Every so often I see an edit that has been approved by the community, which I consider either inaccurate, misleading, or worse of all, actually harmful to the OP. When I look back at the history in the review queue, the users who have approved these poor edits are either non-native speakers, or largely inexperienced.

Of course everyone makes a slip-up now and again; we all do, and that's why a newcomer's suggested edit is approved by two users who have earned these moderator's privileges.

But I'm beginning to think this is not sufficient. Whenever I spot a poor edit, I try to rectify it, but this is a delicate operation. I risk offending the newcomer whose edit was approved, and I risk looking like a fuss-pot, or worse.

Am I alone in thinking this is a "problem"? Perhaps I should flag and wait for a mod to rollback. I think this type of intervention looks better done by them.

Just to give visitors an idea of what I'm talking about:

Why can't I fix a typo?

This edit should not have been approved

When a user changes your edits back to their original, pre-edit form

The Review Queue II: This Time It's Personal

  • 1
    As a former translator, I have been exposed to harmful edits. A proof-reader reverses the meaning of a sentence through sheer laziness and incompetence. It's a hanging offence in my book. I'm glad I'm not a journalist, as I hear frightful stories about cowboy editors from that quarter.
    – David Pugh
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:15
  • 1
    @DavidPugh Superficially, the edits look very legit, but sometimes you do need to look at the post in its entirety, and (more importantly) the answers that have been posted. Before correcting the grammar in a question, a user should look at the answers posted. If somebody replies that the OP's sentence is ungrammatical and I see in the question that it is not, it can be confusing.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:22
  • I have no experience, but a priori I would think that if people respond on the basis of a grammatical error, in consequence understanding the Op one particular way, and if Editor then makes a legitimate edit, that is going to confuse subsequent readers too. Do you guys ever made edits in square brackets, making the full story visible to all?
    – David Pugh
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:29
  • 1
    You can click on a post's editing history, next to the editor/user's avatar. There is a feature called "rollback" which users can resort to, it's a way of turning back the clock so to speak.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:31
  • I have noticed that I am asked why I have edited my own post, and guessed there was some kind of Time Machine(tm) function there.
    – David Pugh
    Commented Apr 30, 2015 at 8:39
  • 3
    I think it's a problem. I'm not sure I understand the whole low-rep-users-editing-for-rep system at all. Worse yet, why anonymous users can edit. Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:43
  • 1
    Another example (which seemed so strange and spambotty to me that I actually flagged it) is this one, where the body of the question was left alone, but the title was turned into utter nonsense. How that edit was ever approved by two relatively high-rep users, I will never know, but it was clearly very harmful to the question itself. Commented May 13, 2015 at 15:33

5 Answers 5


Edit back, and explain why in the edit comment.

For example, in the example where not everything that is gold glitters got mistakenly changed to not everything that glitters is gold, you could edit and explain in the comments something like:

Previous edit changed the meaning of the first sentence; reverting to author's intent

or in the one where the OP asked "Can I say [wrong sentence]?" and the grammar of the wrong sentence got changed, you can say something like:

Reverting the part of the edit which changed the sentence that OP was asking about, because that edit made it a new question

(or a more succinct version of that).

If the edit made actual improvements besides the error, there's no need to revert the whole thing; just correct the mistaken part.

Finally, remember that you can ping editors of a post by @ing them in a comment on the post. Assume good intent and be polite (as I'm sure you would be) - if I made such an editing error myself, I'd be grateful that someone else picked up on it, and having my attention drawn to it would tend to make me pay closer attention in future.

I think it's pretty unlikely that a user would get upset over that if you explained clearly and politely what you were doing and why. If they did, chances are they would have got upset whatever you did.


There are two things you should know about the edit approval system. The first is that bad approvers is a huge problem and there are some attempts (in my opinion, not enough) to deal with it. Review audits, for example, will lock some people out of the approval system if they just mash the Approve button without looking at all.

The second is that you can @ an editor. You won't get autocomplete, so it might not feel like it's working, but it's working. So in addition to rolling back the edit and explaining yourself in the edit comment, leave an @ comment for the person who submitted the edit saying that you have rolled back and why. There is a chance you will make this person a better editor by doing this. The robo approvers are a different story, but if you ignore them and go to the source (a bad suggested edit that should have been declined) you have a chance to improve site quality.


If you think there's no doubt at all that the edit was wrong, just revert it immediately. If you're 90% sure you could ask on Chat for a second opinion, if you're 50% sure then starting a discussion in Meta would be appropriate.

These things happen all the time, and it's not that big a deal. Sometimes at first glance it looks like the edits really are faithful to the original, and we should expect a few bad edits to be approved.

The real problem is reviewers who never reject any edits, always vote to keep questions open etc. The reviwer stats in the edit review page show you how the reviewers have reviewed in the past. If you see someone with 100 approvals and 5 or less rejections, then that looks bad. As reviews are public you can check on their activity page to see if they have been approving obviously bad edits. And if you find someone like that, you should report them to a mod. There are many unconstructive behaviours on this site, like users who don't vote or only answer in the comments, but unlike those, approving bad edits has clear and definite negative effects. I'm not sure exactly what process the mods would take with such a user, but I believe that bans would not be off the table.

  • 3
    There can be no 50% sure if an edit has been appropriately approved of or not. I am not speaking about whether there should be a semi colon, a break, or bullet points instead of a numbered list etc. , these are aesthetical. I'm speaking about when I see an edit that shouldn't have been passed through. Bad edits done in good faith but which "two users" have approved. My dilemma is whether I should just go straight ahead with repairing the damage, do only a rollback, or flag the post for the mods' attention.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 5:25
  • 1
    @Mari-LouA Sometimes there are edits that are very hard to judge - usually when the original is very hard to understand. When it's clear, just roll it back. Get the mods' attention if others disagree with you, or if you find a repeat offender. Commented May 1, 2015 at 5:27
  • It shouldn't be hard to understand if an edit improves legibility and appearance or distorts the original intention of the OP. I would say in the case of "The Review Queue II: This Time It's Personal" that was an understandable slip up, an error that anyone (who didn't know Robusto's history and calibre) could have made. In a similar situation, if I suspected a mistake had been made, I would have left a comment double-checking that the edit was welcomed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 5:40
  • My concern lies with newcomers those who ask their questions and flee, those who are too timid/shy/insecure to do anything; who DON'T realize that their question has been made invalid etc.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 5:40
  • Mods can issue bans against suggesting edits, and to accessing the review queue. They are likely only to be used for sustained damage, and almost certainly time-limited. Except in the most egregious cases, there would surely be a mod-message warning first.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 0:32

I have only recently begun taking review tasks seriously as a responsibility that comes with being a fairly high-scoring participant at this site—prompted in large part by tchrist's inspiring Meta post, How can we encourage more folks to edit?

I came to EL&U from a background in copyediting, so I have a fairly strong sense of how to improve questions and answers while remaining true to the intent of the poster. But what I don't have is a shared standard regarding what constitutes a legitimate question or answer; and in the absence of that, I apply my own standard, which appears to be considerably broader than the standard some other users have. I hope that my judgment hasn't led me to endorse bad edits of the type that Mari-Lou A rightly denounces in her question, but it has led me to try to upgrade and preserve certain questions and answers that others might prefer to see rejected out of hand.

In the brief time that I've been vetting suggested edits, I've seen many instances where the editor simply grafts an unrelated opinion onto an exiting post, or makes alterations that are irrelevant to the quality and clarity of the original post. These I vote to reject. On the other hand, I've seen enough positive editing efforts in the queue to conclude that such contributions are probably, on balance, beneficial to the site. The key to making the system work is for the people doing the reviewing to take their job seriously and not to give glazed-eyed approval to everything they see.

I am leery, however, of the idea of punishing "bad" reviewers—particularly reviewers of first posts, late posts, and possible low-quality posts. Because our standards vary so much from person to person, and because those standards reflect differing views as to the types of questions that should be welcomed (or tolerated) at EL&U, I think that threatening reviewers with punishment for being insufficiently discriminating in their approvals is problematic and potentially counterproductive.

It might make more sense for a moderator who perceives a problem with a reviewer's laxity to send the reviewer a tactful note suggesting that he or she consider either adopting a more stringent approach or leave reviewing the queues to other users. After all, I imagine, people participate in such review tasks mainly out of a sense of public-spiritedness, and not from a desire to gain a handful of obscure badges. I know that if a moderator were to tell me that my standards were so much at odds with those of the reviewing majority that they would prefer that I stop "helping" with review tasks, I would readily comply and go back to focusing on the more enjoyable tasks of asking and answering questions.

If we assume that reviewers (and editors) are participating in a spirit of good will, we can help each other contribute to EL&U in positive ways, and avoid needless conflict and hard feelings.


I think this is the most grievous sin anyone can commit on a board like this one: to "edit" someone's question or answer into meaninglessness or worse.

See this answer I gave a few years ago, and especially look at the edit trail, and the comments below. Some helpful soul decided that what I said was 180° opposite from what he thought I should have said. And apparently some other individuals decided he was right. So he, and they, changed my answer into nonsense.


  • I've actually included a link in the post concerning that episode. And I left a comment below curiousdanii's answer.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 17:21
  • @Mari-LouA: Hah, I didn't even remember posting on Meta about that edit. Must be getting old.
    – Robusto
    Commented May 12, 2015 at 17:33

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