I used to edit posts but I'm not sure if they're necessary.

Should one edit a post when it doesn't look good e.g. using blockquotes for examples, or we should just edit typos?

As another example, I edited this post and the poster complained that I removed the word "shit". Do I need to rollback the edit?


First, let me cite the FAQ (this sentence is on all SE sites I know):

If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

Second, if you think it should be edited, edit it. There is a rollback option for a reason.

Third, I think you overreacted to this "shit" (which pun?). If the OP shares my perception, tell him to reread point two.

  • Most people take the edits rude or offensive, no matter what you really edit there, especially improved formatting ones. I agree with you there , I just made a mistake. I was about to remove the emoticon so I removed shit as well. I always thought I did the poster a favour by editing their post, turns out it's the other way around. the poster do me a favour by letting me edit their posts. – user508 Dec 12 '11 at 0:11
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    @Gigili: You do the users of the site a favor. The main users are Googlers. When you help making the content easier to understand, you do a great job. Don't care about people who get easily offended. It's just not worth it. Improve the site. If in doubt, edit! – John Smithers Dec 12 '11 at 12:02
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    I'd read your comment each time I'm tired of that "easily offended" group, awesome. – user508 Dec 20 '11 at 13:12

I don't know about any policies, but I for one don't like seeing all of my posts edited. It instills the feeling of having done something wrong.

Of course, a lot of the time it's just somebody correcting a typo (which is nice), but still I feel one should be careful with editing, especially if it's an editorial edit, like your "shit" one.

I think one should be careful when treading the line between making the site more useful by improving questions and answers and not being rude to the authors of the edited content.

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    On the other hand: if the edit makes a post better, there was something wrong. But it's okay to make mistakes. The wiki component was one of the major design principles of Stack Exchange. – splattne Dec 11 '11 at 18:49
  • Just for clarification, you always quote terms in your answers with ' and I edited them with " which is the more suitable one according to EL&U. Sorry if I made you feel awful. I admit my edits are about how the post looks than typo corrections. – user508 Dec 11 '11 at 18:58
  • Splattne: Of course, if there was something wrong, by all means, edit! Often, though, posts are edited for style or formatting, which I think is not only slightly rude, but also won't help the original author to improve - a comment would be both nicer and more helpful, IMHO. – fzwo Dec 11 '11 at 19:00
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    Edits on style or formatting of the post makes visitors to read your posts. By leaving comments, someone else would complain why you give me orders and you don't edit it yourself. – user508 Dec 11 '11 at 19:07
  • There is a distinction between ordering somebody to do something and asking them to do it (or editing and explaining). If you notice you're often correcting the same mistake (or styling imperfection) by somebody, explaining your edits in a comment would be both nice and helpful. I realize this might take more time in the short term, but may pay off in the long run in both less needed edits and overall improved quality. – fzwo Dec 11 '11 at 21:35
  • There's a very nice part in FAQ I just went through, "If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you." – user508 Mar 13 '12 at 19:49

Definitely fix typos and formatting mistakes, such as missing blockquotes. That's very useful for the site! In this case, though, the meaning of the sentence definitely changed.

If you are unsure, refrain from editing that part. If you think that a post could be inappropriate, flag it for moderator attention.

  • I really don't see how it changed the meaning of the sentence. – user508 Dec 11 '11 at 19:01
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    @Gigili: I can't speak for the Hauser, but I suppose "Shit happened" was a humorous past tense of the idiomatic expression "shit happens". It would mean "unfortunate things happen occasionally, and here they did", as opposed to just "happened", which would mean "it happened, just like that". – Tim Dec 11 '11 at 19:18
  • Also, I like that people put their personal flavour in their answers. It makes the site more personal and friendly, as long as it isn't detrimental to understanding. – Tim Dec 11 '11 at 19:19
  • This is not a community site to be friendly, this is a Q&A site. People would spend more time to read the post or to vote for it when it looks better. – user508 Dec 11 '11 at 19:26
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    @Gigili I think people also like to enjoy what they're reading, so removing personality from posts is not only rude, but also boring and a disservice. As stated above, I am not talking about fixing mistakes (or layout, as has often happened to me). But I think one should be more careful with "editorial" edits. – fzwo Dec 11 '11 at 21:38

We need to consider that once we sent the answer or the question it is open for editing for any reason but always to make it better.

That's what makes SE different to other sites. If an edit goes too far or changes the meaning of a post we all are able to rollback to the original.

Edits are desperately needed to improve the quality not only of our questions but also of all answers. In this we should feel and act as a community with the goal to make brilliant answers. To do so voting and gaining reputation is only one side of the medal, editing is as important as that.

If we don't edit we may end up providing mediocre answers and questions for a mediocre audience.

Editing is time comsuming and in most cases won't even give the editors any reputation. We all should therefore be grateful to and not angry with the few people that take their time editing posts.

  • It's my personaly view that the concept of SE is to yield best information by voting it up instead of editing it to the best answer (that is the wikipedia concept). Also "make it better" is exactly that subjectivity problem that the voting system tries to solve. John explained it more in detail. As long a answer doesnt insult anybody, I don't see a reason to edit it (changing formatting and typos is fine). Look at users like fzwo who then feel teached like a child or SE beginner and than maybe stop contributing their knowledge. In the end it is the content, not the form that matters. – Hauser Dec 12 '11 at 17:01
  • But also use votes to reward people for nice formatting and structuring of their answers, I do this quite regularly when someone puts effort into this instead of correct but small, short, unstructured answers. Use the voting system instead of creating a wiki with non-wiki-tools. – Hauser Dec 12 '11 at 17:04

This is referring to the second part of the question about removing words like shit from a post.

Vulgar slang expressions are welcome to be discussed on this site. However if they are not the topic of a question or answer it is my strong believe that we should avoid using them when we want to be of high quality and reputation.

As some of these expressions may be widely used in colloquial speech they have lost their offensive character. Still they do not really fit to a site on "finer points of the language".

Therefore editing these expressions by either removing them or replacing them with better ones should be encouraged even if this is at the cost of a certain "personality" of a post.


Jesus, what did I start here? :) Only because of these four letters?!

I agree with most of what Tim N and John said (overreaction and common idiomatic expression), a bit more sure instinct or tranquility would have been nice. You can read:

there are constructional flaws, planning errors... shit happened


there are constructional flaws, planning errors... shit happened

Just put words in context, and then this common phrase makes totally sense here. That's why it was funny to me that Gigili saw a necessity to remove it. And the meta.stackoverflow threads you linked don't show really a answer (44/43 Votes, and this is even more a idiom than a darn expletive or loud swearing being the topics of those threads)

We imho neither need a rule nor is this a exception of a rule (no vulgar speech or gutter language, no swearing). It's not really worth this whole meta-discussion imho and we will anyway find no compromise.

Instead of a neverending subjective discussion here, I asked on the main site, what this phrase means to most german speakers. It's obvious for english ones when looking at the wikipedia article or movies like Forrest Gump.

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    I suggest you're as likely to offend here with “Jesus” as you were in your other answer with “shit happened”... – Brian Nixon Dec 13 '11 at 23:50
  • @BrianNixon I cannot really help a small minority here, overreacting and feeling personally offended (despite this obviously is not my intention) by a common phrase. Then maybe you should skip to wikipedia. This is a Q&A/discussion board, no Encyclopedia without even any minced oaths. People come here also to read comments/answers with a pinch of humor/sarcasm and if you are not able to read between the lines or put a phrase in context due to selective perception of such words, then you should probably become a editor on Wikipedia ... – Hauser Dec 14 '11 at 18:04
  • ... I start thinking you 3 want to feel offended reading this sentence?! I'm aware a older guy like Takkat does not like this style of language, I would neither use it in a meeting, nor a wiki article, nor the the average Q&A here and I've written enough ;), but the average age on SE is much lower and the atmosphere relaxed and familiar vs. a wiki, so I see absolutely no problem using this phrase IN THIS CONTEXT of a unplanned canceling of a project. EOD – Hauser Dec 14 '11 at 18:04

You have to make the distinction talking about words like 'shit', which is appropriate for the site, and using such words to express yourself, which is unnecessary, most of the time, and should be avoided. Most of the time, we can even use friendlier words in comments, or abstain from such comments completly.

I guess we all agree, that we shouldn't be offensive, like writing "I don't give a shit on your answer/comment" towards other users.

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