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It's quite rare to find people who are so good at a written foreign language that they'd make a good copy editor of that language.

Suppose you noticed a minor bit of clarity and context editing, (of a typo ridden non-English author), that was curiously rejected, accompanied by the boilerplate:

This edit does not make the post even a little bit easier to read.

Suppose the edit was correct, and further suppose the users rejecting the edit were not native English speakers, and presumably doing their level best in rejecting it. To them the incorrect version looked equally, (if not even more), correct, because it more resembled the non-English syntax of languages they were more fluent in.

Possible remedies:

  1. Easier: resubmit edit at another time of day, when the time zones favor the region of the language corrected.
  2. Harder: SE's edit mechanism gives no consideration of a good faith reviewer's language skills, perhaps that presumption is not optimal, and should be reformed.
  3. Difficult: try help the erroneous corrector to learn where their syntax went wrong.

If this problem ever occurred, what would be the best practices? Does SE already have a policy for it?

The story, all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this question are fictitious. No identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred.

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    Remedy #3: unless the English is so terrible as to render the question unreadable (in which case it should be closed as unclear anyway), just shrug and move on. – ArtOfCode Feb 13 '17 at 19:24
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    Do your best, and if your best wasn't good enough, meh. You'll eventually get enough rep to avoid reviews. – user1228 Feb 13 '17 at 20:00
  • @Won't: The premise is not that one's best wasn't objectively "good enough", but rather that one's best is subjectively no better than sub-literate in the eyes of a dedicated and confident reviewer with only passable foreign written language skills. – agc Feb 15 '17 at 6:06
6

TL;DR - no official policy, so I'll share my own opinions as a veteran user.


Without seeing examples it's hard to judge, and judging by your first paragraph, you don't really want us to share those examples anyway, so I'll just give my two cents as a general note.

  • People make mistakes, regardless of what language they speak. We're all human. Maybe someone just missed whatever it was you the editor tried to fix.

  • Sometimes fixing some typos and/or grammar mistakes in a totally broken post is pointless. It's also known as "polishing turds". In those cases rejecting the edit is justified, as the post should be deleted, not edited. For example:

    Halp! I needz som code tu fix a bag in my cod. plz help now

    Editing this to fix the grammar is just pointless.

  • Editor should make sure the edit summary reflects the edit, and not just vague "fixing formatting".


As for your suggestions:

resubmit edit at another time of day

Nothing is stopping you from doing it yourself, no need to automate this.

SE's edit mechanism gives no consideration of a good faith reviewer's language skills

And how exactly will SE know the reviewer language skills? Have them pass exams? Really, this isn't feasible at all.

| improve this answer | |
  • Suppose we only consider gems, and suppose further that these gems are so encrusted that they don't appear to be gems unless polished. Re "isn't feasible": a pity edits don't have tags, (say, 'spelling', 'grammar', et al), so we could count ratios of those. – agc Feb 13 '17 at 22:21
  • @agc if the gem is soaked in dirt and it takes hours to clean, it's just not worth the effort. Or, the next gem from same source will also be as dirty. Get what I mean? – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Feb 13 '17 at 22:25
  • I get that you're quick to judge non-English OPs. – agc Feb 14 '17 at 13:03
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    @agc I'm no native English myself, so no, not really. Only those who don't even try and don't want to learn don't deserve to get help. – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Feb 14 '17 at 13:05
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    And you believe partial fluency in a second language somehow excuses being judgemental. Which is nearly irrelevant to a question not about OPs, but about erroneous edit reviews. – agc Feb 14 '17 at 13:24
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    @agc and you are quick to assume that the reviewers are always wrong, and not the one who submitted the edit. That's just not always true. – Shadow 10 Years Wizard Feb 14 '17 at 14:40
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    On the contrary, most reject reviews are useful and constructive. Although the Q is premised upon reviewer error, (i.e. erroneous reviewers without ulterior motive, doing their oblivious best to be constructive), nowhere does it make the sweeping generalization that reviewers are "always", or usually or even often in error. Unless you're asserting that reviewer error could absolutely never happen, there's no reason to dispute this premise. – agc Feb 14 '17 at 19:31
-3

This question pinpoints frequent editing problems. Poor English is often used and good edits are rejected. Obvious typos occur and edits still get rejected. A lot of people are therefore reluctant to edit and quality suffers. At the moment all we can do is to edit out blunders and most obvious inconsistencies. We can only hope that other editors act in good faith improving the content instead of going on ego trips and rejecting good edits. Alas, that’s too often not the case. And it is further exacerbated by posts with excellent content that get downvoted just because of typos, LaTeX, bad grammar, etc.

The suggested remedies look logical. But are they sufficient? I think only the SE staff can properly address this issue. If someone rejects my edit, it’s fine as long as the mistakes are recognized and corrected. It’s those who go on ego trips and reject edits while using poor English. I believe it’s the SE staff who should take measures to counter this problem. Maybe special flags or notifications should be created when OPs or ego trippers reject typo/grammar corrections. In other words, when enough inappropriate rejections have been made, measures should be taken to prevent such people from further editing and reviewing edit queues. They should just cast votes for closing, putting on hold, criticizing etc. Such incompetent editors should be specifically prevented from participating in editing review queues until they can handle it properly. Bad editors should get notifications whenever their edits are incorrect or their edit rejections are inappropriate. Such malpractices make people acting in good faith reluctant to edit. I’m an example here. I would rather not edit at all. If I point out an important typo (content based, not some spelling) and the correction gets rejected (some automatic line can be employed as an excuse), I no longer wish to edit or even care! As to English, people could not care less anyway. What’s more, others overcorrect what’s already correct. This is also a pernicious practice. Some students (askers) also give me very negative feedback about how things work on the SE. Yet I still recommend the SE and believe it's a good source.

Probably a year or so ago, the SE staff implemented a new policy not to castigate newcomers. It’s ridiculous for me to imagine a person asking a question and receiving from me instead of an answer something in this vain: “Go read the guidelines or allowable questions”, or “Where the heck did you get that question from? – There’s no place for such nonsense in here”. Yet newcomers get similar messages from ego-trippers. Now everyone is forced to be more polite. The SE staff reminds it all the time: “Be nice to a new contributor.” Similar measures could be taken to improve editing review queues. While editing is a relatively minor issue, some ego-trippers should not be allowed to keep bad English and typos, while enforcing their own incompetent edits. They should be reminded to edit in good faith and be nice to suggested edits. So, deliberate rejections to correct typos or bad English should have consequences:

(a) Warnings should be issued.

(b) Bad editors should be prevented from editing and especially from the right to accept/reject edits in other people/students posts until they can do it properly and in good faith. That’s precisely where explanations might rub up the editor the wrong way and where try helping the deluded editor to learn where his or her English went wrong may go awry and be blatantly rejected by such an "editor."

A simpler and better way to improve editing is to deduct reputation points for bad edits just like for bad answers and to give zero points for edits that are of little or no value. It’s subjective but some good answers don’t receive points either.

The main stumbling block is no matter how many edit reviews are made, the edits won’t improve if “bad” editors enforce their incompetent editing decisions while carefully tiptoeing around the SE guidelines. This is a vicious circle: the more editors we have, the more bad editors there are. The OP is spot on saying that the SE's edit mechanism doesn’t care if a reviewer makes edits in good faith and knows grammar well. Yes, indeed, current presumptions or mechanisms are not perfect. These mechanisms can and should be improved on as they are full of loopholes and because they provide only the basics. If someone edits a post, the editing should be as thorough as possible. Many do incomplete editing that requires still more editing but they simply reject other necessary changes, e.g., typos or bad English, or to put it bluntly, they just can't get off their high horses.

Still in other cases, errata, bad formatting or grammar should not be downvoted immediately but granted some time instead. Someone might edit it if the content is worthy. Yet that rarely happens. Downvoters sink it immediately! I guess only the SE staff can point that out, and they actually did (be nice to a new contributor). It’s just that it is not 100% efficient and it doesn’t cover all the bases. I still see rudeness and condescension, let alone editing issues.

It’s obvious that low quality posts should be immediately deleted, rather than edited. A lot of them just pollute the database here. At the same time editing seems to start to backfire on people judging by recent posts and discussions. It looks like it is turning into some huge bureaucratic machine. This is not good for those who do improve things. This is only good for automatic-like editing which is likely to result in inferior quality edits. More people will be discouraged. In other words, if your edits, even the most meticulous ones, are not appreciated, the next question is whether you should post answers at all?! Some experts might leave. There’s some threshold that experts who make occasional posts can tolerate before leaving. I’m talking about those who create important content. Without it, the SE portal will not be what it is. Scientific, or to be more precise, the teaching value of the portal as it’s primarily for students (and I still highly recommend it to all students) rather than for scientists, could be lost. It is already the case in my opinion on some sites of the SE portal -- I cannot recommend those sites to students anymore. And that’s very disconcerting. The editing issues are not resolved at all. Current discussions look like they lead nowhere. It’s just treading water. The OP’s question and the suggested remedies (logical but far-fetched) are voted down and that is burying head in the sand. And this editing problem is just the tip of the iceberg of much bigger issues such as the quality of answers the students get here. I see too many answers that don't care about explaining things properly but rather purporting to show off and get reputations points.

Addendum (some reasons behind edit controversies)

(a) It might be difficult to draw the line between people indeed acting in good faith and those perceiving themselves to act in good faith. The latter may try to enforce their “good faith” on you. For example, those who voted down your question may sincerely believe they acted in good faith rather than “herd-ish.” As a result people who can edit English often won’t bother, and those who can’t may gladly fill the spot.

(b) There’s also a problem of wrong/bad overcorrections. Your edits might be rejected if you overcorrect. When people need their English corrected, I may easily go overboard and overcorrect. There are THAT many inaccuracies and abnormalities foreigners introduce into their papers and articles. On the other hand, too many weird wordings and unusual language patterns may result in failure to notice some mistakes or inaccuracies.

(c) Most people are often too reluctant to admit that they have been wrong. That also adds to more edit rejections, especially if such edits are minor.

(d) Foreigners editing English might have their edits dismissed out of hand. I’m usually more or less tolerable but it is often ridiculous to see some edits! So I advise caution. I’m not surprised some of your English edits might have been rejected. It’s an English speaking portal. Yes, it’s international but there are native speakers of English here too. Some of them make mistakes and typos. We all do. I just advise caution. It all depends on whose posts we edit and what we edit.

After adjusting for overcorrections and for actions of those who indeed act in good faith, the problem raised in this post diminishes. People do overcorrect and thus distort the original meaning or introduce new mistakes. That is unintentional and is in good faith, but those who reject such edits have every right to do so, and as the saying goes “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Some accept such corrections but that’s another problem: bad edits. In reality, controversies about editing involve wrong overcorrections, proper corrections and new mistakes. The result is somewhat random in nature. More serious problem is trolling and clique-ing that derails constructive arguments. Again, no clear-cut boundaries exist when it comes to such malpractices. Some people find loopholes and tiptoe around the guidelines remaining de jure “in good faith”. All this makes the problem very complicated. It’s not easy to “parse” it in practice.

@agc This answer was given in good faith and I hope it has not been a complete waste of my time. A number of questions I answered I wish I had not, as the askers did not either want explanations (some rote-learners on Math SE) or simply wanted to create meaningless bickering or yet to “ego-trip” by reinforcing some fixed beliefs they chose to believe in.

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  • Should I retract from Meta? What is going on here? What is this with the deliberate sinking of questions? Is it only trolling here or what? The question got voted down three times. I guess that was done on purpose. – Ken Draco Jan 22 '19 at 14:07
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    Downvotes can additionally indicate disagreement on Meta. There is a lot of background here that you could have found for yourself by looking at the FAQ. – Nij Jan 22 '19 at 19:45
  • Of course I see it all. Now 5 serial downvotes for the question. Amazing. – Ken Draco Jan 22 '19 at 19:57
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    They're obviously not serial downvotes, as they are made by multiple different people. Please make an effort to find out what things mean before making comments that indicate a lack of useful understanding. – Nij Jan 22 '19 at 21:55
  • Well, you may want to call them multiple votes, herd-like votes or clique-like votes. That's not my point. These are DELIBERATE COUNTERVOTES which took place a year later (6 counter votes + 1 edit). Their goal is countervoting. Of course, it's multiple people. You got that one right. – Ken Draco Jan 23 '19 at 5:18
  • @KenDraco, High horses would be off-topic; this Q. considers only useful correction rejections that are both erroneous and committed in good faith. Imaginary exaggerated comparison: suppose a newfangled British Driving school remotely outsources teaching via internet video, hiring otherwise excellent American instructors who, (unaware of Britain's driving conventions), start flunking British students for driving on the "wrong" side of the road. – agc Jan 23 '19 at 5:53
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    So answering a year later is fine, but voting when somebody bumps it is not allowed? Whatever, it's your double standard. – Nij Jan 23 '19 at 6:06
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    @agc First of all, I’m sorry for bringing in an “ominous” trail… Yeah, I know, some points sound off-topic but I read you post very carefully and I’m adding the explanation into my answer under Addendum. There are a few more points about edit controversies there. – Ken Draco Jan 23 '19 at 9:11

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