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Every now and then I'll encounter a question or answer like the following.

what exactly r u trying to do with dis problem??? dude, here u r trying to decrement the value of a variable..a variable whose value will never reach the condition (i<20) u have provided... hence it will keep on printing '-'until what jamie wong specified ie i= -2^31..it will bebome +ve... i just tried this program....

include int main() { int i; int n = 20; for( i = 0; i < n; i-- ) printf("-"); return 0; } acording to the question u asked,

i should b incremented, ie i++ instead of i--...

@jamie wong: thanx man..learnt a new thing about tht a wraparound....

I usually just ignore it, but this time I decided to edit it. Does everybody agree that things like this should be edited to use real English grammar instead of text-message-speak? Or is it better to leave them as is?

Also, there were a couple of things in there I couldn't comprehend, like "+ve" and "learnt a new thing about tht a wraparound". Should I just leave those unedited?

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"+ve" is "positive", as I learned after seeing it on college blackboards many times. I can't decipher "about tht a wraparound", though. –  mmyers Aug 11 '10 at 21:01
I'm having one of those "I must be getting old" moments, as I realize my disappointment in the ability of the younger generation to communicate properly. –  user27414 Aug 11 '10 at 21:16
@Jon B: cough I think I'm in the younger generation. –  mmyers Aug 11 '10 at 21:39
@mmyers - that's OK, I'm not old enough to be old. –  user27414 Aug 11 '10 at 21:47
That's almost as good as DickChop's answer on SF –  Mark Henderson Aug 12 '10 at 0:04
LOL gr8t ? fwiw o_O –  Peter Ajtai Aug 12 '10 at 23:04
@devinb said this the other day in a chat thread: "Using punctuation and full sentences is a way of showing respect." (chat.meta.stackoverflow.com/chats/message/74476?offset=120) –  Benjol Aug 13 '10 at 5:33
@Jon B: Yesterday I checked out IRC (it's been a few years since last time) to try to gather some followers for an Area 51 proposal. I was told "don't use capitalization and punctuation or you will get banned!". True story. Yeah, I felt old too. –  D.H. Aug 13 '10 at 8:02
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6 Answers

up vote 26 down vote accepted

Editing for good English is a good thing, especially in the example shown. Just don't go crazy with it.

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What is this "go crazy" thing of which you speak? –  mmyers Aug 11 '10 at 21:03
@mmyers, Nothing I would know about. –  Lance Roberts Aug 11 '10 at 21:08
No grammar nazis then? –  James Aug 11 '10 at 22:28
@James, yeh, I fix most things, but don't try to necessarily kill style for the Queen's english. –  Lance Roberts Aug 11 '10 at 22:32
Also removing emoticons and the capitalization of every letter from the question title is a very good thing! –  Peter Ajtai Aug 11 '10 at 23:01
@James: one antonym of "grammar nazi" I recently read is "illiteracy communist". –  Andrew Grimm Aug 12 '10 at 0:11
@James, to me it wasn't really about grammar exactly, it was about using actual words and sentences instead of barely intelligible abbreviations and acronyms. I tend to ignore simple grammar and usage errors, especially since I sometimes make some myself (just posted one in a comment yesterday), and it's just not that big a deal. –  jmgant Aug 12 '10 at 17:02
Can someone capitalize the E in English? I can't edit answers here. –  MatthewMartin Aug 13 '10 at 13:01
@MatthewMartin: Done. –  Andrew Grimm Dec 15 '10 at 23:01
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I vote yes, because it makes it more readable and clear to the rest of the community. Some of us are not versed, or well-versed in the text message/IM speak, it helps us when others clarify that...


and don't change what you can't understand, it is the asker's problem...it will make the problem worse if we interpret it incorrectly...

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Sorry, another answer.

Here are the things that I tend to edit:

Question title

  • Correct glaring typos or misspellings
  • Correct capitalisation
  • Make it clearer (if I am confident enough that I have understood the question and the subject area)

For me, you should be able to tell what a question is about just from the title (and possibly the tags), and also naff titles cheapen the 'branding' of the SO home page.

Question body

  • Capitalise the 'i's (this may be the grammar nazi coming through, but it hurts my eyes)
  • Correct typos and wrong spelling (except British/American differences)
  • Remove the 'Hi' and the 'Thanks'
  • Format the code (I will sometimes insert new lines to remove scrollbars, if I'm feeling generous
  • Removing/completing txt-spk (plz, etc.)
  • For non-English speakers (as judged by the grammar/construction), I may do some rewriting, but I try to limit myself to making the question more understandable.


  • I don't tend to bother, as most of the time, someone else has already done it


I decided yesterday that for really bad questions, I should either edit and comment, or just comment:

I came across one user with a series of really badly written questions in a short space of time. I started looking at their older questions, and thought "weird, he can do it properly when he wants to". But then I realised that all of the 'good' questions had been heavily edited by other users. This made me think that it may be preferable to (try to) educate new users with - hopefully very polite - comments like "if you structure your question better (by doing x, y, z), you have a much better chance of getting an answer".

(Of course, when I tried that yesterday, by the time I'd finished writing my comment, there were already 3 answers...)

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I had that in mind, too, to edit the post as a kind of gentle (or maybe passive-aggressive) way of encouraging the user to use real words and sentences in his future posts. –  jmgant Aug 13 '10 at 12:46
@jmgant: Looking at some questions, you wonder it they weren't better off using google translate :( –  Benjol Aug 13 '10 at 12:48
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Don't forget to remove unnecessary , punctuation , spaces before punctuation , the excessive question marks and exclamation points !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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That part I wasn't so sure about. I took out a "dude" and replaced a bunch of ..... (supposed to be ellipses) with correct punctuation. But I wanted to try to keep the tone of the original answer intact, whether I agreed with it or not. –  jmgant Aug 12 '10 at 16:57
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Why leave it the same? To indicate that the asker/answerer is an idiot who shouldn't be trusted?

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-1 downvote for the language. –  studiohack Aug 12 '10 at 0:35
@Studiohack: Are you referring to spelling of "basterd", or the negative sentiments? I wasn't endorsing the sentiments, I was asking if that's what the OP was thinking. –  Andrew Grimm Aug 12 '10 at 5:52
@Andrew: i down voted because of the language, that is not appropriate, the b*****...the negative language isn't nice either, but that's not why i downvoted. –  studiohack Aug 12 '10 at 22:32
@studiohack: fixed. –  Andrew Grimm Aug 12 '10 at 23:01
@Andrew - If you think idiots are less trustworthy than intelligent people, you're in for a surprise when you start interacting with the group you're currently not interacting with. –  Peter Ajtai Aug 12 '10 at 23:08
@Peter: As I mentioned to Studiohack, I'm not describing my thoughts, I'm trying to ask the OP what the case for not cleaning up txt-msg speak is. –  Andrew Grimm Aug 13 '10 at 1:35
@Andrew: thanks! +1 –  studiohack Aug 13 '10 at 2:30
@Andrew, good question. I couldn't think of any reason to leave it, but I thought others might. And I wouldn't assume the poster is an idiot (I hope I didn't imply that in my question); rather, simply, that he had failed to discern that SO users generally use complete words and sentences. –  jmgant Aug 13 '10 at 12:40
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Hi everyone,

i was having a little think about this yesterday, as i looked thru some unaswered qns.

am i a grammar nazi becoz i go and clean up someone's post?

i like to think im doing them a favour, becoz if i change their title from 'help required pleez' to something more clear, and clean up their post, they've got a better chance of getting an anser.

and a lower chance of getting closed, disillusioned with SO, and leaving for good.

and it improves the quality of SO.

so win-win for everyone

Thanks a lot


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good point. I had the opposite concern, that the poster would be offended. But you're right, it really probably does improve his experience on the site. –  jmgant Aug 12 '10 at 17:06
Despite your best efforts, your post oozes erudition. –  Peter Ajtai Aug 12 '10 at 23:16
@Peter, eh, thanks... I think? –  Benjol Aug 13 '10 at 5:32
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