a good question. A virtual -1 for calling a dash or hyphen an em-dash. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dash#Em_dash for more pedantic coverage. –  CodeGnome Jul 29 '12 at 18:53
@AnnaLear I cannot believe you did that :) –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 29 '12 at 23:30
"Rep whoring?" The guy is a 10K user; he can't get rep from editing questions. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 30 '12 at 1:26
@skinnyTOD: how do you "hover a user's question" "hover" is a fairly common term for holding the mouse over a UI element. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 30 '12 at 1:27
@NicolBolas: Yes "hover" is a common term as you say but "hover a user's question" is not English. "holding the mouse over a UI element" was what the OP had in the first place. –  skinnyTOD Jul 30 '12 at 1:33
@skinnyTOD: Why isn't "hover a user's question" not English? "hover" is an English verb, a transitive verb. Therefore it can be applied to an object, "a user's question." How is this sentence not English? It sounds weird, yes, but that doesn't mean it's not English. Furthermore, in the time it took you to write this response, you could have just edited the question and added "over" between "hover" and "a". –  Nicol Bolas Jul 30 '12 at 1:35
@NicolBolas: Sorry but "hover a user's question" is just wrong (even if we understand the implied meaning of hovering a pointing device over a hyperlink). (And I would not have to edit the question had the overzealous editor left things as they were, using the OP's original formulation, which was fine as it was. That was my point.) –  skinnyTOD Jul 30 '12 at 1:44

3 Answers 3

Personally, I do a lot of editing for style, but IMO it's always sorely needed. There's a lot of barely comprehensible English on SE, and I think an easily readable question attracts more/better answers.

Looking at the example you gave, the editor makes one enormous improvement: s/he replaces "put the mouse over" with "hover", the standard term for what the author was getting at. I think this is a really good example of where a little editing greatly enhances a question. I am pretty sure some folks would read the original and not be quite sure what the author was getting at, and then move on. Same with "It's a small and basic box" being changed to "It's a small box and the text is unformatted" -- I think that's subtly clearer, and makes the question easier to understand and hence to answer.

share|improve this answer
It just plain looks better. One of the attractive features of Stack Exchange, unlike a lot of forums out there, is that our questions and answers can be cleaned up to look more professional, instead of just leaving a bunch of broken grammar for everyone to see forever. –  jmort253 Jul 29 '12 at 18:38
Probably less needed than you think. Check some of the edits people make some time (even those made by people with high rep). Or check the edit in the example I posted: introducing "hover a user's question" which makes no sense and resulted in a subsequent edit needed in order to fix that. My concern though is in mere stylistic editing where the editor wants to force their writing style on a question (RE my example about an editor removing contractions) because they think it is "better." –  skinnyTOD Jul 29 '12 at 23:49
I will certainly agree as far as edits to remove contractions, change British to American spelling, or bold and italicize random words for no reason. –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 29 '12 at 23:52

This is by far one of the many reasons I'm attracted to this platform; it's easy to make the site look really professional through edits, and it's easy to make posts look like they were designed to be more permanent and not just some random snapshot of the Internet at a specific moment in time.

Dennis, the editor, is a 10k+ user, so this is hardly rep whoring. This person also has a habit of participating in activities on the site that further benefit it, so it seems clear that his goals with these edits are to make the site better and more professional looking.

Even then, if we get into the habit of accusing every single person of rep whoring, who does something positive for the site, then we might want to step back and ask ourselves what our goals are.

Genghis Khan: "It's not sufficient I succeed. Everyone else must fail."

We mustn't forget that there is a reason new editors are incentivised with +2 reputation for making good, constructive edits to posts. The goal is to reward them for good, constructive edits, and help guide and coach them on how to make better edits when they do something wrong. This prepares them for that 2k mark, when they're able to make edits on their own.

While there are cases where there are pointless edits, let's not go on a witch hunt looking at what the editors' intentions are. Instead, look at the post and ask yourself if it was substantially improved or not. If it was, great, approve it. If not, then reject the edits.

share|improve this answer
Can't agree more. There's nothing worse than seeing terribly formatted/worked/spelled posts on the internet in a prominent location...and there's not a damn thing you can do to fix it. –  Ben Brocka Jul 29 '12 at 18:50
+1 anything to do with Genghis Khan –  Ernest Friedman-Hill Jul 29 '12 at 18:57
Amazing Genghis Quote! I bet Wall Street is full of disciples of this principle! .... I've seen Albert Einstein quotes about Facebook, but this one seems legit –  brasofilo Feb 15 '13 at 9:55

I agree that many of the changes seem to be gratuitous - it is possible that the editor initially only wanted to improve the formatting of the list, but the system wouldn't let them make such a small change, so further "improvements" were needed in order to get the edit through.

Having said that, the editor has 10k+ reputation on the site and I believe that with such reputation there is no such limitation, so must conclude that the editor was trying to improve the style of the post - the problem here is that whether the style is better or not is a judgement call and entirely subjective.

share|improve this answer
"the problem here is that whether the style is better or not is a judgement call and entirely subjective." There were several changes that were objective improvements. Word changes like "in a more formattedway" to "properly formatted" is pretty much objectively better. Overall, the post improved. If you want to restore some of the wording that you feel is subjective, like "But" to "However", feel free. I doubt you'll get into an edit war over it. –  Nicol Bolas Jul 30 '12 at 1:31

You must log in to answer this question.

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