When editing is it appropriate to rewrite "The codes with the problem ..." to "The code with the problem ..."?

In other words, is the term "code" a mass noun when used to describe text in a programming language.

From Wikipedia:

In linguistics, a mass noun (also uncountable noun or non-count noun) is a noun that refers to some entity as an undifferentiated unit rather than as something with discrete subsets.


In English (and in many other languages), there is a tendency for nouns referring to liquids (water, juice), powders (sugar, sand), or substances (metal, wood) to be used in mass syntax, and for nouns referring to objects or people to be count nouns.


Consider, for example cutlery: If one collection of cutlery is combined with another, we still have "cutlery." Similarly, if water is added to water, we still have "water." But if a chair is added to another, we don't have "a chair," but rather two chairs. Thus the nouns "cutlery" and "water" have cumulative reference, while the expression "a chair" does not.

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    Might be more suited to english.stackexchange.com – Lix Feb 22 '12 at 5:30
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    Is it wrong to use the word “codes” in a programming context? mostly answers your question; if you're asking whether or not its worth correcting this on Stack Overflow, then Lix provides a good answer below. – Shog9 Feb 22 '12 at 5:42
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    Yes! Please do this. "Code" is indeed a mass noun, and it's extremely irritating to see it misused all over the place. – Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 5:45
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    Pluralization often gets lost in translation, especially when your native language uses plurals a lot differently than English (there is no such thing as a mass noun in Tagalog, for instance). I am often asked for help with 'codes', and I die a little every time that happens. It's also common to say 'cereals' instead of 'cereal', or 'I have colds' instead of 'I have a cold', or 'I have rashes' instead of 'A rash', and I'll end this rant on that :) – Tim Post Feb 22 '12 at 9:10
  • I don't think "code" is always a mass noun. In a crypto context "codes" can be fine. – CodesInChaos Feb 22 '12 at 10:22
  • In some cases it might even be correct for source code. In particular when referring to several separate implementations. – CodesInChaos Feb 22 '12 at 10:28
  • @CodeInChaos, I was referring specifically to the "text in a programming language" sense and not to the "output of an encoder" sense. – Mike Samuel Feb 22 '12 at 14:10
  • @CodeInChaos, I think I agree. Search results suggest that "confirmation codes" and "QR codes" are two kinds of countable codes that are commonly used in SO questions. – Mike Samuel Feb 22 '12 at 14:14

How you make edits is completely up to you. If you feel it is an improvement then submit your edit. If the community is particularly displeased with your edit it can be rolled back to a previous version.
Note that such minor changes are generally OK - its just like correcting a spelling mistake or adding capital letters to a post that is burning your eyes and itching at your fingers...
You all know these :P Happens to the best of us ;)

However... If you start to make too many tiny edits all over - you might get on somebody's nerves :)

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    But please, try to edit other things too. If you're going all grammar police on a post, do it for the entire post. Make sure it makes complete sense, is well formed, all the spelling is correct, expand uncommon acronyms, etc, etc. Don't just edit the one thing and leave the rest for another edit. If this really is the only thing that needs editing, then by all means. – animuson Feb 22 '12 at 6:32
  • @a - very true... Too often also a question gets edited (correctly) and the title is left untouched. – Lix Feb 22 '12 at 6:38
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    As for "such minor changes are generally OK": in the case of suggested edits (in the peer review process), I disagree. In fact, there's a reject reason just for that. See also Why can suggested edits be “too minor”? – Arjan Feb 22 '12 at 6:52
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    @ar - I don't think that anyone would reject one spelling mistake if it is the only thing in need of correcting. Correcting faecbook.com to facebook.com when dealing with URL's is extremely minor - only 2 letters were changed. However this is a crucial and valid correction. – Lix Feb 22 '12 at 6:58
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    @Lix: The point is that you should be fixing other things wrong with the post at the same time. If you leave other spelling or formatting mistakes, I'll reject that suggested edit. If there's honestly nothing else to fix, I'll approve it. – Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 7:34
  • @c - yes I am agreeing with you and with Arjan. If one is attempting to improve a post then one should review the entire post and make all the necessary edits. However, if there is only one minor correction and that correction is a "make or break" issue - then I can't see someone rejecting it. – Lix Feb 22 '12 at 7:45

If that was your only edit then I wouldn't bother. It may not be grammatically correct, but most of us can live with it. If you have an overwhelming urge to jump in and edit the question simply for that then you might have to consider that your inbuilt Natural Language Parsing module is not as tolerant as it could be. Or you might just have OCD.

But if there are other issues with the question then by all means fix it. Especially if you believe it could impact on the searchability of the question. If I use the word code in my Google query then Google is pretty good at treating code and codes as synonymous (it will return results containing either word), but the SO search function doesn't - this can be a good reason for making an edit as minor as that.

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    Hmm yes, both of those things describe me... What to do now? – Cody Gray Feb 22 '12 at 7:35
  • @Cody - edit away, have fun - once you've fixed one issue you will find another and the cycle will start again :) – slugster Feb 22 '12 at 9:37

Yes, please do change it to just 'code'. Every time I read a question with "the codes" in it I immediately think of this:

...which in turn makes me less likely to answer the question!

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