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Is it OK to search for posts that contain trivial errors (e.g., spelling mistakes, signatures, taglines), and then systematically edit each one, correcting only that one trivial error without making any other changes to the post?

For instance, is it acceptable to search the network for all posts that contain "Thanks in advance", and then edit each post to remove "Thanks in advance" without making any other change to the post? Does it make a difference when I am doing it manually or with tools? This process seems easy to automate -- can I use a tool or bot to help me automate this process?

(This is intended as a reference question I can point others to, as I haven't been able to find anywhere that this was explicitly asked in exactly this form before, and the information seems spread out across multiple places.)

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2 Answers 2

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No. Please don't do this - when you edit a post, please fix as many of its problems as you can.

It is acceptable to edit posts you come across organically, to fix as many errors as you can. You don't have to fix every possible issue in the post, but do as much as you can. This applies to posts that you encounter naturally, without trying to search specifically for a particular mistake. Of course, if there are no other problems with the post, or no other problems you know how to fix, no need to do anything else; just fix the problem you see. Small improvements are better than nothing.

Alternatively, if you search for instances of a particular trivial error to edit, please fix as many problems as you can. Don't just remove "Thank you", but review the entire post for other changes you can make. It's not particularly helpful to systematically search for posts containing one minor error and fix only that one minor error, without fixing other problems with them.

Making trivial edits bumps the question to the front page. This takes attention away from other questions. If you don't have 2000 reputation yet, it also requires others to review your edit, which is not a good use of reviewers' time.

If the question is closed, please do not edit it unless you can fix the problems that led to it being closed. Editing a closed question may bump it to a review queue to ask reviewers to check whether it should be re-opened. If you are fixing cosmetic issues without fixing the problems that led to it being closed, you are wasting the time of those reviewers.

You can find more documentation of our expectations in many places:

  • The help page on edits says

    Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged; try to make the post significantly better when you edit, correcting all problems that you observe.

    and

    Editing a question or answer also bumps the question to the top of the homepage. Please be mindful of this and make your edits count, so that the new attention is brought to something substantial.

  • Editing posts that contain salutations or other edits that could be considered "minor" contains discussion on a similar topic, e.g.,:

    it appears that, in an effort to help the site by suggesting edits, you have decided to fixate on one particular issue (salutations), search for posts that contain it, and remove it. [...] Your suggestions are sometimes ignoring many problems in your posts.

    These suggested edits simply aren't particularly helpful. They consume the time of multiple reviewers for little or no gain. [...] Once you are done editing a post it should be a good post, not just a slightly less awful post. [...] Submitting a large number of small edits that are not making noticeable improvements are more harmful than helpful

  • There is some discussion on robo-editing at https://meta.stackoverflow.com/a/361428/781723, namely:

    push back against spelling only edits [..] if someone is robo-editing a single commonish typo (to farm rep points) and ignoring all the other simple to fix (other spelling problems, formatting problems, etc) items in the posts they're editing

  • More discussion on trivial/minimal edits: Addressing users who make many trivial edits and Should 2kers make edits that don't fix all problems?

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    Why are the quotes only those against the edits rather than the moderated view? This one says that it's reasonable if this is the only issue with the post, this answer have a qualifier "if that's the only thing wrong with the post" and the help center specifically list as a common reason to edit "To fix grammatical or spelling mistakes". Why is this post pushing for an outright ban of these kinds of edits?
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 19:40
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    okay, and what if you have full editing privileges and you search for hot-off-the-press questions, or do it from browsing a tag filter on new questions?
    – starball
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 20:01
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    @starball It also depends on which site you are on. On Stack Overflow, this sort of traffic is probably tolerable (up to a limit, of course) whereas on smaller sites, you could easily end up replacing much of the useful contents on their home page with whatever you pushed there through your edits. Some communities are more sensitive than others; I have been doing this at a very modest rate from time to time (restricting myself to batches of three edits at a time, spacing them days or weeks apart), but even then received pushback from a mod on one of the smaller sites.
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 4:16
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    @Braiam, I don't know what you're quoting from. The page you link to does not contain the quoted text you have listed. I'm not pushing for an outright ban of edits that fix grammatical or spelling mistakes. I don't think I wrote that anywhere. I think you have misunderstood me.
    – D.W.
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 5:00
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    @D.W. "if that's the only thing wrong with the post"? I clicked the second link where you say "Editing posts that contain salutations or other edits that could be considered "minor" contains discussion on a similar topic" and copied the top answer. The one written by Daniel Fisher, rather than Shog. The other quote is directly from the help center. That's the only two quotes and are all contained in the same pages your quotes also are. I recommend to review carefully what you linked.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 10:25
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    BTW, your 4th bullet point top answers also are against your conclusion too. haylem's answer "Do a complete edit if you can, but partial edits are still helpful", and ire_and_curses's answer does a point by point counterargument for most of the issues. This post tries to dissuade people from editing by removing the easiest ways to get confident at editing: stuff that everyone universally agrees that is misspelled and not useful in posts.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 10:30
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    @Braiam, I think you have misunderstood me. I don't think the "Do a complete edit if you can..." statement contradicts what I'm saying. If you run across a post organically, and the only thing you know how to improve is something minor, then fix that. But don't search the network for "Thanks in advance" and then for each post change only the "Thanks in advance" without trying to fix anything else (even other glaring errors).
    – D.W.
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 18:58
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    Also, editing only these issues "if that's the only thing wrong with the post" is fine. Nothing in my answer contradicts that. I wrote "fix as many errors as you can". If the only thing wrong is a spelling mistake, then fixing that is fixing as many errors as you can. I think you are misunderstanding me.
    – D.W.
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 18:59
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    Then put that qualifier in your answer. "No don't do this" is the top response, while everyone else says "Don't do this, unless...". Nobody would care if someone goes around removing taglines if it also improves everything else there's to improve. Your post just focus on discouraging the "bad action" without encouraging the desired one. Rewrite your answer to encourage desired behavior, we are already lacking people willing to edit. Another post dissuading users to be used as a hammer doesn't help. An example of an answer that tries to encourage the desired behavior: every post I linked.
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 19:05
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    @Braiam, Good point! I've edited my top line answer to encourage the desired behavior and disambiguate. Thank you for the feedback!
    – D.W.
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 19:16
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    Personally, I would perhaps further emphasize the guidance to dissuade users below 2k privileges from going on edit sprees. However, there are corner cases like when you have a bot account which needs to earn a certain privilege but is otherwise not going to interact with the site as a regular user; then, edit suggestions is by far the least intrusive way to gain rep. See also e.g. blog.sobotics.org/2018/05/creating-a-bot-account
    – tripleee
    Commented Jun 16, 2023 at 19:48
  • "If the question is closed, please do not edit it unless you can fix the problems that led to it being closed" why shouldn't users do this? Your reasoning "may bump it to a review queue to ask reviewers to check whether it should be re-opened" doesn't happen anymore
    – Braiam
    Commented Jun 19, 2023 at 15:15
  • But if I do have 2k reputation or more I still can't do this? Commented Aug 25, 2023 at 5:07
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We want posts to be the best they can ever be. That means that common misspellings, taglines, etc. should be corrected. It doesn't matter how you find these posts, just try to address as many issues as you want. We have a user that consistently edits and searches for posts with active reading, run-on sentences, etc. and also fixes spelling, taglines, thanks, etc.

This is desired and expected of all users. Stack Exchange Q&A posts should look like an FAQ. Something that can be referenced and reused. If the post's only problem is that it has a thanks as a tagline, remove it, damnit!

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