My apologies if this has been asked before, and maybe I'm the only one confused by this, but according to the editing privileges page, common reasons for editing are:

  • to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes
  • to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it
  • to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages
  • to add related resources or hyperlinks

"Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!"

However, it also states that:

"Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged."

Is there any guide or metric to be applied to determine whether I should edit something or not? Consider a post with a few misspelled words or grammar mistakes that is otherwise a good question/answer -- Reading posts here on Meta, it seems like editing that post is discouraged for various reasons, but that seems to contradict the first bullet point above. Another thing I commonly see is people editing to remove "Thanks, poster_name_here". While a "trivial" edit, removing it does make the post slightly better. If that is the only thing that I can think of to change on the post, should I edit or refrain? (Maybe more importantly, if I'm reviewing others' edits, should I accept or reject?)

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    One important point in discouraging small edits is that two people must review the suggestion if the editor has not yet gained the full edit privilege. For people like you who have, the policy is more lenient, it's only your time the edit costs, so if you think it's worth your time, go ahead - as long as you stay within the general guidelines. But of course, it's better to fix everything you see to be fixed while you're at it. – Daniel Fischer Jul 26 '12 at 14:18
  • Here are some related discussions for you that might be of interest. – Bart Jul 26 '12 at 14:19
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    If you're taking the time to fix one thing then take the time to fix all the things. – Flexo Jul 26 '12 at 14:19
  • @DanielFischer -- Of course I'd fix everything that I can in one pass. The question is more about posts which are generally good with small exceptions (a misspelled word or 'i' instead of 'I') – mgilson Jul 26 '12 at 14:20
  • Remember also that when 5 different people edit the same post (retagging is not counted in that), it automatically turns into a community wiki post, which means upvotes do not give rep to the original author. – saluce Jul 26 '12 at 14:22
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    @mgilson I generally won't bother with the occasional typo, except in cases where the typo is REALLY BAD....for example, substituting a "t" for a "p" in the word "ship" =) – saluce Jul 26 '12 at 14:24
  • @mgilson Then it's your judgment. Don't overdo it, but sometimes it just has to be done. – Daniel Fischer Jul 26 '12 at 14:26
  • @saluce -- I realize that as well. But I've also read that this is a place for the entire community, not about the author. The point is to improve the site regardless of the consequences to the author(s) of particular questions/answers. How about a question with the title "How do i creat a foo in bazz?" -- Do I change it to "How do I create a foo in baz?" (especially since it is in the title). – mgilson Jul 26 '12 at 14:27
  • I'm certainly in favor of leaving "thank you" in place. It makes the site look friendly (in keeping with the "Summer of Love" project). – S.L. Barth Jul 26 '12 at 14:45

If you're worried about edits for things such as grammar, spelling, etc. then here's a rule of thumb: If the mistakes are of a degree that the question is unintelligible without substantial effort, then an edit needs to be made.

Otherwise, if it's a really minor edit, you should hold off unless there is absolutely nothing that you can see that would be required. Say, for example, you notice a question with several misspellings and missing several vital code snippets. For such a case, hold off on your edits and ask the owner to post up some code (and maybe point out the spelling mistakes if you feel obligated). If the owner edits in code and fixes their spelling mistakes, then that's two edits for the price of one. Sure, you didn't get 2 reputation, but I hope that's not the only reason you're editing.

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    As far as I know, I'm long past the days of gaining rep for editing (I thought that was only for users with less than X rep). The thing that I dislike about this is that it leads to comment clutter whereas comments could otherwise be used for something useful. Why tell the user that they misspelled "baz" when I could just a quickly fix it myself without leaving a comment that would forever tell the world the user misspelled baz. Sure, I can check later to see if they fixed it and delete my comment if they did, but the chances of me doing that are slim to none... – mgilson Jul 26 '12 at 14:47
  • If them misspelling "baz" is the only error, I would say go ahead and edit it. I mentioned adding comments only if there are other things to be edited in that you can't do such as code snippets. If you're going to comment "Please post some of your code", you might as well add "Fix your spelling mistakes" while you're at it. Two comments for the price of one. – Yawus Jul 26 '12 at 14:49
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    @mgilson Comments don't last forever. There is a nice handy delete button that is available to you until the end of time. You can also flag comments as "obsolete" if they are not yours. A comment telling someone to fix a spelling mistake, once it is fixed, falls into this category and can be flagged for deletion. – Servy Jul 26 '12 at 14:59
  • @Servy -- Thanks for telling me about the flagging as obsolete (perhaps I will start using it). – mgilson Jul 26 '12 at 15:05

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