Please understand that "encourage" is not a hard and fast rule, it's simply a matter of having some text suggestions or visual clue that get people to at least attempt to edit questions before closing them or show them that it is possible to edit the question into good shape instead of downright closing on first sight.

The problem I find, is that people are subject to first impressions and, even if the question being asked is a legitimate one, a formatting issues/lost-in-translation/language issues can get people to close/downvote right away. Even if all the question needs to be a good addition to Stack Overflow is a simple grammar correction/formatting issues. Such examples are line-breaks conversions, code formatting, non-native speakers, beginner programmers who do not know proper terms, etc., etc.

I think this is a minor change but would greatly help with questions posted by confused beginners and particularly the Stack Overflow users who are not native English speakers.

So I propose that, there should be some encouragement or incentive to try to edit the question into good shape first before voting for close or downvoting too fast.

It could be as simple as a single sentence added to the red box you get when you downvote. But something a little better would be nice.

Currently, edit and close is shown side-by-side but clicking on edit has implicit requirement that is that extra effort to go in and look at the text. So close and/or downvote is basically easier to do in most circumstances. There are nothing encouraging people to try to edit questions at all besides the usual do-good feelings. You don't even get reputation points on edits so it's more like a negative thing sometimes too.

I've seen questions which gets 3 to 4 close votes before someone would attempt to edit it. And after a somewhat simple edit, it gets lots of upvotes and answers. This side of Stack Overflow is very disheartening to see.

Most of the time the needed edits are just a few simple line/markups or maybe just giving the question a proper title.

  • 2
    Examples please...
    – Shog9
    Jan 8, 2010 at 21:47
  • Edit won't help. The hammer of CLOSE will fall, no matter what. Sep 15, 2011 at 5:29

4 Answers 4


Fruitless effort

As you note, editing takes more work. It's work that could have been done by the original author, and often can only be done properly by the original author. There are a great many questions posted that are difficult to understand because key details were left out or obscured in the original text - a careful reader might be able to guess at the author's intentions and clean it up, but that can be a difficult and time-consuming process.

Counter-productive answers and encouraging users to ask better questions

Something else I've seen a lot of: ambiguous questions that quickly collect a number of answers based on guesses. Sometimes, that works out: a guess is correct, and the question author comes back and confirms it. However, it can also lead to conflict among those posting answers, especially in cases where the guesses they made as to the nature of the question differed greatly. At one time, this was an excellent scenario in which to close the question: if the author came back and updated it, it could then be re-opened and answered without suffering from the noise caused by the posting of misinformed answers. Unfortunately, it now takes too long to close (and re-open) questions for this to be a generally useful tactic... Personally, I've adjusted to it by simply down-voting all but the most blatantly worthless questions in hope of encouraging improvement (although there are problems with this as well), but closing still has a role to play when it comes to the latter.

Additional on-screen, prescriptive instructions vs. the affordability of features themselves

My gut feeling is that a bit of text urging users to use these features in a certain way isn't going to do any good. There is simply too much resistance put in the way of editing by its very nature. Those conscientious souls who are driven to seek out community support for their actions already have a wealth of it available here on Meta in the form of FAQs and various feature-specific discussions.

  • It seemed to me that, it's not hard if you put in some in efforts, to try to understand where the question stems from. Most people just simply ignores them. What I propose is that some incentive be added. And as you get more resp, you tends to stay away from things that are not very worthy of effort/rep which is kind of contrary to the idea that you gets to edit and close stuffs when you have higher reps. So people will tend toward things that are easier (downvote/close) when actually it doesn't really take that much effort to edit at all. But anyway, I get your point.
    – chakrit
    Jan 8, 2010 at 22:19
  • It probably seems that way to you because you're reading this with a specific example or set of examples in mind while I'm writing while considering an entirely different set of examples. At least, I hope so.
    – Shog9
    Jan 8, 2010 at 22:22
  • Yah, I asked something like this on uservoice a few times back but I couldn't dig them up :-(
    – chakrit
    Jan 8, 2010 at 22:34
  • 1
    @chakrit: If I can figure out what a question is asking, in general other people can also. If the first is false, I'm not able to edit the question correctly. If the second is true, it isn't necessary. (This isn't always true; I did edit one question that looked confusing when I was pretty sure what the questioner meant, but I did leave a comment asking if my edit was correct. Usually it is, though.) Jan 8, 2010 at 22:44
  • @Shog9: +1, but I find this mildly ironic since I've seen you edit some of the worst questions into answerable shape. :)
    – John Rudy
    Jan 8, 2010 at 22:58
  • It takes less time to improve a question than conceptualize one from scratch. Incremental improvement is how most great things come into being. Also, you should, when determining cost and gain, consider all the answers, many of which might be well constructed, that are lost with the question when it is not edited into compliance with the letter and the spirit of the community regarding questions. Feb 22, 2017 at 0:03

Closing is not inherently negative.

OK, I'm done yelling. There are a lot of reasons to close, and many of them go above and beyond what can be accomplished with editing. Duplicates are one of my favorite reasons, but other popular ones include "not a real question" (IE, unanswerable in its current form) and "subjective and argumentative" (note that "and" in there).

I have my own set of guidelines, of course. (They're here on Meta, and were updated by other users as well.)

Yes, editing should be done if it reasonably can with full knowledge of the OP's intent. Oftentimes it's the second bit that gets us hung up. In that scenario, if it's close-worthy, close it. The OP can edit it into something re-openable and it will get re-opened.

  • Whether a closing is negative has much to do with which party is perceiving the closure. If you prepared an answer and it took an hour, what others may see as a positive closure might be perceived as negative by you as an answer author. Feb 22, 2017 at 0:01

I've seen very few examples of questions getting close votes which could be repaired with simple editing. I've found the community to be quite tolerant of spelling and grammar ... so long as there is a legitimate question in there. As per @Shog9's comment, if you've got counter-examples, please post them.

Once upon a time, there was a bitter and vitriolic debate about the degree to which we should edit questions to match up with the community goals. Should people edit off 'hello there' in the front? Should people edit out paragraphs of introductory editorial that might (or might not) contribute to understanding the meat of the question? Should people rework confused content to extract and present a concrete question?

Having read some of the content of that debate, I, for one, never want to go there. So I will confess that, if I really can't make heads or tails, I'm more inclined to close than repair, to avoid a resurgence of the dreaded 'edit wars.' (Gosh that was a lot of commas.)

If there is clearly a question, however poorly worded, my experience is that people tend to hit the 'edit' or 'answer' buttons. Close comes into play if major surgical repairs are needed even to reveal a question, or for 'just send me the code', or 'just do my homework', or 'should comments be blue or green.'

One possible cultural disconnect is that there are some common writing patterns of people who learned English in some places that are somewhat impenetrable to people who learned it in Western Europe or the US. Still, I only see the questions that pass my tag filters and are unanswered when I wander along. If you've got examples, they may be worthy of examination and discussion.

  • It seemed, that, my experience is on the contrary. :-( .. or maybe its just my asian roots against you westerners? .. :-)
    – chakrit
    Jan 8, 2010 at 22:21

I think this is definitely something that should be encouraged, but at the same time there has to be merit to the question in the first place and the onus should be on the original author to get the question up to standard, but pointers or a nudge would be useful.

I'll give an example (that brought me here in the first place).

This question was closed, because the first sentence - and only the first sentence - was a duplicate of another question. Even the title wasn't anything to do with the so-called duplicate.

Missing 'edit' link - show 'edit pending' instead of removing 'edit' link for rep<2000

The rest of the question was discarded, even though it had merit on its own. So I essentially reposted the same question without the offending sentence.

Say 'edit pending' instead of nothing when an edit is pending and user rep < 2000

In this instance I think the moderator could have been a lot more constructive.

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