I was editing this question trying to just have it make sense, and I stopped because I think I fixed it enough and its actually kind of funny: ("I suffered for 15 days but I will run properly").

So I started to wonder which is more valuable, preserving the integrity of the OP's quirks and broken English (I commend everyone so much for their amazing explanations of complex topics in a foreign language) or preserving a valuable question (with proper grammar and spelling) as a data source for archival/data mining purposes?

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    How has that question not been downvoted yet? Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:12
  • @cody-gray feel free to. But provide an explanation at least. Keep in mind, my questions asks, how much value. Not "is there value". Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:16
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    An explanation of what? The other answerers have already said what I think is important. There's an immense value to be realized from editing questions with poor grammar. Not only do you improve the chances of the asker getting a good answer, you also improve the quality of the site for everyone else. If you don't think there's any value in editing the question, then it should just be deleted. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:18
  • Read the question. I'm not asking if there's value, I'm asking how it weighs against the integrity of the OP's exact wording, within reason of course. If that's your answer then you can answer the question or upvote one of the answerers. If you think this is an absurd question that is useless here then by all means. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:21
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    By the way, my original comment was about the question you linked to, not this one. That said, I don't understand why it would be important to preserve the "integrity" of the OP's exact wording. If the wording doesn't make sense to potential answerers or future Googlers, then the question serves no purpose. I'm not really here to be entertained by grammatical foibles. There are already enough places on the Internet for that. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:22
  • Fair enough, I thought you were referring to this question. Regardless I don't think it should be preserved for entertainment's sake, more for the value in the OPs original wording. All data has value poor English or not. My question simply concerns "how far should the edits be taken". Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:28
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    What/where is the value in unintelligible babble? Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:28
  • Potentially tons. Imagine what kind of technical translations could be done automatically if you could map common broken English mistakes about ajax requests to proper ones (the edits). That's just one example. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:31
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    possible duplicate of Editing for broken English: Acceptable? Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:50

4 Answers 4


As you can see in my answer here, I am in general a minimalist when it comes to editing others' posts. However, when it comes editing questions to improve grammar, spelling and punctuation -- and especially when these mistakes seem to stem from the OP not having a native level proficiency with the language in which they are writing -- I think it is much more valuable to make the edits.

Some advantages:

  1. It makes the post easier for others to read and understand.
  2. It elevates the level of discourse on the site, which contributes to a learned and professional atmosphere. [Anecdote: yesterday, while waiting to get blood drawn, I couldn't stop staring at a sign that contained the phrase "furthur precautions". I finally realized that it was actually freaking me out a little: it eroded my confidence in the competence of the lab. And despite the fact that everything went smoothly, in the back of my mind there is still the idea of going somewhere else where the spelling is always comfortingly correct!]
  3. It may in fact teach the OP something. In my experience on math.SE, most regular users who are not writing in their native language are well aware of the pitfalls of this and thankful to have others looking out for them. [This may be the most site-specific part of my answer. The mathematical community is truly worldwide, but there are not yet many high quality non-Anglophone math Q&A websites.]

Possible disadvantages:

  1. You are losing the distinctive character and/or humor of imperfectly written language.
  2. You are messing with what are not mistakes but in fact intentional stylistic choices on the part of the OP.

As for #1, I don't personally view this as much of a disadvantage at all, since as above, in my experience most serious users who write imperfectly wish they wrote better. In particular, they probably don't want to be laughed at or taken less seriously because of their writing. I do take #2 very seriously though.

How do you know when your edits are actually cramping someone's style? Ask. If there is any doubt in your mind, you can leave a comment describing your edit and asking if the user is okay with it. Conversely, if someone edits your answer to fix a "typo" that was actually intentional on your part, you can leave a comment explaining that what you wrote was not a mistake. As usual, maintaining a polite and collegial tone in such matters goes a long way to keeping everyone happy.

  • I think your answer addressed my question the most in a couple of different ways. +1 for noting possible advantages and disadvantages. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 17:46

At all times, preserving a question in a matter that's readable and understandable by all should be the priority. The edit revisions are always available for your other purposes.

  • I guess it's true that there's always the original post which is also stored. Archive of course isn't my purpose, rather SO's. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 7:55
  • +1 with the caveat that if the underlying question is poor for other reasons you may want to find better questions to spend your time on
    – Brad Mace
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 7:56
  • @bemace - yep - but in such cases Flag/VtC as Not a Real Question would be the way to go. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 7:58
  • @Sathya, your answer just got edited...ironic?
    – Thursagen
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:15
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    @Ham: Nothing ironic about that. Sathya didn't say there was anything wrong with editing an answer, or make the claim that posts shouldn't be edited because they're perfect to start with. There was no reason to expect that his answer wouldn't be edited. Lots of people misunderstand irony. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:25
  • @Ham As Cody mentioned - there's no irony. TBH the "weird punctuation" was intentional, ("The edit revisions are always available for your pause "other" purposes) but bemace didn't seem to grasp it. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:41
  • @cody I think it was meant to be humor. the ellipsis was obvs intentional btw Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 8:46
  • @Sathya: don't you mean "manner" instead of "matter"? Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 23:35
  • @PeterMortensen - I did mean matter - perhaps not worded correctly :-S Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 4:56

Definitely try to make it proper English.

Questions asked in broken English and terrible grammar are difficult to read, and that will discourage users from answering the question as they could just give up trying to understand the question.

If you understand the question, then, correct it as much as will preserves the original question.

Personally, for me, good English is a must.


It's worth noting that, if you can't decipher the OP's intent, it's an unsalvageable question and should be voted to close or flagged as "Low Quality," rather than trying to clean up the question.

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