Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 158 Stack Exchange communities.

What is meta?
Here's how it works:
  1. Any Stack Exchange user can ask a question
  2. The community provides support, votes on ideas, and reports bugs
  3. Your voice helps shape the way Stack Exchange operates

OK, this question has been asked over and over, and I am still unsure. I am just trying to find the thin line between a substantial and minor edit.

I find myself making edits for grammar and poor formatting, that I can see some reviewers find minor and others do not.

I have also noticed some users with high rep, or moderators will make the similar edits:

If I have edited your post with an edit summary of “ARGH”... ... or some variation thereof, then you probably used “it’s” when the correct word was, in fact, “its”.

Can anyone provide a definitive way to establish whether or not one should proceed to edit? It seems to be more a matter of opinion rather than an objective delineation.

share|improve this question
For me, seeing random key words wrapped as code with backticks often cause rejection reflex. Don't do that, please. Variable names are on the grey zone but "Jul 2"?? It's NOT code. – Shadow Wizard Jul 2 '13 at 11:30
ok, so why do people format their questions like that Shadow? Is it correct to format a question with key words in back ticks? I know I might seem thick, but I am the sort of person, that if you give me a formula, I work by it, I find grey areas difficult – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:32
I will definitely reject such edits. For me, they are too minor , as I strongly believe that suggested edits should be substantive improvements addressing multiple issues in the post. And , definitely, the rep of person suggesting the edit can alos make some change , depends on the reviewer. – MicRO Jul 2 '13 at 11:35
@MicRO this is what I mean, I don't want extended polling about whether or not a particular person would reject them, it's how do we get it straight, what should be rejected and accepted.. also if higher rep users are making minor edits, it adds to the confusion – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:36
and then there's this one… (and I didn't see the spelling mistake in the title, so cannot go back and fix that- as it would be too minor) – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:38
I can't fight thousands of people. I can do my part by rejecting what I think is wrong, and using backticks to just highlight words is wrong. You can use bold or italics for this. There's even worse trend lately, of people using <kbd> just to highlight what they deem as important words! both are not too minor; they're plain invalid. – Shadow Wizard Jul 2 '13 at 11:39
@ShaWizDowArd it's not about fighting thousands, I am actually trying to find what the line really is. As it seems to be a matter of opinion. When creating a post, are back ticks fine for keywords? – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:41
There is no well-defined line. Nobody is really taught what good edits are and there is a fair bit of disagreement within the community, even when there seemingly is somewhat of a Meta consensus. I would have rejected your first suggested edit and might have accepted the second one. – Bart Jul 2 '13 at 11:46
@Bart is their something hat can be implemented to fix this? I am happy to make a feature suggestion – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:47
@Yve not really. It will always be somewhat of a fuzzy area. Us self-proclaimed "good editors" can lead by example and review against what seems to be a Meta consensus, but that's about it. Have a look through Meta for the tons of discussions on bad suggested edits getting through though. It's a difficult situation. You could start presenting users with good/bad examples upon receiving the privilege to review, but I'm hard pressed to believe that the majority will actually read it and follow the guidelines. – Bart Jul 2 '13 at 11:50
@Bart if I can work out a relatively simple algorithm, are you happy for me to post it? – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:51
@Yve You don't need my permission. I wield no power in this place. That said, good suggestions are always welcome. – Bart Jul 2 '13 at 11:52
@Bart and this is done as a feature request yes? – user223277 Jul 2 '13 at 11:54
Could be @Yve, yes. Unless you'd rather discuss its merits before making it an actual request. Then [discussion] could do. – Bart Jul 2 '13 at 11:56
It is not a matter of opinion: Using backticks for anything other than code is absolutely wrong. They are not for emphasis, they're for inline code snippets. All such edits should be rejected on face. If you want to emphasize things, use the <em> tag, which means emphasis. In markdown, it just so happens that you achieve this by wrapping the word with _ or *. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '13 at 5:35
up vote 6 down vote accepted

There isn't really a good answer to this question. In fact, there is no definitive line between "minor" and "substantial". It simply can't exist—the terms are intentionally subjective and open to interpretation. That's why we allow people to vote on them.

I can give you my opinion, though. I think it's a fairly common opinion, but I can virtually guarantee that there are people who disagree with me. Here are the basic things that will make me reject an edit as "too minor" (or uncheck the "this edit was helpful" box when clicking "Improve"):

  • It makes only trivial formatting changes (like adding bold, italics, or inline code formatting) that were either inappropriate and/or not required in order to make the post readable.
  • It fails to fix obvious problems with the post (like removing signatures, adding linked images inline, or re-wording incomprehensible titles).

Note that this "too minor"/"substantial" distinction doesn't apply to moderators and users with full edit privileges. They can make as trivial edits as they desire because they don't have to be reviewed by other community members (and therefore, don't waste other people's time with overly trivial edits). Suggested edits are expensive because they require the time, energy, and effort of at least two or three trusted community members. We're happy to give of that time if it positively improves the site, of course, but it grows tiring to have our time wasted by excessively trivial edits that fail to do so.

[Of course, some people have argued that even with full edit privileges, one should generally refrain from making overly trivial edits.

The justification generally centers around the fact that all edits 'bump' the question. I'm not sure that I agree with that, especially on a site as large as Stack Overflow. It might be something to keep in mind on smaller sites, but even there, one or two bumped questions is not a problem—it might even be a good thing. The only time you really want to watch out for this is if you're doing a massive clean-up and run the risk of bumping an excessively large number of questions for trivial edits. In those cases, do the community a favor and space out your edits.

Aside from the bumping issue, and more generally, the fact that you have full edit privileges is an indication that the community trusts your judgment when it comes to making edits. We trust that you'll use your powers for good, to improve the site. We trust that you know what you're doing. We trust that you'll make the right call. There are some times when only a trivial edit needs to be made. There are some times where a small thing can really make a difference, or is really hampering the quality of a post. In those cases, the edit should be made, and we have given you the power to do so.]

share|improve this answer
This is seriously a bl00dy g00d answer!!!! I think you have explained it very well, and this should be used as a reference for users with queries about suggesting edits, seriously, you HAVE answered the "unanswerable" question bravo,... You are so in my good books, until next time I have a fit on Meta ;-) hahahahhahaa – user223277 Jul 19 '13 at 6:11
I have to tell you I was contemplating a bounty on this question.. – user223277 Jul 19 '13 at 6:13
I think this answer and this… with an expose on correct post formatting, would about deal with 99% of suggested edit questions (now please feel free to debate this) – user223277 Jul 19 '13 at 6:16
Not sure I agree with that. I make a lot of English-teacher-style grammar edits, and sometimes it even makes sense to change the content (e.g. to make it more clear what is being said/asked, or to rescue a question from imminent closure). Granted, such edits are not always appropriate, but neither is it appropriate to establish a blanket rule never to change the content of a post and only to change the style. But I do have to agree that one should never change the code in a question (formatting OK). Doing so might obscure one or more problems that are critical to the question being asked. – Cody Gray Jul 19 '13 at 6:24
When you say not to change the content, I am not meaning grammar, sentence structure, But not to reword things, so it is in a different user voice (translations are an obvious exception - however the Ops voice can still be retained) – user223277 Jul 19 '13 at 6:29
I've added liked examples for clarity within my answer – user223277 Jul 19 '13 at 6:46
@Skippy Another reason to discourage minor suggested edits is the fact that users get rep when the edits are accepted. One shouldn't get rep for doing it wrong. Also, it can create a feedback loop encouraging such users to make many tiny edits, which is a huge time burden on reviewers, rather than a few good edits. I also find it really obnoxious when full edit users make ridiculously too minor edits. What kind of example does that set? – Esoteric Screen Name Jul 22 '13 at 15:55
@EsotericScreenName I agree with you about passing poor suggested edits, but when a user has full privileges and they improve a post, it's not taking anybody else's time. So I don't see the harm in that – user223277 Jul 22 '13 at 16:09

You must log in to answer this question.