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Editing questions from new users for formatting issues is a routine task here on SO, and most of the time I just fix the problem and move on.

Just now I spotted a question that began with a large bolded greeting and used <br/> tags to force new lines instead of using double line breaks. I proceeded to edit the question, then composed a comment explaining how line-breaks work in markdown. Before posting it, I realised that there is a good argument for the comment being noise, since it does not directly pertain to the question.

Is it appropriate to leave a comment explaining what the OP did wrong instead of just silently editing the question (which could be confusing for the OP)?

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Just put the comment as the edit reason, when the OP will see the revisions page he'll see it. –  Shadow Wizard Nov 14 '12 at 9:17
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I use them for instructional purposed from time to time. A link to the markdown help in this case for example. Nothing wrong with that. –  Bart Nov 14 '12 at 9:26
    
When you are about to ask a question or answer a question, help is given abunduntly at SO. New users might be so annoyed with the help system and make it a habit to not to go through it. So, I think this practice may encourage such habits. –  manas Nov 14 '12 at 9:26

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Sometimes I leave a comment after suggesting an edit, though usually I do that only for "First Posts" if:

  • the post was almost unreadable due to missing punctuation or missing casing,
  • the post CONTAINED SHOUTING,
  • the post contained abbreviations like u, plz, ur, etc. or
  • the post or its title contained urgency requests.

In those cases I friendly tell the OP the reasoning behind my improvement. I always include a reference on StackOverflow: How To Ask.

Why commenting when there is an edit summary field: Because new users do not necessarily know where to look for these information.

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It's also helpful to comment if you have made major edits to a post, perhaps to make it coherent. The comment should ask the OP if the post still conveys what they intended after editing, and invite them to make additional edits as needed. Frequently necessary when you come across questions asked by someone with rudimentary English skills, but that provided everything needed to ask the question. –  Tim Post Nov 14 '12 at 9:38

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