The Help Center documentation on reviewing does not seem to be in sync with the accepted practice regarding collaboratively-edited answers.

The general consensus on the site is that edits should avoid changing content.

However, the help documentation allows (some would say encourages) edits which:

  • clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
  • correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages

It says without qualification:

  • If you see something that needs improvement, click edit!

It even provides a warning to users:

  • If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

New users reading the documentation may think that an edit such as this one is acceptable. In the editor's mind, he or she is correcting an efficiency mistake and perhaps clarifying the answer without changing the meaning of the answer.

However, these types of edits are routinely rejected based on guidelines here:

[Reject] edits that change an answer's explanation or code, with a supposedly "better" alternative. Even if the proposed solution is better, it should be added as a comment, or a separate answer.

and here:

The idea of the edit system in SE sites is that when you edit any no-CW post, you edit it for everything but the content.

If this is indeed the desired approach, can we update the documentation to help potential editors understand that content changes, no matter how helpful, are not allowed?

1 Answer 1


The help center is not a legal document; it cannot possibly be written to avoid all ambiguity. It is what it says it is: a help center. It cannot cover all possible permutations of community consensus that have been discussed on Meta, because if it did, it would be the size of a small book.

That said, the phrase

clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)

is entirely consistent with the meta post you linked. This is the general guideline for all posts on SE, and always has been. Clarify the meaning, but do not change the meaning.

Remember, the help guidelines must work for all SE sites, not just our curious little coding site.

  • 1
    I was not aware that this document was the same for all sites, so that helps to explain the situation somewhat. However, the lack of clarification for SO in particular causes confusion and angst. Isn't there something that can be done? Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 16:33
  • @GeorgeCummins: That's not angst. That's someone asking for explanation, but then arguing that their way is correct.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 16:34
  • 1
    I assumed that the "ill stay away from editing" comment implied angst, but could be wrong. Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 16:35
  • @GeorgeCummins: I read it as irritation. If the guy genuinely wanted guidance, he would have accepted the suggestions that were offered.
    – user102937
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 16:36

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