I did review Why would people make unnecessary edits? and Is it appropriate to edit questions for grammar? before making this post.

I do edit questions for grammar for two main reasons¹. First, I really hope it will help the OP. Second, I think grammatically correct language represents a higher standard, and I know quality is an important issue for the powers that be at Stack Exchange.


Why do some users reject editing?

Lately, though, I've noticed when I've edited posts that have had blatant and/or extensive grammar errors, the LULZ, or have been in need of ESL assistance, the OP is rolling my corrections back to their original version, incorrect SPaG² and all. What's frustrating is the OP then leaves the post in its original sloppy state and makes no attempt at corrections himself/herself. On a few occasions I've had my edits rolled back, and then will notice another user also attempted to edit the same post, but the post is still in its original incorrect state, meaning the OP rejected suggested edits at least twice. So the OP is actively resisting community assistance.

I have no problem with an OP rolling back my edits, only to make their own corrections. That's awesome and I think it's great to see an OP take responsibility for making their own corrections.

So, is there anything we can do to encourage all members of this community to remember that we do have a Wiki-like set up here and to help users to be more amenable to grammatical corrections, to not rollback edits that are meant to be helpful?


First, I do want to say that whenever I edit a post, I always try and work within the original spirit of the OP's post. When I edit for SPaG, I try to be extremely thorough, so multiple edits on the same post won't be necessary. However ... is this considered okay? When does it cross the line into over-editing? I will correct SPaG, and if I see a word being used incorrectly, I will fix the word, too. For example:

"I did not give you my constant to edit my George R.R. Martin answer to add a picture of Harry Potter" becomes "I did not give you my consent to edit my George R.R. Martin answer to add a picture of Harry Potter".

Another type of change I will make is to clarify speakers and characters in sentences if I am positive I know which character is doing or saying what. For example:

"First, he cast a fire curse at him; in return he hexed him and gave him a magnificent rack of antlers. His curse also hit the Fountain of Magical Brethren, but he repaired it" becomes "First, Voldemort cast a fire curse at Dumbledore; in return, Dumbledore hexed Voldemort and gave him a magnificent rack of antlers. Voldemort's curse also hit the Fountain of Magical Brethren, but Dumbledore repaired it".

Is this kind of edit inappropriate or too extensive? Where do you draw the line with editing?

¹I know I'm not the universe's gift to grammar :P

²SPaG is Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar. I use this code for the "reason for edit" box and have had a few people ask me what SPaG means. So I thought I'd just mention it as an FYI.

  • Could you add links to some examples where this happened?
    – bitmask
    Jan 29, 2013 at 8:55
  • I wanted to and I'm sorry I can't. I remember one of the posts specifically, but it, and the entire post it belonged to, seems to be missing from meta, as if it were deleted. I can see deleted posts and still can't find them. Anyhow, I wish I had kept a list -- if I had, I would have posted the examples in the original post. Mea culpa :/ Jan 29, 2013 at 9:20
  • 3
    Maybe part of the problem is that people don't know what “SPaG” is (I certainly didn't)? In that case, not using that abbreviation could help.
    – svick
    Jan 29, 2013 at 12:27
  • @bitmask -- Here is the question I most recently tried to edit and the OP rolled it back. I think one other person also attempted to edit this question, but the original question reappeared again. Sorry I can't give you more specifics -- it probably would've been a good idea to have kept a running lists of questions and answers being rolled back, just for this purpose. I mean, I know it's frustrating. I myself have been tempted to automatically rollback edits that change a Slytherin to [at]a Slytherin, or edit just to spell out "YMMV". Jan 29, 2013 at 18:05
  • @svick -- Hmm, sure, that's something I can look at. Perhaps calling it "grammar corrections" or just "grammar" would suffice. Thanks for that idea -- I know all the terms we users here throw out are not always universally known. Jan 29, 2013 at 18:09
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    @aSlytherin: Well, the example you name isn't terribly convincing. Your edits are minor at best. And there are certain people (including me) who are quite allergic to link texts reading "here". Even if the rest of the changes you made is fine (although not terribly substantial) here-ing my links would probably have gotten you a rollback (or at least a subsequent edit) from me as well.
    – bitmask
    Jan 29, 2013 at 18:29
  • 2
    @bitmask - I was entirely unaware that the word "here" is considered offensive, off-putting, or allergenic -- that's a petty and subjective complaint. By unconvincing do you mean I misidentified grammatical errors? Were my edits wrong? Is there a minimum number of edits necessary in a post for it to be "convincing"? As for the edits being minor, well sure! It is my understanding we're not to completely re-write posts. As I said, it doesn't matter who does the fixing, as long as it's done. My concern is rollbacks are happening without subsequent edits, which affects the site. Jan 29, 2013 at 19:06
  • @aSlytherin: It's certainly not offensive, but very bad style to use "here" as label for a link. You're edits were not wrong but mostly changed style which can be argued (e.g. dot versus semi-colon). And if the OP cringed just half as much as you just did when you read "You're" instead of "Your" it could be an explanation for a rollback. ;)
    – bitmask
    Jan 29, 2013 at 19:11
  • 2
    @aSlytherin Using "here" in a link description is more of a web design/usability issue than a SPaG issue, but valid (and cringe-inducing to some) nonetheless. Not sufficient reason for a rollback, though, imo.
    – Beofett
    Jan 29, 2013 at 19:31
  • 4
    @aSlytherin As an addendum to Beofett's comment, think of what a screen reader will do. As a user tabs through the links, they'll hear "here", "over here", and "this link". Instead, they should be hearing "Snape on HP wikia", "Wikipedia's page on foo", and "Harry Potter wikia".
    – Izkata
    Feb 1, 2013 at 3:27
  • Well, you've all educated me about the use of "here" as a link. I'll definitely stop doing that immediately. It's something I honestly never knew about or even thought about. But here's to improvement! Thank you :) @Izkata -- your examples regarding the screen reader really helped me to understand why "here" is problematic. Feb 1, 2013 at 22:12
  • @bitmask -- See my comment above re: "here". Yeah, I saw your "you're" and assumed you did it on purpose :)) But, sure, if I saw that in a post that was eligible for editing, I would fix it. As well, if I see a period where a semi-colon should be, I would fix that too. Why is this cringeworthy and not okay? I'm not grasping why you object. Feb 1, 2013 at 22:16
  • I'm just trying to provide the best explanation I can think of for why the edit was rolled back. I suppose my point was that the (perceived) negative style change (links) could outweigh the improvements in the eyes of a person. I would probably just have edited, not reverted.
    – bitmask
    Feb 2, 2013 at 3:22
  • @bitmask -- I do get it, and if you look down at sarge_smith's response to me, in the comments, he explained his side of the issue and gave me some good info to consider. :) Feb 2, 2013 at 18:52
  • @aSlytherin: Seems like reasonable advice. Glad that you got your question answered.
    – bitmask
    Feb 3, 2013 at 0:24

4 Answers 4


The edits you describe seem fine. Please keep up the good work!

If a user goes in a huff because you edited their post, refer them to the FAQ. You can leave a comment like the following (adapt for context as needed):

Welcome to Stack Exchange. This is a [collaborative questions and answers site](https://scifi.stackexchange.com/about). Editing other people's posts to improve them is part of the normal working of the site, as indicated in our [FAQ#editing].

Add some specific advice about what your edit fixed (e.g. spelling, presentation) and how their original post is likely to attract negative attention. Downvote or vote to close as applicable if the unedited post is not fit for the site. Do not engage in a rollback war¹. If the OP doesn't cool down, flag for moderator attention and explain what's going on.

¹ Except for extreme cases of inappropriate content like insults, racism, etc. In that case, roll back once, and flag a mod.

  • 3
    Thanks, Gilles :) I can truthfully say I've never engaged in a rollback war, but it does frustrate me when I, or any other user on the site, tries to be helpful, and we're basically given the middle finger, heh. I don't understand, though, why someone would get angry over someone trying to help them improve their work. Jan 29, 2013 at 18:12

I do not know why they do these things, but I've only noticed it myself from those with "1 rep". So not only are they new here, they're new to SE sites in general. The sort of psychology that would take it as a personal affront if something I can't explain, it's mysterious to me too.

I do not think your editing is inappropriate or too extensive. Fixing grammar, fixing formatting, adding links, or specific instances of clarification (I think I saw a quote added that the OP referred to but did not include)... these are all nice. Go for it. Also, though not mentioned, adding images seems fair too (assuming relevance, of course).

The mods should punish those who rollback because they see edits as insulting. This isn't 4chan.

  • It's not just those with 1 rep... the very first edit of a Slytherin's that I looked at was rolled back by someone with >10k rep. That one doesn't make any sense to me at all, the edits fixed a ton of small mistakes, made it a much better post, but it was rolled back w/ no comment. Jan 29, 2013 at 4:58
  • Ward, can you tell me how I can see this too? Jan 29, 2013 at 9:28
  • @aSlytherin In your profile, go to Activity, then, underneath that, Revisions.
    – Beofett
    Jan 29, 2013 at 19:34
  • How would you figure out which people found the editing insulting? Does stack exchange have a secret mind reading corp we don't know about? Also pertinent, why would we punish users who are using the sites design? Feb 1, 2013 at 8:57
  • It was obvious from the comments they left on their own question. They were hostile. Gilles even replied to them telling them that it was inappropriate to behave that way and that the edits were meant only to allow the question to be re-opened.
    – John O
    Feb 1, 2013 at 14:37

In a case like your first example, simply fixing spelling and grammar errors, if the OP rolls it back you should leave a comment explaining that it's not a personal affront, on SE we insist that posts have decent spelling and grammar. Then roll it back to your revision, or give the OP a chance to make his own corrections. If you're not sure or don't want to roll it back yourself, ask in chat. If the OP rolls it back again, ask in chat, perhaps ping a mod (they can lock it). If you make more substantial changes, adding a picture, say, that's a bit more understandable on the OP's part and you don't need to pursue that further.

  • All good points. I haven't, as far as I can recall, ever added an image or picture to someone else's post, but I've certainly added them to my own posts after the fact, on occasion. There's definitely something about adding images/pictures that seems like crossing over the line of presumption. I would have to say that if someone added images to my questions and answers, I would most likely roll those edits back. Thanks, Kevin :) Jan 29, 2013 at 18:22

I know why I have repeatedly rolled back your edits on my posts, I can't speak for anyone else. You have made multiple edits on my posts (At least two in recent times, a few others before the name change), all of which were style edits, not grammar edits. I have no problem with somebody coming along and fixing spelling errors or egregious grammar errors, but I have large issue with people changing the voice of my posts. In the ten plus SPaG edits you did on my posts, ONE was an actual grammatical error and I made it intentionally.

I do salute your willingness to correct others posts and I also praise you for not getting into rollback battles with the OPs. Like I said, I can speak only for myself, but I will always reject style editing to my posts unless I see an obvious improvement. Also, as said multiple times, the OP is the one in control of such things. It's great that you want to offer a correction, but if the OP doesn't feel it's warranted or that it is not an improvement, stackexchange sites come down firmly on the side of the OP.

  • 3
    could you provide any examples? The one example aSlytherin provided does contain a valid grammar issue (starting a sentence with an uncapitalized "and"), and I can't find any other rollbacks in your revision history. I agree that "style" edits are sometimes unnecessary, but the system encourages us to put as many improvements as possible into each edit, rather than make very small edits (character limits, auto-wiki, etc.).
    – Beofett
    Jan 31, 2013 at 13:19
  • 3
    @Beofett I'm inclined to side with sarge_smith on that one. Fixing the "and" was good, but multiple semicolons like that is awkward to read, as the second/third parts of the sentence aren't actually directly related to the first part (and should only be used in 2 parts, not 3). aSlytherin may have been going for the super-comma usage, but there's no commas in the individual parts, again making it awkward to read, as it isn't really a list. ('Tho, the "and" should have been fixed after rolling it back)
    – Izkata
    Feb 1, 2013 at 3:37
  • @Beofett I can't find the other example, I believe I may have deleted it, although I thought even deleted items remained view-able. I just know that I rolled back two edits by A_slytherin in the matter of a few days. I do believe that the other post contained erroneous material, which is why I deleted it. I get the "and" in question, but it was written like that on purpose and so I rolled it back. I would like to clarify that I have no problem with A_slytherin and I don't mind that she edited the posts. I just exercised my right as the OP to reject the edit after I considered it. Feb 1, 2013 at 8:44
  • @Izkata Honestly, I didn't like the multiple semi-colons, either. I wasn't trying to address the one specific edit, but rather finding out more information about the pattern. THe part about how the system encourages us to put in multiple improvements was intended strictly as a general comment.
    – Beofett
    Feb 1, 2013 at 12:16
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    @sarge_smith -- I really appreciate that you elaborated on what your issues are with my edits -- I didn't know that you felt so strongly about it, and, as an explanation, I admit I don't usually look at who has written a post that I'm editing, but am just looking at the post itself. I definitely didn't intend to interfere with your stylistic choices. And you're right in that I don't engage in rollback wars. I am curious, though, as to the meaning of the lowercase "and" at the beginning of a paragraph/sentence -- you said you did this on purpose. Would you be willing to tell us why? Feb 2, 2013 at 3:13
  • @Beofett -- I haven't heard of the super-comma usage term regarding the semi-colon before. Hmm, so noted. I just included semi-colons in sarge_smith's post in one of the ways I've always been taught. This probably falls under stylistic choice, just as the headline title versus the sentence-style title is. Feb 2, 2013 at 3:30
  • @aSlytherin It was intended to put that part of the post on a more informal footing since I knew my own ill considered actions had actually already resulted in the exact opposite action happening than I had wanted. Since I wasn't trying to get into a debate about that, I singled it out in what I had hoped was a more casual setting. Which worked BTW, as that part was discussed in a comment, instead of being addressed by each other answer. Feb 2, 2013 at 4:07
  • @aSlytherin also, I wasn't super attached to the lowercase A, if you had changed just that, I would have left it alone. I also understand that you are encouraged to make a bunch of edits at once. However, when I see a bunch of edits that I feel are unnecessary I'm much more likely to hit that rollback and not fool with it anymore. That's the danger of substantial edits. If you make two edits and one is on the line and one is good, people will let it go. if you make eleven edits and 5 are good and 6 are on the line, the five are lost in the noise and you are likely to see the whole thing rolled Feb 2, 2013 at 4:13
  • @sarge_smith - Thanks for explaining the lowercase "and" in your post. I understand what you're saying. So, you've given me pause to think about the editing process - there definitely is a big difference between cleaning up a post that is rife with grammar errors than interfering in a post where I'm thinking Okay, I see a few SPaG issues, so I'll fix those, and while I'm in there I might as well change X around and switch paragraph Y with paragraph Z, and rename the hyperlink. The former is editing; the latter re-writing. I want to err on the side of editing; I'm reconsidering my approach. Feb 2, 2013 at 13:52
  • @sarge_smith - And I just wanted to say that I do understand feeling irritated at unnecessary edits. There are two posts of mine that were edited that I might rollback. One is definitely a stylistic issue -- when I mention other users in a post, I bold their names, just to make them stand out a bit. Another user changed all the names of the other users from other user to [at]other user. I feel that's an inappropriate edit because there was nothing wrong to begin with (unless there's a rule I don't know about, that when mentioning another user you have to use the "at" symbol ... ) Feb 2, 2013 at 14:26

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