I've recently run into someone who managed to make an answer harder to read by adding too many "the/a" articles, which can sometimes be omitted in English under certain circumstances.
The and a pretty much are shorthand for this or any. And when a generic statement that applies to a wide category of objects is sprinkled with too many unnecessary occurrences of the or a, it simply makes it harder to read because it adds noise.
This is not the first occurrence of useless grammar beautification.
I propose that we:
- Forbid adding extra words to someone else's text unless it is marked as Community Wiki. Or at least make it so only the original author alone can accept suggested edits.
- Forbid useless reformatting (inserting of whitespaces, retabbing, moving brackets around, and such).
- When a word is clearly misspelled. So replacing somethings with something’s does not qualify. However, use th iz complir to fixit would qualify for editing.
- When the author failed to start a code formatting block properly (because she forgot four spaces, etc)
- The answer belongs to whoever wrote it, so you should not change it unless granted permission or unless there’s an “emergency” (like missing code formatting space or a major case of misspelling).
- By that logic, marking an answer as Community Wiki grants permission to everyone to modify that answer.
- Grammatical beautification is a waste of time that gives only the illusion of doing something useful. Time spent there should be spent on answering/voting on questions instead. Whoever can benefit from the answer will benefit from it even if an article is missing here and there. Overzealous proofreading text takes time and generally has a negligible effect on an answer’s usability. You pretty much waste ten minutes to save someone one second. Not worth it.
Instead of site-wide rules, it would be reasonable to have a profile checkbox that forbids any changes to your posts unless you personally approve them or unless those posts were marked as community wiki. By default the checkbox would be disabled.
The main reason why this change is suggested is that, with the current behavior I have to babysit every single answer I ever made when someone suggests an edit and check if their suggestion properly reflects the answer's original meaning.
Such behavior wastes a lot of time, and makes posting answers undesirable.
Therefore it would be reasonable to get rid of this "friendly samaritan" editing and restrict the available tools to "upvote", "downvote", "flag for deletion", and "write comment".
When information is frozen in place and you have a warranty that nobody is going to change the intended meaning to something you didn't have in mind, you can concentrate on problem at hand.
SO works the best as an information database, not when it tries to be Wikipedia or a newspaper.