If you consider verbage in a question rude, is it best to point it out the user so they don't keep committing the same mistakes, or is it best to just silently edit the question? I've run into this question and mistakenly created some "wars" a couple times, but this wasn't my intent. I just don't like to keep seeing the same things over and over.

  • 1
    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/98149/… – mmyers Jul 15 '11 at 15:16
  • Not talking about that phrase itself, but just in general what the appropriate protocol is. – GBa Jul 15 '11 at 15:19
  • 7
    I think it does shed some light on this question, though. What if one person considers language rude but another believes it is the only polite way to ask? Who's to say which one is correct? Can they both be correct? – mmyers Jul 15 '11 at 15:27
  • 1
    Your question assumes you must do one or the other. That is what moderator flags are for. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 15:57
  • Ironic everyone agrees with me in the general sense, but in the specific sense I get stigmatized as a spammer. – GBa Jul 15 '11 at 19:42
  • 1
    If you weren't outright wrong in the text of your comments and edit reason, I doubt we'd even be discussing this. – user7116 Jul 15 '11 at 19:46
  • Again, the problem is not that you made an edit or a comment, it's that you got into an edit war and a comment battle with the other person. Put differently, you got in a fight, and that's not okay. – Cody Gray Jul 16 '11 at 7:58
  • I am (ugh) quite familiar with the situation, so to be fair - There was no "edit war" involving Greg, it was another user being immature. A picture is worth a thousand words, so here's the rev history (I believe this is the post in question, could be mistaken or there are more). The problem was Greg accusing users of "extreme rude/offensive language" by saying "Thanks in advance", which is of course absurd at best. OP has taken it out of context in this post, but surely this is what is really in question here. – user159834 Jul 16 '11 at 15:27

You'll have to make a judgement call based on the context. If it appears to be a one-time lapse in judgment — as best as we can predict these things — I would probably just edit it silently as a way to improve the content overall.

But two other scenarios come to mind — A well-meaning user might simply be accustomed to bad habits they picked up on other forums where rudeness is more prevalent. It might be beneficial to point out the behavior to help them realize the norms of the site. But, for a "first offense," your goal is to inform, not to accuse or confront.

Second situation where a comment may be beneficial — If you're seeing a common, bad behavior which is becoming increasingly common on the site, you can use the occasion to leave a public comment for the purpose of pointing out the issue. People will imitate what they see and sometimes it is beneficial to bring the issue to light rather than letting the problem grow under its own momentum.

If it's an on-going situation that continues unabated, flag for moderator attention.


If you feel the language is clearly meant to be offensive, edit it out, and flag it appropriately. If you do this consistently, over time you will see your flag weight go up - it means you are doing a good job. If over time you see it go down, it means you should use more caution when flagging and your flags will have less priority to the moderators who process them. The more your flags are deemed worthy, the louder your voice gets.

If it it's something debatable, or hard to tell if OP is intentionally being offensive, such as "URGENT PLZ HLP NAO!!!", you are probably going to be wasting moderators' time by flagging it. Just edit it out. Usually rude posts are pretty bad to begin with, so exercise your downvoting right while you're at it if the question sucks.

If you do see a pattern of rude or abusive behavior, over and over, it can be a good idea to make a note of it while flagging so that it doesn't persist. If you simply find that most Stack Overflow users are rude, I wouldn't let it get to you. Use the site for it's information and don't get caught up in the semantics.

  • This is what I have been doing! Thank you! – GBa Jul 15 '11 at 16:12
  • 1
    As below I ask: why is it necessary to flag when you can just edit out objectionable content yourself? Moderators don't need to process every instance of this. They only need to be called in when an edit war is on the verge of breaking out, i.e. if the original poster rolls back your edit. In that case, flag for moderator attention rather than making the same edit once again. Of course, I agree with the second and third paragraphs. Definitely if you see something becoming a pattern, then you should flag it for mod attention, including links substantiating your assertion of a pattern. – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 16:16
  • 2
    @CodyGray: I have seen answers and questions that were blatantly, intentionally, offensive or abusive, and deserved to be flagged as such. You get feedback on your profile about how the flag was dealt with, so this should be paid attention to closely to make sure you aren't wasting people's time. – user159834 Jul 15 '11 at 16:19

Edit the post to be less offensive, but fill in the Edit Summary with a gentle note:

  • "Rephrased for clarity."
  • "Mother{censored} is offensive to some."
  • "Just the facts."
  • "Removed emotional coloring."


No need to post a comment, and not always a need to flag.

(As you can tell, I was never much good at easing conflicts, {censored}s!)

  • 2
    The language in question was not offensive. – user7116 Jul 15 '11 at 17:06
  • 2
    good idea to use the edit summary ... – IAbstract Jul 15 '11 at 19:12

First, you should make sure the language in question is actually rude before going on a comment spree. Second, if it is extraneous text go and edit it out. If it is actually rude, edit it out and flag the question.

Being an English language pedant is not constructive on StackOverflow, especially when the phrase you're haggling over is demonstrably neutral at worst. StackOverflow is not English Language and Usage.

If you would like to haggle over English Language and Usage then please focus your commenting efforts on that community, where your comments have the potential to be constructive.

Otherwise, please contribute to the StackOverflow community with questions, answers, and comments that seek to improve the experience for professional and enthusiast programmers.

  • I have tried to edit it out, seems to cause an edit war, see stackoverflow.com/posts/6698785/revisions – GBa Jul 15 '11 at 16:26
  • 2
    Your edit reason is suspect at best, but your edit is spot on. I have no idea why Chris rolled that back, except perhaps your edit reason is incorrect. Otherwise it should have stayed as you edited it. – user7116 Jul 15 '11 at 16:28

If the language is obscene, flag it for moderator attention. If it is not worthwhile to flag it, then it is likely too subjective a language choice to really matter what you say, and editing a post for subjective rudeness is in itself rude in my opinion.

I would politely mention it to the poster, and let it be, unless it is so bad that it must be flagged. Anything else is too likely to get turned into a flame war on someones' part.

  • 6
    "editing a post for rudeness is in itself rude in my opinion" Why do you think that? This site is collaboratively edited, and removing or rewording something that people might find to be rude or offensive seems like a net positive change. – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 15:42
  • Correcting a mistake, making a question more universal, or editing for grammar and punctuation, sure. But if you start making subjective edits to other peoples' posts, you're balancing on a very thin wire. Edit a post because I've made a mistake, sure. But if you aren't willing to risk your rep points to point it out to a moderator, then it is your taste that is causing you to edit, and what makes your taste more valuable than his or hers? And if you edit for rudeness, and he reverts, and you edit... what then? That's why we have moderators. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 15:51
  • It seems positive to you, and apparently to others. Keep in mind, I'm talking about point of view. Yours is one thing. The OP might have another. If something is rude to the point of needing to be changed, do it right. And risk your rep on being told you're wrong. I'm definitely not saying we should let vulgar behavior stand. Just that there is a system in place to deal with it already. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 15:55
  • 4
    Pointing things out to a moderator, right or wrong, does not risk your reputation points. And why should you waste the time of our already-busy moderators with things you could just as easily change or improve yourself? Moderators should be left to deal with things that regular users can't handle (like if you edit and the original poster reverts; that's called an edit war, and then moderators need to step in). My theory is that the person who said whatever you think is rude didn't mean it that way, and aren't particularly attached to it. They won't mind if you fix it. I wouldn't. – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 15:59
  • 1
    And they might not. OR they might. Or they might not see it as rude at all. Or they might find you telling them what is rude, rude. I love that I'm being downvoted for telling you to follow the established system. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:02
  • 1
    For a change, I didn't downvote this because I'm out of votes. But again the same: downvotes on Meta don't mean the same thing they do on the main site. Here, they indicate disagreement. It's all spelled out in the FAQ. More to the point, this is not the established system. It's a perfectly valid opinion, and I see your point, but as I mentioned above, moderator flags are generally intended for use in cases where the average user can't solve the problem. I already provided a link explaining that the Stack Exchange sites are collaboratively edited. That's the "established system". – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 16:04
  • "Collaboratively edited" is intended to improve the content of questions and answers. Why do we have flags for moderator attention based on offensive or inappropriate comments? And why are they call moderators, if the point is not to provide moderation in disputes of this type? Your OP says that when you've done this, it turns in to a flame war. That was my original objection. Secondly, I had a mod on our site tell me that your flag weigh is affected by mods marking your flags valid or invalid. Not rep, but at least you risk something of your own when you tell someone they don't count. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:11
  • The flags are for comments, which can't be edited. I thought we were talking about answers. And yes, they moderate disputes. Remember I said above that if an edit war were to break out (with the OP disagreeing with your edit and rolling it back), then you would need to call in a moderator. But there's no reason to get moderators involved in everyday usage of the site. I never said that it turns into a flame war to make edits, even over subjective things like language. I actually said I welcom it. And yes, it affects your flag weight. That counts for zilch. Totally meaningless. No risk. – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 16:14
  • Related post is referring to obvious and non-subjective comments, like cursing. Not to editing out something you feel is rude, but that you would have to explain to the poster why it was. If someone calls you an ass, edit out, by all means, That is not what I'm saying at all. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:14
  • "I've run into this question and mistakenly created some "wars" a couple times, but this wasn't my intent". Sounds like you made an edit, and then had it turn into a war to me. More than once , too. Also, nowhere did you specify comments. And you can certainly flag a question or answer. Or did that flag link go missing? – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:17
  • Perhaps meaningless to you. Not to me. It is an indication of whether your decisions are trusted on the site. Just because they don't post it on your profile, it means nothing to you? – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:19
  • Yeah, I'm not the person who asked the question... So I didn't say that. And the point was that question/answer flags do not include the option of "offensive" or "inappropriate" like comment flags do. There are about a zillion places where the moderators and everyone else try to tell you here that your flag weight is meaningless and that you shouldn't pay so much attention to it. It is not connected to your reputation. Yes, it means nothing to me. – Cody Gray Jul 15 '11 at 16:19
  • Good for you. It's still rude to edit somebody else's content because you think it might maybe offend someone someday. And if someone does it to me, I'll revert it. Every time. I also do't go out of my way to be offensive, but the nature of disagreement is that someone usually finds something offensive. If I edit out things that offend me, I'd be deleting half your comments as supporting censorship. But I wouldn't even if I could, because it's ok to disagree. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:22
  • All three answers above agree with what I'm saying. Why is it that my answer is different somehow? This is a serious question, not just a complaint, btw. – zenbike Jul 15 '11 at 16:28

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .