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I have just gained the Edit Questions and Answers privilege on stack overflow.

The whole thing about editing is clear to me. But, as there are no peer review on my edits before they get published, I still like to benefit from experienced people on how to make my edits better.

Thanks

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The number one thing I would suggest is this:

Fix the whole post, not just one little problem amid dozens. It's been said by SO management repeatedly that edits should not be used for "turd-polishing" — such as putting markdown syntax on a URL while spelling, capitalization and grammar problems go uncorrected. (In fact, they've suggested that reviewers should reject turd-polishing edits.)

  1. Most Important: Fix spelling, capitalization/punctuation, grammar.
  2. Fix URLs (add markdown, fetch titles or work into the sentence)
  3. Add helpful formatting

If you do these three things, you certainly aren't in danger of "changing the meaning", and chances are high that you've cleaned it up to the point that the writing doesn't need to be changed at all.

At that point, if it's still bad, go ahead and try to rewrite it a little bit. But, separate this edit so that it can be isolated/rolled back to a still-improved version.

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Edits can still be rolled back; if you wrongly change an answer or a question, the edit can still be changed, or rolled back.
If you don't feel like editing answers/questions, nobody forces you to do it.

The suggestions given you when you edit a question are the following:

  • fix grammatical or spelling errors
  • clarify meaning without changing it
  • correct minor mistakes
  • add related resources or links
  • always respect the original author

The meaning of the suggestions is clear: if the question is about a cake, you cannot change it to a question about a steak, if not in the case the OP clearly stated in a comment that the question was really about a steak.
Follow those suggestions, and you should not have any problem.

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The only concrete thing I can come up with is:

If in doubt, don't edit.

Also - start small correcting spelling mistakes rather than attempting wholesale rewrites. As you proofread posts, things that need improving will become clear.

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I'd also like to point out that it isn't essential you do it if your uncomfortable. If you are though that's good. –  Wes May 2 '11 at 23:06

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