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I asked whether you should use edits to fix an answer that is incorrect, and the consensus was that you should not:
Should you use edits to change the conclusion of an answer, or should you post a new answer in that case?

OK. In that case, can we add that information to the text that appears above the "edit" box? The text currently says:

Your edit will be placed in a queue until it is peer reviewed. We welcome all constructive edits, but please make them substantial. Avoid trivial edits unless absolutely necessary.

We could add a sentence which says:

On the other hand, do not use edits to fix an answer that you believe is wrong (or, more generally, to substantially change the conclusion of the answer). In this case you should submit your own answer.

This would have helped me at the beginning, since I did not know this, and it's far from obvious.

(That text might be a default template that can be customized by sites like Chemistry SE, but in that case I'm suggesting an edit to the default template.)

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2 Answers 2

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When I click on the edit link, this is what I see appear at the top-right of the screen:

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

► add related resources or links

► always respect the original author

The prohibition against changing a conclusion would seem to be covered by the points about clarifying meaning without changing it, correcting minor mistakes, and respecting the original author.

I don't think it would be useful to change the existing above-the-edit-box text to include what you're saying—at least not without also adding a whole bunch of other things that could be considered important by other people: in other words, the text at the top-right of the screen.

Having said that, I do think that it might be useful to add something short along the lines of: "Please review the text that just appeared at the top-right of the screen." ;) Or something else that points to a more in-depth discussion.

Honestly, I hadn't even noticed that top-right information before. Not until I read this question, wondered if anything else appeared than the text that you quoted, and deliberately looked at the rest of the screen. (It's only now in hindsight that it seems obvious.) So, drawing specific attention to it in the highlighted text that is noticeable could be helpful.

In addition to that, I can't see how it could hurt to add a bullet point that says "do not change a conclusion" or, perhaps, "do not change statements or conclusions."

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  • Only conclusions are off-limits. Changing wording is fine as long as the basic meaning is the same (and indeed, even completely rewriting the concluding paragraphs of an answer could be legitimate if the rewrite expresses the same essential thoughts in a clearer or more cohesive way.) Jun 7, 2018 at 8:59
  • @NathanTuggy Really? What if an argument is presented with a conclusion that only follows from three premises (which are also provided)—and one of the premises is edited to change it, thereby invalidating the conclusion? Reading the bullet points I quoted would seem to imply that they apply to everything about an answer . . . Jun 7, 2018 at 9:01
  • ... then... the editor clearly messed up the conclusion? It's that simple. If the post as a whole still says essentially the same things, except better, it's a good edit. If it doesn't say the same thing, or if it says it worse, then it's a bad one. Jun 7, 2018 at 9:03
  • @NathanTuggy I think we're saying the same thing. The rules that are given, if applied, would not result in a "bad" edit. The problem, as expressed in the question, is that the rules are not immediately obvious to everyone. Jun 7, 2018 at 9:05
  • Right; the difference I was trying to express is just that, while it's usually good to maintain all sentences essentially the same, what's actually crucial is only to ensure that the post's meaning as a whole is unchanged. Jun 7, 2018 at 9:11
  • But I don't think we should think of it like a disclaimer, as in, "Hey, we put it somewhere, so we're covered." Rather, I think the question is, "Will a new user, seeing this page for the first time, see the direction and understand what they're supposed to do?" I think with the existing layout, probably not. If you add the proposed text to the pop-up above the edit box, then they would.
    – Bennett
    Jun 9, 2018 at 7:26
  • Also, even if the user sees the words "clarify meaning without changing it", a new user is likely to think, "Well, if the existing answer is wrong, surely that rule is superseded by the importance of fixing a wrong answer to make it right." It's less likely to occur to them to post a new answer instead, unless the directions specifically say to do that.
    – Bennett
    Jun 9, 2018 at 7:27
  • "In addition to that, I can't see how it could hurt to add a bullet point that says "do not change a conclusion" or, perhaps, "do not change statements or conclusions."" – This has now basically been implemented. See my answer.
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Dec 7, 2021 at 23:38
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This has now basically been implemented (though it was a different section of the guidance on that page that was changed).

The guidance displayed in the "How to Edit" section in the top-right of the page when making a suggested edit now reads:

  • Correct minor typos or mistakes
  • Clarify meaning without changing it
  • Add related resources or links
  • Always respect the author’s intent
  • Don’t use edits to reply to the author
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  • If it is meant to be comprehensive, then it is missing the formatting part (even more important now with the new syntax highlighter that often result in strange-looking posts. And various misuse/overuse of formatting, e.g. using code and quote formatting.). Dec 8, 2021 at 11:59
  • @P.Mort.-forgotClayShirky_q: The "How to Edit" guidance isn't meant to cover everything; the info you're referring to is covered in the "How to Format" sidebar. (When suggesting an edit to a question, only the "How to Edit" guidance is displayed when the cursor is in the title field, and only the "How to Format" guidance is displayed when the cursor is in the body text area. Both sections are displayed when suggesting an edit to an answer. I'm not sure if this is the intended behavior; I'm checking with our developers.)
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Dec 8, 2021 at 18:37

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