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While we inherit most of our editing conventions from the Stack Exchange (SE) network. I feel it is important to rephrase them here, and possible specify some extra guidelines specific to our site.

Almost anyone can do suggested edits, but these will need to be peer reviewed first. The guidelines you receive once you have editing privileges (1000 rep) mention the following (emphasis mine):

When should I edit posts?

Any time you feel you can make the post better, and are inclined to do so. Editing is encouraged!

Some common reasons to edit are:

to fix grammatical or spelling mistakes to clarify the meaning of a post without changing it to correct minor mistakes or add addendums / updates as the post ages to add related resources or hyperlinks Try to make the post substantively better when you edit, not just change a single character. Tiny, trivial edits are discouraged.

What happens when I edit a post?

The post will be updated to show the latest editor, as well as the original author. All edits are saved and tracked in a revision history with attribution to each editor.

...

Editing a post also bumps the question to the top of the homepage. Too many edits can also force a post into community wiki mode. Make your edits count.

Choosing when to edit isn't always straightforward, so there are plenty of existing discussions on the parent meta site. When your question isn't specific to this site, you can search for/ask it there.

I'd like to point out one important resource on editing: In Defense of Editing, written by Jeff Atwood.

  1. If you are going to edit a post, make sure you’re substantively improving it. Avoid making isolated, trivial edits, as they are the source of much friction.

  2. Be diplomatic in your edit-related comments. Explain that the spirit of SO is collaborative editing, and you’re only trying to make substantive improvements (see rule #1). Above all, be nice. If there’s any resistance — even unwarranted and unjustifiable resistance — just let go and move on.

These are some of the guidelines which have already been established and which we should follow on this site as well. Feel free to leave any additional site specific issues/examples/remarks as an answer.

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    If you take anything out of this, please make it the following: "When you edit ... please edit the entire post." – Steven Jeuris Feb 11 '12 at 16:47
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    Always be editing – Ben Brocka May 15 '12 at 15:33
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As someone who makes a lot of edits, I'll share the general rules that guide my edits.

Editing questions

I see editing questions as a really important part in site improvement. Almost all my edits are on questions. There are many reasons for this:

  • Votes sort out whether an answer goes to the top, but a question will always be at the top.
  • Many questions are asked by users new to the site who don't know all the theory of Stack Overflow of asking good questions. They also often aren't concerned about the broader goals of creating an Inteernet artefact that is readily consumable in the future.

I make many edits to questions, some of these include:

  • Ensure that the title captures the essence of the question in a concise and accurate way. Question titles are really important for search and for interconnectivity on the site; the title should make clear what the question is about.
  • Make sure that it is easy to identify the actual question. E.g., put question text in bold; for questions with a massive build up, add headers flagging background content and the actual question.
  • Fix spelling mistakes, grammatical errors,
  • remove words like "many thanks" or the person's name
  • Remove superfluous introductions.
  • Rephrase a statement as a question
  • Retag

I'm always mindful of maintaining the original intent of the person asking the question. If I'm at all concerned, I'll often make a note in my edit along the lines of "feel free to edit if I have misconstrued". If I'm worried that an edit has changed the meaning or scope of the question, and there are existing answers, I'll add a comment.

Editing answers

  • Occasionally I'll add a few references, fix up a typo, or if I've found the PDFs for some references, I'll add these.
  • Some answers are framed either explicitly or implicitly as open to editing; e.g., an answer is designated to be an approximate policy on meta (at least that's how I interpreted this one about references) then it makes sense to edit that; or occasionally the person asking the question, invites additional input

But ultimately, I'm happy for the voting mechanism to sort out what makes a good answer.

Update - some thoughts on whether to make minor edits

Both Stephen and Josh have raised the topic of ensuring edits are substantive rather than minor.

The two major concerns with minor edits seem to be (1) inappropriate bumping and, (2) the risk of inappropriate conversion to community wiki as a result of too many edits, which presumably means that rep no longer accrues. (The community wiki status can be removed by moderators).

I agree that fixing everything in one big substantive edit is a noble goal when time permits. However, when time does not permit, one needs to decide between making no edits or just making the edits one has time for. The line between trivial and substantive is also open to interpretation.

With regards to editing causing a question bump, this is only relevant to questions that are not already at the top of the queue. Thus, editing has minimal effect on the exposure of new questions as they are already at the top of the queue. In my experience, a lot of the edits I make are to questions shortly after they have been posted.

I see the issue with community wiki conversion as a little more problematic. However, (as I understand it) it does take five separate people to edit a question. I don't think this happens too frequently. Also, if someone is unhappy that a question has been inappropriately converted to community wiki, they should feel free to flag the question to moderators to conversion back to non-community-wiki.

Thus, the above two points argue that the negative consequences of edits are actually pretty minor.

The main point about edits that I would make is that editing questions is a behaviour that is not especially rewarded by the site, but which can dramatically improve the quality of the Internet artefacts that the site generates. A good title allows people clicking links on the site, or following google searches to know whether the link is relevant before even reading the article. A good retag improves the interconnected nature of the site's questions. Clarifying the question helps readers see at a glance what the question is actually asking. If anything I would encourage skilled users of the site that are familiar with the conventions of good question writing to tactfully edit and improve questions, particularly as they are posted.

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    +1 but one important point to mention: When editing, check all of these things, don't just fix the title and then ignore the body, for example. – Josh Feb 12 '12 at 14:18
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    There's at least two more concerns I have with minor edits: 3. If the user lacks the rep to edit, and is suggesting an edit, they block others from fixing the problems they miss. 4. When others see a post has been edited they may assume "oh, xyz user edited this post, I don't need to", giving a sort of false sense of security. "If it's edited, it must be okay now". Granted, not everyone thinks that but I am sure some people assume if it's been edited, it doesn't need more editing. – Josh Feb 15 '12 at 22:08
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    However, when time does not permit, one needs to decide between making no edits or just making the edits one has time for I'd suggest, if you don't have time to edit and fix all the tings, don't edit. Flag for attention and ask a mod to clean up. Sort of a "do it right or don't do it at all" mentality. But others are free to disagree with me! – Josh Feb 15 '12 at 22:10

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