Sometimes, as many users of the SE network are well aware, a user will see one very small, yet very glaring error in a question or answer, and with less than 2K rep, they are faced with 4 choices:

  1. Add invisible formatting to artificially increase the number of characters in the post.
  2. Look for picky little "other errors" to fix.
  3. Post a comment that says something like, "Um, you have a 1-character error. The word it's in it's audience should be its because it's means it is and its is possessive."
  4. Just forget about it; the mistake is so obvious, someone with 2K rep is bound to spot it eventually and fix it.

I think none of these choices are the best choice. Obviously the first raises questions of skirting the rules. The second can lead to a post that bears little resemblance to the original intent of the author, which can be taken as disrespectful. The third has the potential to publicly humiliate or embarrass the author; this too is disrespectful. The fourth doesn't always work, because the users with high rep sometimes don't always come across the same posts that new members do. This is because they are usually too busy giving answers and reviewing edits to do much editing themselves.

My suggestion: We should be allowed to note in the edit description that we edit fixed the ONLY ERROR, or something similar. Then submission script could detect the two words in all caps and allow the edit to be submitted.

  • 4
    If that is the only error, it is not worth the effort of 3-5 SO Reviewers, so leave it. Mar 3 '14 at 1:49
  • @Bill Sometimes an error affects the meaning of a post or whether code will run, and sometimes the OP didn't catch it. Mar 3 '14 at 1:52
  • 1
    Options 2, 3 and 4 seem perfectly fine to me, you can even choose between 3 ways to handle this. If it's too minor: leave it. If it's important: leave a comment. Mar 3 '14 at 2:08
  • 3
    Changing its to it's really is trivial, and if it's all that you can find, best to comment or leave it alone. On the other hand, I once needed to edit an answer to change > to <. Mar 3 '14 at 2:20
  • @Matt you could change > to < by making it &lt; in inline text and \lt in MathJaX. That would leave only 2 or 3 other characters to change in the post--although with code you would need to be more creative... Mar 3 '14 at 3:00
  • @BrianJ.Fink You can't use &lt; in a code block. Mar 3 '14 at 3:38
  • Which is why you would have to get more creative, @Matthew. I was thinking about math formulas, but there's other ways to edit code. I don't recommend this, but you could add more spaces to an line, as in if(n>5||l>6) changed to if ( n < 5 || l > 6 ), for example. But that's an extreme example. Mar 3 '14 at 4:21

Point out the typo in a comment

[Leaving a comment pointing out the typo] has the potential to publicly humiliate or embarrass the author; this too is disrespectful.

There's nothing disrespectful about this. Go ahead and point out the typo in a comment.

On dozens of occasions I've left a comment to the effect of: "You made a typo in this word; I think you meant to write this instead." The author makes the correction (if they care to do so), thank me for pointing it out, then our comments are marked as obsolete and are deleted. No big deal is made; there's no humiliation nor embarrassment.

If the author don't care to correct their post, then other human beings can probably handle the fact there's a minor typographical error in the post. It's harmless; they can still read it. Maybe a 2K reader will make the correction themselves, maybe not.

It could be made a big deal if you draw it out and say more than necessary. From your post:

Um, you have a 1-character error. The word it's in it's audience should be its because it's means it is and its is possessive.

You probably don't need to explain basic grammar rules. If they're a competent enough English speaker that this is the only kind of mistake they're making, they're already familiar with them. This is potentially being pretty condescending and humiliating. It's enough to just say:

In the third paragraph I think you meant "its audience" not "it's audience".

Do look for other errors to fix.

This method is OK too. That's what the minimum edit is there for: because posts rarely have just one error. If there are other changes you can make to improve the post, make them.

It goes without saying: don't do something like replace one OK word with another just for the sake of passing the 6 character limit. That's not a change you're making to improve the post.

That said, if there really aren't 6 characters you can change, just leave a comment.

We don't really need the 1-character edit thing

The 6-character minimum exists for a reason (as I just mentioned). The suggested edit queue doesn't need to handle 1-character edits, nor do questions and answers need to be poked into community wiki status by 6 different peoples' 1-character edits (as opposed to the single 6-character edit one of them could have made).

You've mentioned two really good ways to handle 1-character edits. Handle them that way.

  • Why do you think the OP would always bother to fix the error? Mar 3 '14 at 2:02
  • You're forgetting that I submitted this as a feature request. Mar 3 '14 at 2:06
  • 1
    @Brian I'm not; but you have concerns that aren't valid: "We can't leave a comment! That's humiliating!" It's not. Do it. Mar 3 '14 at 2:07
  • @Brian I've added a more direct response to the feature request itself. Mar 3 '14 at 2:11
  • So let me get this straight: We're supposed to make minor corrections that improve the post, but if there's only one correction to be made, we have an artificial lower limit of 6 characters and have to post the correction as a comment? This rule is silly, but it's not the rule that I'm questioning; I'm simply asking for a legitimate workaround. And there are others who share my concerns about the artificial minimum. You can't dismiss all of us, can you? Mar 3 '14 at 2:17
  • You have a legitimate work around. Multiple, two of which you mentioned yourself but asserted were things you probably shouldn't be doing when they're totally ok behaviour. The limit exists for a reason, what would be the point of having one if you could work around it by ignoring it? Mar 3 '14 at 2:21
  • On the contrary, 1-character edits are very easy to review. It's the edits that have a lot of corrections that take more time. Mar 3 '14 at 2:22
  • @Brian That isn't to the contrary of any statement I've made (not even prior to editing my comment). None of this is to do with how easy or hard it is to review these edits. Mar 3 '14 at 2:24
  • I'm sorry, I thought "The suggested edit queue doesn't need to handle 1-character edits" meant that you thought they would pile up and overwhelm the reviewers. I was simply pointing out that they would only take a few seconds. Mar 3 '14 at 2:27
  • 1
    No, but there's something to be said for valuing their time. In any case: whether the 6 character limit should exist or not has been discussed ad nauseum, and it still exists, so safe to say you probably won't be doing 1 character edits anytime soon. Hence my pointing out: you have other ways to handle this situation. They aren't as awful as you describe them. Handle it those ways. Mar 3 '14 at 2:33
  • I only hope that the fact that you answered my suggestion does not make it more likely to be overlooked by those who make the decisions about features. Mar 3 '14 at 2:36
  • I doubt it; feature requests that provoke discussion tend to attract attention. Whether it gets implemented or not.... Is another matter. Mar 3 '14 at 2:38
  • Then allow me to apologize for my patently combative tone! Mar 3 '14 at 2:41
  • You're quite forgiven, you're fighting for something you think should be implemented. It's understandable. Mar 3 '14 at 2:45

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