As you may have noticed, the edit rejection reasons were recently changed. And that's what we need to talk about:

They have been live for about three weeks now, and, and least on Physics, it has been repeatedly noted1 by reviewers and reviewed ones alike that the rejection messages sound far more hostile than the old ones. The main culpit is no improvement whatsoever, which reads:

This edit fails to make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

Now, you may say that it is an accurate description of what no improvement whatsoever means. However, to the reviewed editor it sounds quite passive-agressive on the part of the reviewer, especially since there is no indication that this is a canned response (or at least, many reviewed editors seem not to know that it is canned). A minimal proposal would be to dial down on the emphasizing phrases like even a little bit, perhaps changing it to something like

This edit is unnecessary as it does not make the post easier to read, easier to find or more accurate.

At least to my ears, this sounds far more level-headed. It's really not necessary to hammer the point home with calling the edit superfluous or actively harmful after you've already told the reviewer why the edit hasn't been approved.

Especially in light of the be nice policy saying

Be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions.

I think the current rejection message needs to be changed.

1Examples are here in chat and here on our meta. A non-Physics example would be in the comments to the official blog post.

  • 15
    just want to add my two cents here. Even adding an "I" to the beginning of my previous sentence makes this comment a little bit easier to read. If I made an edit on a post to add an "I" like that and got back the statement This edit fails to make the post even a little bit easier to read my first thought would be "Wow, that was unnecessarily harsh and kind of hostile" and my second thought would be "these reviewers don't know what they're talking about. My edit made it more than a tiny iota more readable. After all an I is a big iota". Yes, I'd make dumb puns in my own head too.
    – Jim
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:13
  • 3
    @Jim In your hypothetical example the problem is not in the message, but in the reviewer who rejected a good edit. I believe the message, as it is worded now, was written primarily for reviewers: they should not reject the edit unless they believe what it says. The fact that the editor is shown the identical message is an unfortunate side effect; I do think it should be toned down on their side.
    – user259867
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:21
  • @CareBear That would work. But as it stands, a slightly hostile message to the reviewee probably does more harm than the good of a clearer reason for the reviewer. If separate messages were made, some of the problems would be resolved
    – Jim
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:24
  • 1
    You can have as many reasons as you want, and make them as specific as you please: just type them into the box at the bottom of the list when rejecting. If you really want to be nice to someone, choosing a canned reason when rejecting their work is always a bad choice, @Jim - you'll do them a lot more good by specifying exactly what they did wrong. Consider the second example linked in this question: if Kyle had just said "this isn't what I want to say" then that would have been clear to the editor without further investigation.
    – Shog9
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:30
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    @Shog9: I could, if the title of the custom field hadn't been changed to causes harm. An edit that is not an improvement (e.g. mere shuffling of words, or "correcting" a perceived grammer mistake where there was none) does not always cause harm. Oct 16, 2014 at 15:34
  • The problem isn't with this reject reason, it's that it gets used inappropriately, e.g. in cases where an edit makes a mix of good and bad changes. Or by jerk reviewers. IDK if there's a good way to police / audit use of this reject reason, because it's rarely appropriate for edits made in good faith. e.g. in cases like this Aug 9, 2016 at 13:44
  • @Shog9: Maybe we need another reject reason for edits with a mix of good and bad, or (potentially) good but too intrusive. Having this reason used for a tag wiki edit that I put a lot of work into was infuriating, esp. from reviewers with zero experience in the tag. I knew one part of the edit was maybe too opinionated, but I was hoping for review to comment on that specifically to help me figure out what was appropriate for a tag wiki. I did eventually re-submit the edit without the opinionated part, but I'm still unhappy. Aug 9, 2016 at 13:55
  • @Peter, if you have it in your head to replace a short bit of text describing a link to an encyclopedia article with a two-paragraph rant that starts, "Don't waste your time..." I think it's safe to say all bets are off as to what sort of a response you can expect. I'd have gone with "vandalism", myself.
    – Shog9
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:38
  • @Shog9: Yes, after that and another incident, I learned that tag wiki edits are review by random monkeys with zero knowledge about the tag and that are too lazy to look at the rest of the useful changes. Yes, I realize now that I shouldn't include my opinions in the tag wiki, even though I essentially wrote the whole thing myself. (And other tag regulars think it's great.) "No improvement at all" obviously doesn't apply when there's a mix of good and bad. And the harm wasn't to "readability". Aug 9, 2016 at 20:19
  • @Shog9: Also note that I didn't replace the wikipedia link, I just put a couple other entries in the bullet list before it. Since that renumbered the link, it shows in the diff as a deletion. Anyway, I was hoping (very early in my wiki-editing career) that I'd get some useful feedback from reviewers about whether it was "too much", or even that the objectionable part would be edited out and the rest approved. That was obviously far too optimistic, but I still think that reject reason wasn't appropriate, and a custom comment would have been common courtesy from anyone that knows x86. Aug 9, 2016 at 20:46

4 Answers 4


I'm really not sure why there is so much bile* in the current rejection reason:

No improvement whatsoever

The edit fails to make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability

The reason this feels wrong to us over in Physics, I think, is the fact that it contains a lot of words which are actively unfriendly to the editor but do not really serve any purpose in really specifying what was wrong with the edit.

Try the same, but without those words:

Does not improve the post

This edit does not make the post easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either superfluous or actively harm readability.

It describes the exact same set of rejectable edits, it makes the rejection reason clear to the editor, and it does not have the rough edges from above. It is nice to the editor but clear about the edit.

* OK, I'm exaggerating a bit. Edit: you know, what, no, that's not an exaggeration, the message (including the currently-live version) does have bile, there's no other way to describe it.

  • 3
    Effectively the same as my comment to shog9.
    – Kyle Kanos
    Nov 12, 2014 at 16:58
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    I like this better too. Same message but without the unnecessarily aggressive and almost superfluous qualifiers. I'd be happy with this message
    – Jim
    Nov 12, 2014 at 17:04
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    We'll be changing "fails" to "does not" - I agree that was unnecessarily harsh. "Whatsoever", "even a little bit", and "completely" are intentional though: if you're rejecting edits that make posts a little bit easier to read, find, accurate or accessible (and hence are not completely superfluous) then you should probably ask yourself why - and then not use this rejection reason.
    – Shog9
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:14
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    @Shog9 I find that disappointing - particularly as regards the title. It may be OK on a harsh environment like SO, but I do not think the 'clarity' that it adds makes up in any meaningful way for the whole lot of 'niceness' that it takes away.
    – E.P.
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:27
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    Keep in mind, too, that on a smaller site one needs to weigh the value of the edit versus the annoyance of its bumping the post up the front page. It is then somewhat a subjective judgement, and it can mean rightful rejection as 'too minor' of edits which do contain some marginal improvement, and which it is harsh (and harmful to the editor) to aggressively class as 'no improvement whatsoever'.
    – E.P.
    Nov 12, 2014 at 19:30
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    I'm totally sympathetic to the front-page problem when someone's going through making trivial edits to scores of posts, @episanty. If you see someone doing that, go right ahead and select "causes harm" and type "pollutes the front page with boring changes" or whatever variation on that fits the situation. Rejecting one-off edits that you see as helpful because you're afraid they'll crowd the front page is silly though - even on small sites like Physics, the front page isn't static for long enough for that to matter. Don't trap yourself between a rock and a hard place.
    – Shog9
    Nov 12, 2014 at 20:07
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    I think you miss the point. The wording is not actively indicated to be robotic. If my rejected edits were rejected by a human with one of several robotic retorts, I'm FAR MORE able to deal with that than with thinking that some human typed out that insulting retort particularly catered to me. The distinction between harsher or your slightly less harsh version is meaningless if the editor doesn't know it is canned. If the retort were "Isn't an improvement" and then linked some page that indicates what the editor might-have-done-wrong, then the editor is more likely to accept that.
    – killermist
    Jan 23, 2015 at 23:26
  • I agree with the suggestion in this answer. What's interesting to me about this discussion is that both camps (be nicer, vs. just sayin') want to improve the clarity of the question but the greater effort falls upon the 'be nicer' group at this point since the canned comment comes with 'language-baggage'. If there is a need to chide an editor then they can be approached as required a specific reason can be given to them. Otherwise I think the suggestion above is clear and concise.
    – user285084
    Feb 27, 2015 at 9:05
  • Agreed, and another point is ... if there are reviewers out there who are mis-using this rejection reason (and there are! There do exist helpful edits that get this rejection reason for not changing enough), how are they identified/told to change their ways? I completely and totally feel the pain of the front page, but I contend that if that's the primary rationale against making this edit reason nicer, why don't we change what triggers stuff on the front page? Probably lots of these would get dropped given a simple changed character limit.
    – Ajean
    Feb 28, 2015 at 0:24


Per Kyle Kanos's / episanty's suggestion, "fails" has been replaced with "does not":

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability.

It's a hostile action. You're rejecting someone's edit, something they spent time writing, asserting that it was utterly pointless.

Sadly, that's sometimes necessary - for whatever reason, folks submit edits that are pointless, or worse... But if you don't think the edit you're looking at matches that description, then either don't reject it, or use a different reason.

If it does fall into that bucket, then let's call a spade a spade: being "nice" does not mean obscuring your intent when you must chide someone; that doesn't benefit anyone.

I'm open to wording that gets the point across more clearly or concisely, but I don't believe your suggestion does either; in particular, by omitting "Changes are either completely superfluous or actively harm readability" you strip the reason of the specific criteria for which it was created!

  • 19
    What about removing the more hostile bits, but keeping the intent mostly there: This edit does not make the post easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible. Changes are either unnecessary or actively harm readability
    – Kyle Kanos
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:31
  • 1
    Replace "fails to" with "does not"? That's a more sensible suggestion.
    – Shog9
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:33
  • 6
    put some sugar in there! "Overall great quality of suggested edit is nicely balanced by the truly laconic absence of improvements it would make"
    – gnat
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:33
  • 2
    "What is this even?" and "I loaded up the review queue for this?" sound far gentler
    – random
    Oct 16, 2014 at 15:33
  • 18
    How about "I hate myself for even having read your edit. :-)" Oct 16, 2014 at 15:35
  • 1
    How about "Your edit caused unicorns to run and hide :P"
    – user273376
    Oct 16, 2014 at 19:35
  • 4
    being "nice" does not mean obscuring your intent when you must chide someone: ummm... that's dangerously close to the attitude that started the whole brouhaha on Physics a couple years ago... We might not be the nicest SE site out there, but I think we do a decent job and it's a shame to have our courtesy undercut by the system.
    – user206562
    Oct 17, 2014 at 2:36
  • 3
    How about "be nice, but be clear" then, @Chris. If you're rejecting an edit because in your eyes it didn't make a single solitary improvement to the post, then say that - nicely - but say that. Letting someone wonder - or worse, giving them the wrong idea entirely - isn't nice.
    – Shog9
    Oct 17, 2014 at 2:40
  • 2
    "Above all, be honest..."
    – gnat
    Nov 12, 2014 at 17:04
  • 4
    The present edit rejection message is unecessarily rude and outright hostile.
    – Dilaton
    Nov 23, 2014 at 20:27
  • 2
    Only if it is misused, @Dilaton. Therefore, do not misuse it.
    – Shog9
    Nov 23, 2014 at 23:39
  • 4
    "there is no indication that this is a canned response (or at least, many reviewed editors seem not to know that it is canned)" THIS is where I have the problem. I read this attached to one edit that succeeded, but one review used it, and I felt personally insulted because there was NO INDICATION that the reason was not user-typed. Since I know it is a robo-retort now, it will bear a lesser weight when 1/3 of reviewers don't realize that I'm making a "superfluous" edit to try to salvage a whole damned question from destruction. If you want to lose other editors, continue on.
    – killermist
    Jan 23, 2015 at 23:16
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    Whilst better, the wording still makes me think of Billy Madison. @Shog9 - The differences people are bringing up here is less about use/misuse and more about the amount of impact we're trying to get across. I feel we should lean towards "slap on the wrist" impact rather than the current "20-to-life" levels. At the end of the day, we don't want editors to stop editing because they got a bad taste in their mouth, we just want to steer them onto the right path. Just like Billy Madison, "A simple 'No' would've sufficed"
    – Robotnik
    Jan 24, 2015 at 6:24
  • 1
    – gnat
    Feb 27, 2015 at 8:48
  • 1
    @IlmariKaronen: These words may be trivially looked up in a dictionary with a simple right-click in a modern browser like Chrome. Let's not dumb down the language because some people cannot be bothered to enhance their grasp of it, eh? After all, Stack Exchange is all about learning! So, perfect opportunity right here. May 17, 2016 at 17:42

I think the suggestion to show one piece of the puzzle to the editor and the whole to the reviewer makes sense in terms of what the question seeks to accomplish. That solution is tech-dependent, so if we are limited to altering verbiage, my suggestion is as follows:

low impact edit
This edit does not sufficiently increase readability or accuracy, nor does it improve user experience by altering or adding tags, formatting, image descriptions, or alt-text.

In other words, change the focus. The current wording explains what the edit does not do (make the post even a little bit easier to read, easier to find, more accurate or more accessible) without specifics. I feel this suggested wording makes acceptable "minor" edits more obvious and at the same time does not accuse the editor of crappy work -- it recognizes that there was some effort, just not quite enough to justify the change.


If it's "hostile", then it is not "passive-aggressive".

This reject reason describes circumstances that are listed in its description. If you feel that the situations you encounter do not befit such a hostile reject reason, then that reject reason is not intended for those situations. You are not forced to use them, at any time.


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