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... which is now on ELL : https://ell.stackexchange.com/questions/122505/need-help-with-understanding-the-sentence

After the following comment by the OP:

I personally agree with the second option (seems more logical to me), but my teacher said that by some "word order rules" "successfully" can only refer to "raises", so I asked the question.

I suggested editing the question to reflect that aspect of it, so that it wouldn't be "help me understand this" but something like "are there priority rules with respect to the ordering of adverbs that force one interpretation of this sentence"; this strikes me as a much more interesting question, and one I don't know the answer to (I'm guessing it's 'no' but I would like to know more). I wasn't sure whether I should edit the question myself if OP didn't do it soon, and before I could decide it got migrated to ELL, even though with the edit I think it would have been appropriate for ELU. (I note that a search yields a number of positively upvoted questions about word order here)

So I have a few questions, some relating to this specific post but others more general:

  • What is the protocol for editing other people's questions; would this edit have changed the question too much to be acceptable?
  • Am I right to think that with this edit it would be an interesting question deserving of other answers and/or appropriate for ELU?
  • This isn't the first time I run into a question that as posed I know the answer to and isn't that good, but is very close to a question I don't know the answer to and am curious about; are there specific criteria or protocols in those cases on whether one should edit it, make a new question, or what?
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    My take is: avoid editing questions in a way which risks putting words in OP's mouth, even if it makes the question "better" or "more interesting". No one likes to be seen saying something they didn't say. If you can extract a more interesting question from a basic question, you can comment on the Q and say "Did you really want to know...?", and if the OP says yes, edit, and if not, or no response, you're free to ask a brand new question, under your own account, with more details and a link back to the original question which inspired it. – Dan Bron Mar 14 '17 at 21:54
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I definitely would have edited the question to add the comment. It isn't putting words in his mouth because it is something the OP said himself. It doesn't change the meaning of the question.

I think the post would still be understandable and would, as you said, be more interesting and also show more about the motivation for the question (the teacher's comment):

I am learning English and can't fully understand the sentence:

Freezing and rewarming sections of heart tissue successfully raises hopes for doing the same for the entire organ.

The question is to what words relates "successfully"? Should I understand the sentence as "(Freezing and rewarming sections of heart tissue successfully) raises hopes for doing the same for the entire organ." or "Freezing and rewarming sections of heart tissue (successfully raises hopes for doing the same for the entire organ)."

I personally agree with the second option (seems more logical to me), but my teacher said that by some "word order rules" "successfully" can only refer to "raises".

P.S. The sentence is from The Guardian article (caption of the first figure).

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You can't reasonably edit someone else's question to to raise a follow-up point, however interesting; moderators and others fight a ceaseless battle to prevent ELU turning into just another forum , with threads meandering off rather than questions being answered. Essentially you have two options:

  • If you want to improve the question, suggest to OP that a particular form would be both more interesting and more likely to solve his particular problem. He may take the hint, or say that he agrees but cannot think how to phrase it (in which case you have a green light to make your own edit), or he may say "that's not what I was asking". There may be no reply, or (as in this case) events may overtake you; but you have done what you could
  • If you yourself would like an answer, ask a follow-up question yourself, citing and probably linking to the original.
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  • What is the protocol for editing other people's questions; would this edit have changed the question too much to be acceptable?

The help center allows us to add edits to a post to clarify the meaning of the post so long as we do not change the meaning of it. Among ways to determine the poster's intentions is reading their comments.

There is an express help center provision in the editing guidelines that allows people to add information from the comments to the question, so that all pertinent information to the question are found in one place.

  • To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place


Also there are specific provisions in the help center that allow us to clarify the meaning of a post for the express purpose of saving it from closure. I find it strange that this is in the section regarding how to answer, but it is still a help center guideline.

Don't forget that you can edit the question you're answering to improve the clarity and focus - this can reduce the chances of the question being closed or deleted.


It should also be noted that before you get 2,000 rep, all of your edits get pushed into a review queue. People with over 2,000 rep review your edits before it is applied, so if they think your edit goes too far, they'll select the relevant rejection reason.

People who are working the review queue see a set of stock rejection reasons. One of those rejection reasons is that even drastic edits should respect the original poster's intention. This implies that drastic edits are permitted within certain limits. What you need to ask yourself is if you are changing the fundamental nature of the question in a manner that excludes the type of answers the questioner might be interested in seeing.

It's hard to know that that unless you are the questioner, which mitigates heavily against editing the question in most cases and more favorably in the case of leaving a comment as you did.

However, given what you are telling us is based upon a comment the questioner made, you have a basis to believe that this is part of what the questioner wants to learn about in the answers. I would opine the edit you are proposing in this case is probably okay, but you would need to add a note like "Adding information from the comments pursuant to help center guidelines", and it should probably be a word for word copy/paste so that the reviewers don't outright reject your edit automatically as undue meddling.

  • Am I right to think that with this edit it would be an interesting question deserving of other answers and/or appropriate for ELU?


I don't know because I don't fully understand why we have two websites, but my guess would be no. The questioner expressed they were an E.S.L. learner and E.L.L. was designed primarily with such people in mind. Whoever migrated the question probably thought the O.P. would be better served there. Also, if the question was not considered merituitous on some level, it should not have been migrated because E.L.L. is not supposed to be a trash can. Many reputable members of English Language & Usage are also members of E.L.L. such as StoneyB, Cerberus, Fumblefingers and Mari-Lou A so if they take interest in the question, they'll answer it there. There are also good members at E.L.L. who might be more able to help answer a question in a way that satisfies the needs of learners because that's what they try to specialize them. If your answer remains the only answer to the question, I think it's unlikely anybody else would have taken interest in answering it if it had remained here.

  • This isn't the first time I run into a question that as posed I know the answer to and isn't that good, but is very close to a question I don't know the answer to and am curious about; are there specific criteria or protocols in those cases on whether one should edit it, make a new question, or what?


I would recommend asking a follow up question, mentioning the related question and thoroughly explaining what makes your question different from the original, so that your question does not get closed as a duplicate.

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