I feel bad bringing this up because I think TheLethalCarrot has been doing a good job at fixing up a lot of old questions and answers with relevant quotes, but in Fantasy book where the "wizards" constructs their towers in their minds, two people have objected to the changes made to their answers (one reverting the changes because they gained a downvote from it). I feel obliged to raise this with the community and see if anyone draws issue with it.

I know I, for one, often fix "title-only" or even "link-only" answers by adding a quote from that link, but substantive changes are often challenged and I know I've personally been burned by adding additional text the original author didn't want.

  • Might be a dupe of scifi.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5162/…
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 4:35
  • 1
    To my understanding, it is best to edit the answer while keeping it as "unchanged" as possible. If you read your edit preview and realise it could be an answer on its own, then you should create a (community) answer.
    – Clockwork
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 9:47

4 Answers 4


General Case

Edits are generally used for fixing typos, adding in info from a link, fixing formatting etc. New information is sometimes added but it is generally not too much new information, maybe an extra quote or something to back up the answer. Adding a source for the OPs claims is also fine. Anything more than that and the editor has a few options.

  • Edit it in anyway - after all it's SEs goal to build knowledge and adding info is always better than not (if it is relevant).

  • Comment on the answer - let the answerer decide if they want the detail in their answer or not.

  • Post a new answer - whether community wiki or not (you decide, depends on how much work you put into it etc etc) adding the information somewhere in the relevant place should always be encouraged rather than not adding it.

  • Leave the information out - I'd always encourage to add information if it is relevant but maybe it's tangential or only confirms the OPs answer in another source so isn't entirely needed. I'd still suggest to leave it somewhere on the post but it may not be necessary.

Story Id Case

Story Id's are a bit different to the general case in that a lot of the hard work is actually done in getting the right answer. Here I'd be more liberal with adding in information yourself.

  • If you have access to the source material edit in relevant quotes that match the OPs points.

  • Link/title only - add a blurb or summary from somewhere.

  • You feel the answer ignore some of the OPs points but can see how they match the work, add in the detail.

  • OP describes a cover but there isn't one in the answer and you know of a matching one, edit one in.

Specific Cases

Case #1

Here I reworked the sentence to read as it was meant to (though looks like I forgot to fix it completely i.e. "one the the" should have been "one of the" but I must have missed it). I then edited in a link to the series as it provides more information for the OP to see if this is the correct story: covers, reviews, brief description etc.

Lastly, I edited in the summary from the link, it isn't the best summary in the world but it does give us some useful information not already included in the answer.

  • It's part of a series.

  • The place the world is set.

  • The story is about three characters.

  • The over arching theme between the books i.e. love.

It doesn't give any specific details but a general overview along with the place name might be enough to jog the OP's memory.

Case #2

I edited in some information from the link, the direct quote, in case it goes down. This appeared to be what the OP was basing their description of the character off of at the time and it's always better to have that information in the answer itself.

The OP disagreed with my edit and rolled it back, that's fine it is their answer to do with as they please. However, they then added in a quote from the book with a similar description of the character so my edit must have been along the correct lines in the first place.

Lastly, to provide a bit of context to why these posts were edited in the first place. I am currently going through old posts and fixing tags where they should be fixed. At the same time as doing that I am trying to fix everything I see that could be done on the whole post, to avoid the post being bumped a few times down the line.

To put people at ease I am trying to do around only 5 or 6 posts a day, depending on traffic levels on the homepage, and spread them around the day. Some days I'll do more, some less. Don't worry though I won't be destroying the homepage with old posts.

If anyone does have a query about a specific edit I would gladly discuss it with them. I should always be pingable in TREU and commenting on the answer is another way you can reach me.

  • FWIW I do a hell of a lot of edits, there are bound to be people that disagree with some of them I do. With all I've done recently I've only noticed these complaints and one more... that's a pretty good ratio. Though of course I could have missed a couple of complaints or disagreements.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 8:54
  • FWIW on the story-id case: my opinion is that for one-liners, adding an "official" summary (Goodreads, Amazon, etc) is ok, since it's "public info" anyways, and saves one the trouble of re-Googling the title (that goes against the purpose of story-ID answers); re-doing all the work (catching the matching quotes etc) is good in terms of content, less in terms of "adding substantial info" policy.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:06
  • In both cases, if a one-liner story-ID answer can be improved, I'd suggest the stalk option: check if the user is still active somewhere on the network, and if so, ping him with a nice comment "hey, could you improve that? It's your answer and your work, I don't want to go against what you meant :) ". If they're apparently gone forever (that falls under one's judgment, though a 1rep user last seen in March 15 is not likely to come back), add one of the official summaries from above, fix formatting, next.
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:06
  • @Jenayah Meh stalking is one option (i.e. comment from my post) but it's a judgement call, sure their name is attached but once it's posted to the community it does "belong" to the community. I wouldn't go over the top and essentially re-write the answer but if there is information you know you can add and it would objectively improve the answer just add it straight in. Holding off on improving the post isn't really the best option in my opinion.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:08
  • For instance if I may, this last edit or yours I disagree with; user is new but apparently active, and it's quite a "heavy" edit. The first version of that answer was posted 12 hours ago, so FWIW I think it's better to leave an "edit what makes you think this is the one" comment rather than doing it right away. That's also part of the learning process ;D only my opinion though)
    – Jenayah
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:09
  • @Jenayah As I said above, the edit objectively improves the answer by actually adding in how this story matches the OPs query. And of course commenting isn't the only way to learn, there is such a thing as learning by example. I could have done a better job be leaving a comment for why I did it but that's not needed.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:12

It would be nice if we could have a definitive answer to this (though I suspect no definitive answer exists). I've tried both strategies and both have their drawbacks. I have added new answers with the details, but a couple of times the OP has accepted my answer instead of the first answer and that feels a bit unfair on the person who first identified the book.

These days I tend to edit the original post but keep my edits as streamlined as possible e.g. add just a single quote. I take the points Kevin makes in his answer, but I don't think it's substantially changing the substance of a post if you add the minimum information required to show that the identification of the book is correct.

  • 4
    Exactly so. If OP has done the heavy lifting finding the answer, creating a new answer just to show them up feels wrong. Adding in a small quote, a blurb or a pic to augment the answer feels right.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 11:35
  • -1: The established policy got this right the first time.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 17:04

There are two separate issues here:

  1. Block quotes are for quotes, i.e. material copied from somewhere else. Such copying normally requires attribution or citation in some form. Marking the material as a quote is necessary but insufficient. You must also provide some indication of where the material came from. On the other hand, if it's not a quote, then don't use block quotes (except for spoiler markup, that's a special case).
  2. Edits are meant to be used for correcting grammatical mistakes, improving formatting, clarifying wording, adding paragraph breaks, and other such minor changes. Edits should not normally change the substance of a question or answer, unless it's a community wiki. If you want to add a lot of new information, write a new answer, possibly referring to the other answer as inspiration. There may be some leeway for improving very poor answers that would otherwise be deleted, but this is a tricky business because you still need to avoid changing the answer's intent. Tread lightly.

And a minor pet peeve of mine that probably isn't worth arguing over:

  1. Just about every style guide that I have ever read recommends putting some work titles in quotation marks and others in italics, but I have never seen a recommendation to put the same work title in both quotes and italics at the same time. Don't do that, especially when you are editing someone else's answer (they may be following a different style than you, and it's rather pointless to edit war over style).
  • 2
    In general, I agree with all three of your points. However, I would make an exception in point #2 for cases where a story-id question is answered by providing the name of the story and no other information to explain why this is the story being requested. In those cases, I think it is appropriate to improve the answer by including some additional information, such as a link to a synopsis along with an appropriate quote.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Blackwood - I heartily agree. A "name only" answer is relatively poor. It adds substance but doesn't change the intent by adding a formal synopsis, book blurb or simple wikipedia review.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 16:59
  • 1
    I've edited to add that, but I do feel that many of these "bad" answers could just as well be deleted. I don't believe that all, or even most bad answers can be rehabilitated through editing.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 17:06
  • 1
    Thanks Kevin. Again, I agree with you, although I wouldn't delete a possibly correct answer to a story-id question just because it only contained the answer (at least not if it was the only answer).
    – Blackwood
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 17:12
  • 6
    You might want to note that creating a new answer (when all that's missing from the existing answer is a blurb) is likely to earn you downvotes.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 18:50
  • @Valorum: If you are only providing a blurb, sure, but I'm contemplating "a lot of new information" which a blurb is not. If all you want to add is a blurb (and the answer is otherwise complete-enough to avoid deletion), I'm not sure either answering or editing is appropriate. You might just have to comment and downvote.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 22:10
  • 3
    @Kevin - I'll continue adding useful additional content to people's answers until they prise the keyboard out of my hands.
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 22:54
  • @Valorum: That's not what the linked policy says, so I wouldn't advise it.
    – Kevin
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 23:14
  • 2
    There may be some leeway for improving very poor answers that would otherwise be deleted, but this is a tricky business because you still need to avoid changing the answer's intent. The intent is to identify a story, by adding more information about the story, I'm improving the answer with the exact same intent.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 9:29

To add to this -- long block quotes that include extensive spoilers and full plot details should be avoided or spoiler-tagged. I got hit by this and it completely changed the feel of the answer to the point where I considered deleting it, even though it provided relevant content not in other answers.

The people downvoting this without an explanation are a fine example of how this stack has become unfriendly and unwelcoming to new or casual users, as was the main point of the question I came to this from, Why was this answer downvoted?

  • 2
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 15:49
  • I rarely watch videos - can you tell me what this is and why you linked to it?
    – arp
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 16:27
  • 3
    Downvotes on meta don't mean that people don't like you, it just means that they don't agree with your answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 16:42
  • Downvotes with no explanation was what I was explaining about; I'd like to know why
    – arp
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 16:54
  • 3
    People are perfectly free to downvote with or without explanation. Some people don't fancy the confrontation that often comes with explaining why they've downvoted.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 17:03
  • Hmm... I usually try to add a spoiler tag for something with a twist, but I'll admit that I'll give a fair amount of the plot around that because otherwise, most of the matching details will either be absent, or very isolated quotes.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 17:11
  • 2
    It's the song "Let It Go" from Disney's Frozen. The event you're talking about is 2 years old. It'd time to let it go and get over it. Maybe it wasn't the user's best edit but it wasn't harmful. It was perfectly acceptable and in many ways improved your answer. So let it go, get over it and move on.
    – Edlothiad
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 21:31
  • 1
    Is it more unfriendly to a) downvote without explanation or to b) vocally demand an explanation for that downvote so that you can publicly berate the person who had the sheer bloody cheek to downvote your amazing answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 16, 2021 at 22:21

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