This question especially applies to questions which query syntax errors

I've noticed an increasing number of edits by people changing syntax in questions to remove extraneous syntax. Edits are frequently single character and include other (even less obvious) edits to get over the minimum character limit.

For example. The most recent edit I saw, someone carefully deleted a useless semi-colon and space from a shell script changing:

if foo ; then
   echo bar;


if foo; then 
   echo bar

As another example I've seen people re-indenting SQL code from one well known and used standard to another standard (one I've only seen in college, not industry).

-- frequently seen in oracle code and very effective for BIG queries
  FROM bar
 WHERE x = y;


-- Seen where?
    FROM bar
        WHERE x = y;


Also removing tags because the answer is general to all of shell, not just Bash ... so the bash tag removed from the question... is that not something which should get edited into the answer, not out of the question?

End Edit

In questions where the code illustrates an abstract point this is not a problem. But there are questions where the OP can't understand a syntax error or can't understand some syntax they found; editing these questions can diminish the point of the question.

Are these people just making the edits for the sake of the +2 rep, are some people so terribly irritated by unusual syntax or is there some more useful reason to these edits that I have not seen?

  • 22
    Badges! Shiny shiny badges!!
    – Bart
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 10:09
  • 4
    Sometimes those trivial edits are the result of an automated code tidier that the editor runs the code block through. Commented May 30, 2013 at 10:21
  • 3
    Tempted to flag for migration to cogsci.SE.
    – Wooble
    Commented May 30, 2013 at 10:28
  • So the thing that promoted me thinking about this question was seeing someone who'd gained 800 rep of which 750 was through edits. Most of them spurious. My 1700 is mostly through (accepted) answers. There's something which pricks at my sense of justice that this person will be eligible to review others' edits before I will. This is based on the rate they were acquiring rep through spurious edits. But then I guess there are rules lawyers in every system. I feel bad for being irritated for that. But hey. Commented May 30, 2013 at 10:59
  • 2
    Can't you only gain 1K from edits? Commented May 30, 2013 at 11:14
  • Perhaps, I can't claim to have read enough of the stack-exchange how-to and rules to know. If that's the case then that sooth's my sense of justice :-) Commented May 30, 2013 at 11:15
  • 1
    @couling and it completely stops after 2K regardless of how much you've earned, 1K or not. No one will ever be equal to Jon Skeet because of suggested edits. Commented May 30, 2013 at 11:19
  • 3
    No one will ever be equal to JonSkeet because of anything. Commented May 30, 2013 at 12:17
  • 4
    @ErnestFriedman-Hill So Jon Skeet is a NaN? Commented May 30, 2013 at 12:45
  • @DanielFischer no he is a free man! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_Six_%28The_Prisoner%29 Commented May 30, 2013 at 12:51
  • @couling My reference for that is some music, we didn't have telly when the series was broadcast. Commented May 30, 2013 at 12:55

2 Answers 2


Several Reasons Why

Showing the mistake

Some people try to modify the code to show the OP the mistake they make in their syntax. This is wrong. Instead they should post an answer or a comment (preferably an answer if they want credit).

Reject the edit as Radical Change and hopefully everyone else will too.

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Code tidy-ers(sp?)

Usually when I make drastic indentation edits, I run the code through a tidier like JSFiddle's built in one. This will bring the code to the applied code convention. Other people use their flavor of code convention, which isn't always right. If you feel it's against the common code convention, reject or improve it.


Like Bart said

Badges! Shiny shiny badges!!

People want to get "dem' badges". Sometimes this can be a bad thing, and even sometimes they screw up the code in the process. If it messes the post up too much, reject the edit or improve it yourself.

  • We don't talk about suggested-edits here. Single character changes are not allowed as suggested edit. We talk about the general 2k+ edit ability. Commented May 30, 2013 at 11:08
  • 3
    @JohannesKuhn yeah, but some people get round that. You can see from the comments they've "corrected the syntax" or "formatting". They capitalize a few characters here and there that nobody notices to make the minimum edit limit. There are not enough people selecting "too minor" option to make a difference. Commented May 30, 2013 at 11:18

In the same vein as the mention of Badges!...

Reviewers may be Speed-Editing poor First Posts / Late Answers

Rather than dive into the Questions list, the easiest way to bring a poor post requiring editing to one's own attention is to review First Posts / Late Answers (killing two birds with one stone by taking out one of one's review quota for the day) . While you're reviewing an item, the majority of the time, an edit must be made. Unfortunately, edits take time and these queues empty quickly.

It's been my own desire (and I've not succumbed, but I'm sure others have) to throw in a quick edit, hit "I'm done" to qualify the review in the count, and then jump to the next item to review, scoring both an edit point and a review point. I take too long to edit and usually I get the "there are no reviews left" message, but I'm fairly certain there are reviewers who simply blow through edits on the items they're reviewing to quickly get to the next review before the rest of the items in the review queue are consumed by other reviewers.

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