Sasha asked Playing sports - does swimming count? and indicated her own difficulties with what the question was asking, i.e., (a) I am a professional swimmer, (b) playing sports implies team sports, (c) you don't say 'I play swimming'. (d) So do you answer the question Do you play sports? if you need to start with 'I do/I don't...'?

and added in a comment "Ok, so would it be correct then? -Do you play any sports? -I do, I practice swimming."

It seems like Sasha set out in clear terms what his/her difficulties were, and what he/she was asking. And yes, you can go to great lengths (literally) when answering the question, and at least one answer does this.

Yet the author of said answer massively edited the post, and included the heading: To clarify the English question.

The question was clear without listing every single possible nuance to "the English question" (whatever that noun phrase means). The added material of the edit is well over 100% longer than the text of the initial question. And it explodes the original question to a protracted analysis that not all answerers are going to agree with.

Sasha's question seemed clear enough, and the edit is an unnecessary repackaging of it, so that it is no longer the OP's question. One could unpack what one sees as the issues in an answer, without having to drastically edit the OP's question. Would that be the preferred course to take, especially since not all possible answerers will address the question as it has been restated and greatly drawn out, per the mind of the editor?

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    I for one am okay with the revision 3 having that additional explanation. Let's see what others feel about this.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 7:13
  • 3
    Glad you asked this question here. This was the most extensive edit I've ever done and was certainly an extreme case. I couldn't come up with a better way to solve the closure issues, and did it as a temporary measure until the OP could weigh in. Maybe your question will result in suggestions for a better solution.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 15:21
  • Feel free to either rollback the edit(s) or improve it as you see fit. I've undertaken the task to streamline the post w/o affecting anybody's answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 6:41
  • I fully agree with Clare that OP's question was clear enough to begin with. After reading the answer of @fixer1234 it is obvious that the 'massive edit' was an urgent solution to 4 users' frantic voting to close the Q. My answer below wonders what was wrong with OP's question to require such hasty and ill-advised close-voting -- should helping OP or voting to close questions be our primary concern here? Meanwhile some experienced users have commented that this IELTS question could have been better served by migrating it to ELL -- in that context, I again call for more consistent migration! Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 16:05

3 Answers 3


We can't read an OP's mind, and if they don't respond to comments, it usually leaves their question unclear, or too broad. At times, we have to assume what the OP wants, and try and save the question. Judgement call or something, it's called.

The "swimming" question seemed to be heading for disaster until a last-ditch edit by fixer1234 saved the day, and since then it's been only gaining more upvotes, which means the edits helped.

Just keep in mind that:

  • If edits are suggested by a low-rep user, it will undergo review.
  • If edits are by a high-rep user, we trust them to know what they're doing.
  • If edits kill a question, several users will notice it, and bring it around.

So, there's no issue here.

This is a general answer, and not limited to this "swimming" question.

  • Now, I'm not sure that users should try to edit-to-salvage. Probably the best thing to do is let a question get closed and if the OP (or others) actually want such a question to be reopened, then let them express that in meta. Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 16:29
  • @Clare That's optimism. But in most cases, the OP does not return to check if their question is closed or answered. I'm speaking about those situations. Also, reopening a closed question is a tedious process.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 8, 2017 at 17:00
  • 1
    @Clare The best suggestion I've seen on the topic was along the lines of starting a new question if it isn't clear that the editing preserves the OP's intent. Naturally, this works better before answers to the question start piling in.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 11:27

After reading the kind member's explanatory answer here, we can all agree it was a desperate intervention meant to 'save' the question. The more pertinent discussion would be what is wrong with the Q that prompted 4 users to vote to close it?

I read it before the 'massive edit' and found it quite clear to begin with, as Clare did. This is how I understood it:

When IELTS examiner asks 'do you play any sports', how do you answer that, if you're a professional swimmer? -- because swimming is not the type of sport you 'play' and I am supposed to answer I do/ I don't for such questions.

Please note this answer I gave in comments even before the kind member helpfully made the 'massive edit' to improve this already clear question:

Q:Do you play any sports? Swimming is indeed a sport, so even if you are not 'playing' swimming, your answer should be "yes I do." If that is all the examination format requires you to answer, then you would 'sit tight' and let the examiner make the next move. If however the format dictates you should give a brief explanatory answer, then you could say "yes I do -- I am a professional swimmer." YOU CAN GIVE SOME MORE DETAILS. In any case they would be assessing your vocabulary, grammar and fluency in English rather than the semantics of whether 'playing sports' includes swimming!

– English Student yesterday

Do you think I missed something? IT IS OP WE MUST BE TRYING TO HELP FIRST. The 'potential' of the question comes next. The insistence on 'research' would be pedantic here: standard dictionaries may not help OP much in this instance because it is a more complex situation. Voting to close a reasonably clear question like this one for 'lack of clarity' or 'lack of research' is a nonsense.

What is not clear with the question? What is OP supposed to check in a dictionary? Why vote to close in the first place, necessitating such kindly intended but ultimately drastic action as this 'massive edit'?

I humbly requests members that do not understand a question to leave well alone and let somebody who understands answer it. I therefore appreciate the timely action of fixer1234 to 'save' the question (which was necessitated by such hasty and ill-advised close-voting.)

  • I use Word to draft an answer first. ;)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:09
  • @NVZ thank you -- we were both correcting the same typo at the same time! Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:09
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    There's a thing called the bandwagon effect. I am guilty of such hasty close voting too, but not on this question, I think.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:12
  • 2
    @NVZ just what I am saying: we should use our voting privileges sparingly and judiciously rather than create such awkward situations by reckless close-voting! Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 18:22
  • 2
    I didn't VTC -- I didn't see the Q until this Meta Q - and I don't think I would have. However, I think a very defensible reason to close would be a custom reason that the OP would get a better answer on ELL because that's where the people knowledgeable about the IELTS exam are likely to be. There is a great deal of "statistical fluctuation" on what gets closed and what stays open, depending on who, exactly, is active when the Q is in the window of high visibility.
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 0:41
  • 1
    In this case the research wouldn't necessarily be dictionaries, but the OP's materials from the IELTS preparation course that they (should) be enrolled in. Also some people probably voted to migrated it to ELL, which is entirely appropriate! Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 0:57
  • If there were a clear set of guidelines for migrating a question to ELL, I suppose those who voted to close in this particular case might have voted to migrate it to ELL instead. That brings us full circle to the thorny topic of which question should be migrated to ELL, on which discussion much virtual ink has been expended without reaching any reasonable resolution! I see now the 'crisis' faced by this IELTS question is yet another reminder of that. My meta question on migration is also unresolved: english.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/10215/… Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 8:05
  • Also see the huge number of (mostly unresolved) questions that appear when you search for 'migration ELL' under meta. Commented Jun 7, 2017 at 8:10

I was the editor of the question, and I edited it after it had received four close votes for various reasons. It was an attempt to save it from closure. I tried to address the closure issues without changing the nature of the question.

After rereading the question many times and considering all the comments, with their diverse interpretations, and my own original confusion, the sources of the closure issues gelled. The question, taken as a whole, also gelled and was actually clear. However, the question wording and organization made it easy to miss the actual issue. It was obvious from the comments, close votes, and my own initial read that it had already happened with many readers.

I left the original question alone so as not to alter the original wording in any way, and supplemented it with a more organized summary of what was presented in the question. Many of the close votes and comments interpreted various elements of the question as off-topic or tangential. So I started the addition with a sub-title to indicate that the purpose of the addition was to provide the same information focused in a clearly on-topic way on the English issue.

Clare's question here characterizes the original post as clear and my edit as a repackaging. I don't know if Clare was among the early readers of the question (pre-edit), or viewed it only after the edit. If an early reader, and the interpretation of the question hasn't changed, then perhaps Clare was not among those with diverse interpretations. If the first view was post-edit, then perhaps my summary provided some context that made the original wording clear.

In any event, if my summary is seen as a repackaging, then it was successful in not changing the meaning of the question. That was exactly what I was trying to do.

Clare's question here describes the summary as exploding the original question and creating context that not all answerers are going to agree with. I don't believe the summary does that. It doesn't create anything that wasn't already in the question. The original problem was that readers were interpreting pieces of the question outside the entirety of the question's context, and that's what my edit sought to solve.

So answerers are still free to diverge in any direction they want, but hopefully there will be less of it based simply on misinterpretation. And I should point out that if the question went to closure, that point would be moot because there could be no more answerers.

However, the edit did double the length of the question, the unfortunate price of leaving the original words intact. Also, my repackaging means that half of the words are not literally the words of the OP. Sasha hasn't returned yet, and his/her opinion should really be what drives this. He/she could choose to chop off my edit or rework the question so no restatement is necessary. Or, the question could have been a fleeting one and Sasha won't return.

But Clare's question here does raise a legitimate question of, in general, how much editing is too much, and on this question, whether my edit materially changed the OP's intent and whether it helped or hurt the question.

I can offer two indicators:

  • The close voting stopped. None of the close voters have returned to retract their votes, but the current four votes accumulated pretty quickly and that action stopped after the edit. So hopefully, the edit solved the closure issues.
  • My recollection is that prior to the edit, the question was at a net voting of approximately zero (+/- 1). Since the edit, it has gone to a net of +6. I don't know how much, if any, of that is due to the edit, but just sayin'.

So I would also welcome input and guidance on the issue.

  • 1
    I think your edit was completely out of line. Way too big and with no feedback or consultation with the OP. If the original question was confusing it doesn't help to leave it untouched and then start writing with a completely different tone and style. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:22
  • I for one liked your edits, and honestly, I even upvoted it seeing the improvements.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:24
  • @curiousdannii I think the unregistered OP won't return to see the question. But the question now has a life of it's own, and has received good edits, and good answers.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:25
  • @NVZ The question is still a mess! I honestly don't understand it any more thanks to the edits. It was as clear as it is now at the beginning - clear enough to answer, but not a great question. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:28
  • @Fixer If you're going to keep your edits, please at least add a citation for your definition of "play". Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 13:30
  • Sasha hasnt returned, but we dont know the motive. Perhaps through the early comments she got her/his concerns addressed. As for me, I was going to write an answer that was a lot shorter so as to not possibly overwhelm the OP, which fixer's answer might do (although his answer's comprehensiveness will probably serve other users). I just wanted to write an answer that would not scare the OP away. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:38
  • @curiousdannii, thanks for the feedback. I actually considered it just a temporary fix until the OP returns to deal with it. I was only trying to stop closure and offer the OP a "serving suggestion". I'll take your advice and add a citation. If the OP doesn't return, I don't know what is the best solution. The original was being closed and many people were confused by it, and leaving just a repackaged version won't be any of the OP's own words. Maybe it would be smart to wait a few days for the OP to return before making more changes to it (unless someone has an idea how to make it better).
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:44
  • 3
    @NVZ, glad somebody thought it was an improvement. :-) Thanks, BTW, for cleaning up the duplicate. The site had a glitch and posted it twice.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:47
  • 3
    @Clare, there's nothing wrong with having another answer. As you say, it can be more digestible. Also, each answer reflects a different perspective, writing style, focus, etc. I've often seen answers that even said essentially the same thing, but readers were enlightened more by one style than the other, or related better to one answer. And certainly, if your sense of the edit is that it restricts or changes the focus and there is another important angle, it would be useful to add that. Answers can supplement each other; each one doesn't need to be comprehensive.
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 14:59
  • 3
    @fixer1234 The problem with what you've just written is that no one voted to close it as unclear! One person closed it as primarily opinion based. Three as off-topic, probably the lack of research option, or to migrate it to ELL. Even your comment, the very first one, asks "did you check a dictionary?" That's the issue with the question, not its clarity. Commented Jun 5, 2017 at 23:46
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    @curiousdannii, just an opinion, but I think the various close reasons stemmed from lack of clarity; people read the intent of the question in different ways (including myself--I originally thought it was based on a misinformed personal opinion by the OP and they hadn't bothered to check a dictionary). It wasn't until a bunch of people chimed in with diverse input in comments that it gelled and I realized it was actually a decent, on-topic question, just not presented in a clear, focused way. I tried to repackage it to make it more obvious that it was a good question for the site. (cont'd)
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 2:50
  • The close votes were coming in so fast it looked like it was a matter of minutes away from closure. Once people were able to see a more focused presentation of the question, I think it also gelled for others, which is why the close votes stopped. But my edit was intended as temporary. If the OP doesn't return, we'll have to figure out the best way to both retain the OP's words and keep the question obviously on-topic. It's likely to get the last close vote if we simply roll back the edit. Any ideas?
    – fixer1234
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 2:51
  • 4
    My advice is to leave it and move on, unless someone casts the 5th VTC. Even then it would not be a tragedy to just let it be closed. The lesson to take from this experience is to not make large edits to questions, especially in a rush. I think you could have made a less rambling and better edit if you had had more time. I don't worry so much about your usurping the OP's prerogative: she is gone. I think what she wanted was the "right" answer from the examiner's perspective, but of course, I don't know that. See the comment of Mari-Lou A at the end of the answer of Ben Kovitz.
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 3:36
  • 3
    (continued) You made a heroic effort to save a question, but it's probably better to make substantive edits to questions only if one is 90 + % sure that one has correctly read the OP's mind, or has the benefit of an exchange of comments with the OP. Thanks for the hard work!
    – ab2
    Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 3:50

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