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It's my habit to edit and improve the formatting of any post which is not formatted well. Specially I edit new users' posts so they can inspire from that and format their future posts well.

I just edited a post 10K only in the same way (removed noise, formatted code etc.). But a good experienced user rolled back my edit and asked me to not edit new user's posts without guiding them. And let OP to edit their posts themselves. We should guide new users instead of editing and something like that.

So I just want to know what is the best way to inspire new users to improve the formatting of their posts?

Do I need to...

  • Just edit their posts
  • Guiding them by adding comments and let them to edit their posts themselves
  • Both (Edit their posts and guiding about improving formatting.)
  • Anything else.
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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I actually agree with both of you. "By example" is a great teaching method. However, if the student doesn't know they are being taught then what's the point?

I would usually edit the question and leave a comment; something along the lines of:

Hi @op and welcome to Stack Overflow. Please ensure that you capitalise <insert relevant word here> correctly. If you need to mark up code you can highlight the relevant sections and click the {} button which will do it for you. Please see my edit <link to edit> as an example.

This satisfies your need to edit the question into shape and everyone else's to try to guide the user so that you don't have to make the same edit next time.

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I just added it in auto comment :) –  hims056 Apr 20 '13 at 10:19

Most of the users tend to learn if we just edit away their posts and give proper edit reason. This is the way how I learned about it.

There are however users who do not learn even after a couple of repeated edits. Once a post has been edited twice/thrice and the user still makes the same mistake (ie; doesn't format it properly), I comment about it and link them to the Editing Help of the site and ask them to read it and make proper edits to the post (I do not edit the post at that time in order to give the user an opportunity to learn).

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The best way that I learned about how to format a post properly was by looking at answers that had great formatting (eg. a lot of community wiki posts, this is an example.

In my opinion, the best way to teach a new user about improving the formatting of posts is to show them really well-formatted posts and teach them how to use the tools at their disposal (ie. Markdown) to do the same.

For example, when a user makes a question/answer/edit for the first couple of times when there is no formatting at all, a message could pop up like this...

Effective formatting makes a good even better

Stack Overflow {or whatever site this is} uses Markdown to add some formatting to posts. Good formatting makes a question easier to read or understand (for example, code like print "Hello world" is easier to read when it's formatted with a distinct font and syntax highlighting. Some of the formatting options at your disposal include making text bold or italic, adding headers (like the one above) or quotes.

So, next time you make a post on Stack Overflow {or whatever site this is}, use the formatting available to you, here's an example of one.

This way, new users know what formatting options are available and know the difference that good formatting makes to their posts.

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