In my first answer on ELU, I encountered difficulty in answering succinctly, due to a program built into the site that removes so called “pleasantries”.

The question concerns how to write “salutations” in emails. Naturally, my answer begins with (my perceived) correct salutation, “Dear Prof. Smith...”. However, this “Dear Prof.” is forcibly removed, and cannot be put back, even in an edit.

Obviously, I could have experimented with other ways to start the answer. Perhaps beginning with “I would write: “Dear Prof...”” would override the bug. However, I did not try, since that would involve adding unnecessary fluff in my answer, which is exactly what the program is designed to remove.

I propose either the program should be improved, or there should be some way of manually overriding it.

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    "It looks like you're trying to write a letter. Would you like some hindrance?" – Muzer Apr 14 at 9:23
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    Explaining how the text you’re about to present relates to the question you’re answering hardly seems like “fluff” to me. – ColleenV Apr 14 at 16:52
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    I am a little confused: according to the post history, the edit was done by another user, and then approved by the OP. So I am wondering, what algorithm? What bug? Or am I just slow today? – Cascabel Apr 14 at 18:08
  • @Cascabel if you see the original unedited post, it started with "Smith, ...", rather than my intended "Dear Prof. Smith, ...". The first two words were redacted by the algorithm. – Benjamin Wang Apr 14 at 22:26
  • @Cascabel yes, I accepted an edit by cigien, since I didn't want my answer to stay mutilated. The issue at hand is related to the original unedited post. – Benjamin Wang Apr 14 at 22:33

The workaround to your issue is to write a complete, stand-alone answer which does not start with "Dear Prof Smith" or something similar.

Your answer as it currently stands does that, with an introductory phrase explaining how to write a salutation.

The correct salutation would be

Dear Prof. Smith, Prof. Johnson, Prof. Lee, and Prof. Chun,

(note the “and”).

You should not rely on undocumented features like HTML comments as they may well be removed in the future; HTML comments are invisible and are therefore more "fluff".

  • Good points. My first thought was just using comments to bypass it because I figured it was possible and it's technically what OP wanted, but you raise more valid points. In that case you / someone might want to reject my edits on the original post then. – hyper-neutrino Apr 14 at 7:33

Obviously you were presenting the words "Dear Prof. Smith" as part of your answer, rather than issuing a greeting.  This distinction is known as the use–mention distinction.  It's conventional, when you mention words, to quote them.  If you had quoted the words you were mentioning (by either of the common methods), you would not have had a problem, and that would not have been considered "unnecessary fluff".

screenshots of answer that begin with "Daer Prof." (quoted)



You can put an empty HTML comment at the beginning of the post with <!-- -->. This will suppress the detection of pleasantries.

Unfortunately this does require you to add extra stuff yourself and I don't think SE will turn it off for a situation that's probably almost never encountered. But at least the answer won't have extra fluff around it.

EDIT don't actually do this; follow Andrew Leach's advice; this technically works but it's a worse idea than just writing a more complete and stand-alone answer

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    yes, the excessive pleasantries are purely for irony/humor, i would normally get straight to the point – hyper-neutrino Apr 14 at 4:23

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