In July, I answered a post about a comma (Using "which" without a comma) The user accepted my answer and the question disappeared.

Last night, edits to the question change the tone of this post, and also "built in" an answer which makes my answer look wrong. Right after that, I got 3 downvotes in a row based on sudden interest in the post (after it lay dormant for months.). Maybe my answer was wrong. The OP didn't think so.

The original question had this line "Word always complains, seeing it as a restrictive clause and demands a comma..."

The edit changed this to "Seeing it as a relative clause I'd like to know..."

The OP doesn't see it as a relative clause. Word sees it that way and Bob was asking if that is correct.

We need clear guidelines for editing. In my opinion, posts should not be edited to remove a person's local dialect / personality, add what you think they mean, or make it less "suggestive" or more "moralistic". If the OP drops the F bomb or uses other such language, in my opinion that's an editorial decision for the Mods. If the OP ends a post by saying "Thanks a bunch." I will leave it alone...Bob is a patent attorney and doesn't need me to tell him how to speak or that "Thanks a bunch" is improper for this website.

To conclude, this website is about asking questions and giving answers and is done so in the spirit of democracy. This means that there will be some good answers and some "not so good answers." I have posted my share of not-so-good answers (from my own 20/20 point of view and the view of others who gave me downvotes.) We vote on those and the voting should be a fair, and like any democratic situation the votes can only be as good as the voting pool (and in my opinion we have some pretty strong voters here!).

  • 1
    In defense of Rathony's edit of just this one question, it looks radical but for the most part is only modifies the layout and well within ELU standards (removing salutations is encouraged). The only substantive change in content was removing 'Word'.
    – Mitch
    Jan 2, 2016 at 14:17
  • @Mitch so in your opinion his edits did nothing to change the question? Jan 2, 2016 at 14:27
  • @Mitch I'm fine with editing but not to go and change a question or someone's answer so that it fits Rathony's ideas of right and wrong. Edits should clean things up and correct typos. Someone else complained about his edits on another recent MetaPost. Jan 2, 2016 at 14:42
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    Re "did nothing to change the question" - most entirely yes. I think, for that particular question, it would be charitable to presume it was a mistake to remove 'Word' rather than intentional. But I can see how there are other issues.
    – Mitch
    Jan 2, 2016 at 15:01

3 Answers 3


I concur. The information about Microsoft Word's grammar checker is important and I have restored that. It provides the information about where the premise for the question actually lies and what the OP is asking about. It's not his long-standing view; it's a view presented by Microsoft's software. While the omission of that information doesn't change the meaning, it does change the premise and it does remove the potential for an answer which states that Word has it wrong and the user's implied understanding is actually correct.

For the rest of the edit: the quote formatting is helpful; the removal of chatty meta-information is justified; the other changes were not important enough to make, in my opinion, but equally they are not worth undoing.

However, all of that said, the questioner should not have asked two questions in the first place.


Per the help center, you should edit a post:

  • To fix grammar and spelling mistakes
  • To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
  • To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place
  • To correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages
  • To add related resources or hyperlinks

Although it's debatable how much "clarification" one can do without changing meaning, I think any attempt at "major surgery" is going beyond what the privilege is intended for. Especially when the post is months old and already has an accepted answer.

If you feel the edits changed the meaning, you're always free to revert it or flag it for a mod's attention.

That aside, I voted to close this question in particular because it lacks basic research and is easily Google-able.

  • Lynn, thank you for responding. It is my hope with this post that we can get some consensus on editing because in my opinion, this person went too far and has done this before and clearly has an intention not in keeping with the free expression of this website. Jan 2, 2016 at 3:13
  • 1
    @michael_timofeev - I defer to the mods to figure out if there's an inappropriate pattern of behavior or an honest mistake. My intention was merely to show that guidance for editing already exists. FWIW, I never edit posts except to change obvious grammar/formatting issues out of respect of he OP's work and concern for inadvertently changing meaning. But that's just me.
    – Lynn
    Jan 2, 2016 at 3:16
  • Major surgery is the word that I used to emphasize the fact that the question lacks quality and it is substandard beyond repair. I checked it again and I don't think I violated any of the guidelines you posted in your answer. If you find anything in my edit, please let me know.
    – user140086
    Jan 2, 2016 at 3:56
  • @Rathony - I concur with Andrew Leach's answer. The edits maybe went a teensy bit overboard but certainly nothing egregious. That said, I agree with your summation that the question was irredeemably bad and think it should just have been closed rather than edited or answered.
    – Lynn
    Jan 2, 2016 at 22:11
  1. I believe Edwin Ashworth left the comment, This is not a suitable question for EL&U. Questions like this should be close voted, not answered. The same applies to the question that I edited. The question I linked is very basic and substandard. It is just an elementary grammar question that had been asked many times in EL&U and repeatedly closed-voted as duplicate or lack of research. See how many past past perfect question have been closed. Take a look at how many questions have been asked in ELL. I think it makes most sense to vote to close or at least propose a duplicate, rather than answering the question.

  2. If any question is off-topic with many errors mainly in formatting, I think it is best to edit it on a best-effort basis. This site is not for showing personality and style in one's question.

  3. The guideline is to delete thank you message in any question when editing.

    Should 'Hi', 'thanks,' taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?.

    What should I keep out of my posts and titles?

    Why are edits removing “Thanks in advance” sometimes rejected?

Conclusion: I have just reviewed my edit and I don't see any problem with it. I don't think I changed any meaning of the question. If you think there are mistakes in my edit, please edit it yourself and read this. Why are some users with 10k+ rep allowing minor, and I mean, very minor edits to pass through?. @MrHen ranks from not minor to minor as follows:

  • Replacing a generic title with a specific title
  • Tag changes
  • Adding content from a linked website
  • Removing unnecessary images
  • Replacing long link URLs with a proper link
  • Major reformatting or grammar changes that improve readability
  • Major rewording that improves readability and unequivocally does not alter meaning
  • Fixing malformed markdown
  • Removing greetings and thanks
  • Fixing quotes, highlights or other minor formatting
  • Fixing spelling errors or minor grammar errors
  • Whitespace (really?)

The bold above is what I did to the post. There is absolutely no change in any meaning in my edit.

  • 3
    It's none of your business to tell someone their question is horrible. And you purposely changed the meaning of the question. Your behavior on this website is shameful...you know darn well what you are doing. By simple logic, if you felt the question should be closed you wouldn't have wasted time to edit it. But you are editing the posts to get points and badges. I'll say it again if you don;t get it it; if you felt the question should be closed then there was no need to spend time editing it. Jan 2, 2016 at 3:22
  • @michael_timofeev You are wrong again. The questions posted here represent the community. Is leaving the question without editing it better than editing it? I am at a loss.
    – user140086
    Jan 2, 2016 at 3:25
  • @michael_timofeev I don't think you are the one to say that, either. You don't have the right to use "shameful". I don't think you understand my points. If a new user had posted an answer without editing it, it could have been understandable. When did I say it is my community? You are the one who doesn't understand the norms and rules/guidelines of this community. What is your opinion on that?
    – user140086
    Jan 2, 2016 at 3:39

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