I've just noticed a few users with edit permissions basically scan through entire questions and answers, post by post, changing the smallest issues. i.e. modifying 'i' with 'I', re-spacing words, or replacing things with arguably more correct but indubitably more boring language.

Now I can fully understand the need for editing posts when it is difficult to read or understand, to remove/add tags, or if there is a blatant spelling mistake. However, removing bolding or italics from words, replacing 'color' with 'color', or even just changing the user's spacing is taking things towards more of an OCD level, rather than being of any use.

  • Is this expected of users with edit permissions?
  • If my posts are edited in such a way do I have a say in what happens to the content?
  • I have read in other posts (dated back to 2009/2010) that the original user isn't notified when an edit is made to their post, is this still the case?

Basically I much prefer the use of language to evolve, as long as it is clear. Sometimes the right choice of a wrong word or style can expositionally refine your meaning.

As much as I have taken to StackOverflow over the last few months, I found this behaviour rather unsettling.


Let's start off by saying that corrections to posts should never be so minimal that they don't address all the problems within a post. Correcting minor things but leaving other obvious glaring problems is an inappropriate way to edit.

That being said, let's have a look at some points:

The use of "i" instead of "I" is simply wrong. Correcting that is absolutely appropriate.

Bolding and Italics, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many others) is significantly overused. As is the unnecessary use of formatting as code. It often does nothing to clarify the question and only serves to distract or confuse. Especially if every second word seems to be so important that it needs to be emphasized. I will personally edit such cases.

Replacing words like "color" to "colour" or vice versa is not really necessary I think. Besides "English" being the language for SO, we haven't really settled on UK English or American English. Keep in mind though that the in-browser spell checker might indicate an error, as it does for American English in my case. Users not familiar with these differences might "correct" the error they see.

If such edits are made to a post of yours, don't throw a fit and automatically roll back the edits. Have an objective look at them and see if they are in any way problematic. If not, I would leave them. If they are in any way destructive and seriously cause problems, feel free to roll them back. Try not to get into an edit war though.

All that said, keep in mind that Stack Overflow is a collaboratively edited Q&A. So get used to some editing happening every now and then. We all do so in good faith.

  • Yep no worries on me throwing a fit, I'm more than likely to run away if someone comes at me with gramma-gripe :) and I totally understand that it is collaborative, I guess I just prefer to have things a little bit clearer in definition as to what people should be editing. Your last comment however I don't quite believe, I think a lot of people do many actions just to gain a higher rep -- although I'm sure most of SO is in good faith.
    – Pebbl
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:30
  • 1
    There certainly is a rep advantage, though limited to users with less than 2000 rep and up to a maximum of 1000 rep from edits. The problem is not so much with those users making inappropriate edits, but with the reviewers of those edits accepting them. Any users above 2k don't get any reputation out of editing whatsoever.
    – Bart
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:32
  • 1
    At 2 points each, editing is a slooooow way to gain rep. Reviewers should always consider whether the suggested edit was significant enough to justify the edit.
    – KatieK
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:39
  • @KatieK I couldn't agree more, but unfortunately that does often not seem to happen. (And seemingly less so with the new review-beta I feel)
    – Bart
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:40
  • Very well stated. Oct 9 '12 at 15:45
  • 2
    -1: Bolding and italics are not overused on SO. What does persist on SO -- or rather, on meta -- is a tenancy to make mountains out of molehills. Oct 9 '12 at 15:48
  • 2
    @JohnDibling Then your experience is entirely different from mine. Both on the main site and in the suggested-edit queue.
    – Bart
    Oct 9 '12 at 15:49
  • Some good points again... I would definitely have to agree slightly with @JohnDibling though. I have not experienced such a reaction to any of my other questions on SO so far, maybe it's because I'm questioning something that people do directly however... I can understand wanting to defend SE, it is a great platfom.
    – Pebbl
    Oct 9 '12 at 16:34
  • @pebbl I can't speak for the others. I only speak from my experience and am not particularly defensive when it comes to the site. I like it, but also acknowledge that it has its shortcomings in some areas. And perhaps given that I'm a reasonable prolific editor, my views might differ from those who edit less. In any case, what I've said is merely my view. If others disagree, that's fair enough.
    – Bart
    Oct 9 '12 at 16:42

I would say no, unless the post was not clearly written to begin with.

For most well-formed posts, I may edit it to fix up grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but I will always try to avoid changing the existing style of writing with respect to dialects of English (American or British), etc. If I add any content to such a post, I will try to conform to the existing style in the post.

In cases where the post isn't written clearly to begin with (such as a post written by a non-native English speaker), I may make more significant stylistic changes with the intention to make the post easier to read. I do, however, try to respect the original author at all times.

  • 1
    +1 Sounds to me like you are more my kind of editor :) respect of the original I think is what is lacking in some instances. You automatically get downvoted in life in terms of respect if you don't construct sentences "correctly" -- it's at times like these that I like to watch this: youtube.com/watch?v=J7E-aoXLZGY
    – Pebbl
    Oct 9 '12 at 16:41

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