In recent discussions, the subject of how to moderate questions have been brought and we seem to be progressing on committing our own policy of participation in a helpful text.

In these discussions, it has been pointed out a few practices of editing question, but I'm a little uncertain what is our stance here.

On one hand, I've seen questions here been radically edited by other parties. On the other, this seems to go beyond what I thought was a general S.E. etiquete.

I can see the appeal of regarding questions in a more of a "wiki" attitude, where questions have not really "owners", and the community has more freedom to improve it. But I'm concerned that if we go in that direction beyond the etiquette mentioned above, changing the meaning of a question is problematic (even if the option to roll back is always available).

My questions are then:

  • Are moderators/users free to edit another's question as they see fit?

if not..

  • Are moderators/users free to reformulate (and thus change the meaning of a Q) of old, unanswered questions (from another user and without his/her consent)?

  • Are moderators/users free to reformulate (and thus change the meaning of) questions with negative score and questions on hold where the author refuses or simply do not respond to reviews made in comments?

2 Answers 2


I read through the S.E. etiquete link and for sure we shouldn't be trying to change the meanings of any questions. I've revised the New User Welcome. Does it sound clearer now?

(If someone felt inclined to edit a question so much as to change the meaning; they should probably post a new question with that meaning themselves!)

  • I like it... :)
    – user382
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 21:26
  • Thanks @ThiagoSilva for pointing out this issue. We might have ended up with some unnecessarily aggressive editing without clarification. I think early on, newer users receive points for editing too; so it's good to be clear about what's too much.
    – Robin111
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 17:32

Editing someone else's question is feasible but difficult. For example, someone commented,

What I've seen on this Q&A forum is "Soviet Union" system with a lot of bossy people there! You write something and a million people edit your post as they want... What if i do not like their help?! I have a feeling that [...] bossy people have been trying to control everything!

How can you edit someone's question without causing offence?

The Stack Exchange Help page says quite clearly that collaborative editing is expected.

Why can people edit my posts? How does editing work?

All contributions are licensed under Creative Commons, and this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, click edit!

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

When should I edit posts?

Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to suggest an edit, you are welcome to do so. The original author of a question or answer may always edit their own post, regardless of reputation level.

Edits are expected to be substantial and to leave the post better than you found it. Common reasons for edits include:

  • 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

Some of these reasons (adding resources) apply more to answers than to questions.

Grammar and spelling

Fixing grammar and spelling is questionable. I would be inclined to do it (to make the edit): because it makes the question easier to read; and because when I am posting in another language, I like it if people improve what I've written; however, some people don't like it if you 'correct their language'; so I don't know what the best balance is.

Currently there is no-one on this site, who makes minor copy-edits to almost every question -- and I'm happy with that.

Looking through my edit history I see I edited this (this one was an answer, though):

he is not a man or woman..The word Buddha doesn't even makes mention of male or female.

... to make it this instead:

He is not a man or woman. The word 'Buddha' doesn't even make mention of male or female.

To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)

I suggest you do this:

  • If the meaning is unclear
  • If you're sure that the meaning is clear to you
  • If it's the OP's meaning that is clear to you
  • And if you can edit it without changing the meaning

In practice, this might mean "almost never edit"! On some other sites it almost doesn't matter what the question is, because what's clear is the technical stuff included in the question, and it's always the attachment to the question that's being questioned. For example, what's being questioned is:

  • The evidence for or against the quote in any question on Skeptics.SE
  • The source code included in any question on CodeReview.SE

On this site it might be quite rare that the meaning is clear to you, unclear to others, and that you can edit it without changing the meaning. For example, look at the edit history of this question:

  1. Original version (closed as off-topic i.e. insufficiently related to Buddhism)
  2. Add an introduction mentioning some Buddhist concepts to explain which concepts the question might be asking about
  3. Deletes the paragraph after that introduction: i.e. deletes the original question!
  4. Spelling and punctuation
  5. Rewrite to try to preserve the meaning of the OP's original question

Changing the meaning is more likely to annoy the OP than just changing the grammar. Worse, changing the meaning will prevent them from getting an answer to whatever the specific question is they want to ask.

To include additional information only found in comments

Yes, this is usually good or helpful:

  1. Someone posts a question
  2. You post a comment to ask for some clarification
  3. The OP posts a comment to reply to your comment (which clarifies the question)
  4. You edit the question so that their question includes their clarification


Not in the above Help's list of edit reason is 'tags'.

Please see What are tags, and how should I use them?

I suggest that few people know how to use tags and/or what tags are in use on this site; that editing the list of tags hardly changes the meaning of the question; and that users who are interested in tags (and willing to discuss the tags being used, on meta or in chat) should feel free to edit/improve the tags associated with a question.

Are moderators/users free to reformulate (and thus change the meaning of) ...

I'd suggest no: never, or almost never.

Never edit a question so that it's no longer the question which the OP wanted to ask.

If you want to ask a different question then you can post that, as a new question instead (but meta-topics like this and this warn we shouldn't ask new questions which people nobody really wants an answer to). If you do that then you could also post a comment under the OP's question:

I posted This Other Question that's similar to yours.

Some related topics include:

  • Welcoming people to the site
  • Editing their posts without annoying them
  • Engaging people using comments (and on meta), asking them (again without annoying them) to help clarify their own questions if that's possible.

In conclusion I suggest it depends on how skillfully you do it (and that 'skill' is determined by the OP who asked the question); for example:

  • If you have edited in the past and if OPs tend to accept your edits and even thank you, then maybe you're good at it: please do it again when necessary.
  • Conversely if you noticed that your editing causes problems then it may be better to refrain.
  • Meta is for having discussions. Please comment or post a 'competing' answer if you disagree with this in any way.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 11:59
  • You bring up good points about finding a balance regarding editing. For example an over eager editor might "fix" the spelling of colour to color. Not necessary. ;-) Hopefully the revised version of the New Users Welcome will relay the basic concept that editing should be on the minor side (but not nitpicky) and never change the original poster's message. Maybe we should link the buddhism.stackexchange.com/help/editing page into it for clarity?
    – Robin111
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 17:28
  • If you want to; or link to meta.buddhism.stackexchange.com/q/1524/254 ... and there's a faq meta-tag that's not presently applied to any meta-topic but which could be in future.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 18:13
  • Yes, well, finding a balance: but I'm not sure where that balance is, in the abstract. In the above I have IMO inclined towards not editing. Does it incline too far?
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 18:16
  • Yes, there are times when editing is definitely needed. For example here buddhism.stackexchange.com/posts/5370/revisions
    – Robin111
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 18:18
  • 1
    That's a good example of a good edit: its original meaning wasn't wholly clear, to me for example, but yuttadhammo clarified what was asked (and didn't change what was asked). It would be one of the (perhaps rare) exceptions to my "almost never edit" suggestion.
    – ChrisW Mod
    Commented May 2, 2015 at 18:25

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