I've noticed some users with editing privileges make a lot of edits that are either unnecessary or go beyond what is outlined in the Help Center. (Sometimes I think it wouldn't hurt to either raise the bar higher than 2,000 Reputation or require at least one other high-rep user to approve a change.)

They are edits that don't objectively improve the answer and instead conform an answer to one's personal stylistic preferences. An example would be changing an ampersand to the word, "and." Another example may be changing a suggested word in italics to bold.

I am not talking about stylistic edits that are done in addition to fixing a typo, embedding a quote in a quote box, or some other valid reason to edit. I am referring to lone trivial edits.

Because they have not been informed that these edits are unproductive, these edits may proliferate.

  • Stack Exchange does not have a personal messaging system.

  • If I simply write the @ sign, as in @User123, will the user be notified? I think the answer is "No."

  • If I comment on the edited question or answer, the editor won't be notified because the editor is not the original author.

So, if I wanted to start a dialogue with a user about their editing MO, or get their attention directly via notification, is there a way to do so?

  • 3
    As an aside, the question you link to about italics is about use-mention, not emphasis. Italics are preferred for "word as a word"; and for that reason I for one prefer to use bold for emphasis.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:47
  • Good to know. So is it worth editing a post only to change a word from italics to bold?
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 9:48
  • 3
    You can communicate with an "editor" in two ways, the first and probably the easiest is using the @ I've tried it in the past and the user is notified. But whether they reply is up to them. Another way is chat, but some users may be hesitant to enter into such an arena, it's worth noting that you can open a separate room but no conversation is private. A feature which I personally disagree with for variant reasons.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 10:03
  • That user has many questionable edits. But not many obviously wrong ones. They have enough rep that they no longer get rep from suggested edits, so they're most likely just trying to help. Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 14:54
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    @curiousdannii I have no doubt the user is trying to help. That doesn't mean the user is helping, however.
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 19:02
  • @Mari-LouA But the @ notification only works if the person being notified posted a comment, an answer, or was the OP of the question. In my case, as the person being notified merely made an edit, if I posted "@NVZ" anywhere on that thread, anywhere in this thread, or in a chatroom, NVZ will not be notified.
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 1:35
  • You have to post your comment in the answer or question that was edited by the user. The identity of the editor is aleays on display until a new edit replaces the previous one. If the user visits chat, why can't he or she be' notified?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 7:55
  • 3
    Upon conducting some tests with @Mari-LouA, we know definitively that the editor is in fact notified if you use the @ tag—even if the user never provided a comment or an answer. So, it seems, in light of the chatroom's non-notification, mentioning the user in a comment on the edited post is the best route!
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 8:37
  • 2
    I checked several of these "questionable" edits, and most of them fall into a few general categories: using bold for emphasis, putting quotes in quote boxes, fixing typos, embedding hyperlinks, fixing capitalizations. All told, they make the overall site look more professional and polished. This all looks like helpful housekeeping to me.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 12:49
  • 1
    Disclaimer: If such edits are indeed "unhelpful," then I may be one of the worst "repeat offenders."
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 12:51
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    @J.R. I don't think these actions (inserting quote boxes, correcting typos, hyperlinks, or capitalizations) are unhelpful. I think editing a post only to change an italicized word to bold is unhelpful.
    – Kyle
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 20:11
  • 2
    @Kyle - I think the body of work as a whole is productive, helpful, and improves the site. And I wouldn't characterize an italics-to-bold conversion as "unhelpful," just maybe as more trivial than some of the other edits.
    – J.R.
    Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 20:59
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    Kyle, @Mari-LouA This faq on the main Meta explains who is notified. In particular it is notified "Any user who has edited the post (does not include pending or rejected edit suggestions)". Commented Mar 12, 2016 at 21:30
  • 2
    The main thrust of this question: How do I contact an editor? seems to be obscured by the focus on a particular edit and whether it was helpful or not. Commented May 13, 2016 at 15:38
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    Gratuitous means "done without good reason". And by discussing in particular about my edits, you imply mine are gratuitous? I intended to help speed-readers identify the single-word-answers out of the blocks of texts, which IMO is a good reason.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 17:47

3 Answers 3


Massimo Ortolano posted this link in the comments, which provides details about how the @replies operate:

How do comment @replies work?

The best practice is to comment on the edited post and use the @ reply to ping the editor, who will be pinged even if the editor has not left any comments or answers.


Chanced upon this meta now. Surprised to see that it mentions me. Here's the thing. Mostly,

I'm a speed reader.

Otherwise, I have a mind like a sieve.

When there are multiple answers to a question, each with many suggested words and lengthy explanation, I can't help but fail to peruse them.

Big or bold words catch my attention while italics don't. So, in my own posts I follow a style accordingly, a style where the suggested words are highlighted and the explanation is hidden in plain sight. (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)

Back then, my edits on others' posts were aimed at helping those other speed-readers, knowing that the respective owners can simply roll back my edits if they wanted to.

It's my bad when I edit others' posts to reflect my style. I have made my fair share of mistakes. Forgive the old me. Trust the new me because I've learnt tons over these months.

  • 3
    It's odd to see a downvote on an apology. What gives?
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 13, 2016 at 14:54
  • After the question got edited, my answer has become obsolete. But I welcome the edit.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 11:26

The problem here is that too many users are 'editing' simply to bring somebody else's post into line with their own personal preferences. In short, they are editing for style rather than content. I too have had posts 'edited' for petty stuff like changing italics to bold, or changing the way I post a link, and to be totally honest with me it irritates the hell out of me! Sure, as Rathony says, it can be rolled back but it still leaves a bad feeling against the petty editor.

What is needed is some guidelines for editing, as generally speaking editors (meaning professionals) edit out errors, reformat to a house style if such a thing exists, but actively avoid editing for their own preferences. While an editor may prefer to see December 20th, they will not 'correct' 20th December unless there is a house style guide saying "dates should be written as December 20th" I am sure the petty editors in ELU think they are being helpful, so they need educating and an editing guide/style guide would be helpful in that. I agree with Kyle's grievance, butI don't agree that contacting the petty editor is a good way to do it - that looks like a recipe for an argument to me. A set of guidelines is less personal.

Alternatives... raise the rep required for editing. Or do the reverse - high rep brings immunity to editing, except maybe for editing by mods.

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