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I originally posted these as answers to the recent question on style guides for questions but realized it was addressing a separate issue.

So what rules should we follow for editing other individuals content? Hopefully the answers we give here will also be helpful in guiding how individuals write responses to begin with. Also I think it would be helpful as no one has hurt feelings over a moderators edits to their question.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks to ars recent question,meta.stats.stackexchange.com/q/601/1036 , I found this question that addresses this same issue on Meta Stack Overflow meta.stackexchange.com/q/11474/150339 $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 31 '10 at 2:55
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    $\begingroup$ The general rule for it is in SE sites about -- this is also a Wiki. So, the editing is crucial so the content can be easily accessible, understandable and formated well enough not to burn some more sensitive eyes. And about hurting -- there is a visible warning in FAQ. $\endgroup$ – user88 Nov 1 '10 at 22:07
  • $\begingroup$ Voting to close in favour of a recent thread with several detailed and excellent answers. $\endgroup$ – amoeba says Reinstate Monica Feb 14 '16 at 18:36
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Anyone who can edit questions can fix spelling and punctuation mistakes immediately.

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    $\begingroup$ "Immediately" is rather demanding. Glaring errors in titles are important to correct, because they affect everyone, but otherwise errors in the question itself usually can wait. If I (personally) felt an obligation to search for and correct such errors, I wouldn't usually be able to participate in this site--time is too limited. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 17:46
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    $\begingroup$ I changed instances of "will" to "can" in all of my answers. I don't mean to impose an obligation on anyone. I do think though that we should have community agreement on when, where, what, and how much to edit peoples responses. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 30 '10 at 19:07
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    $\begingroup$ That change helps a lot. Editing should be optional, not mandatory. (Some of your subsequent comments indicate you would agree with this philosophy.) $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 20:41
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Formatting relating to code samples, bulleted lists, indentation, and equations can be edited immediately to display how the editor feels would be most appropriate (or more appropriate than is currently displayed).

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  • $\begingroup$ Why? Sure, in some cases formatting will fix errors that make the question difficult to read (such as lines of code that get run together), but in other cases it may be presumptuous of the editor to suppose that their conception of the formatting and layout actually improves what the OP intended. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 17:47
  • $\begingroup$ This is actually the only answer of mine I would outright agree with. I still have not figured out all of the formatting nuances for responses. I also think this is less presumptuous than editing for grammar or spelling. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 30 '10 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @whuber, I actually just noticed all of the editing you did on one of my questions stats.stackexchange.com/questions/3650/… (I thought all you did was center the formula.) Thank you very much, I will have to start paying much more attention to my responses! $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 30 '10 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ There's no record that I edited the question, but I did edit the response. The motivation was to center a prominent TeX formula but in the process I took the liberty to fix some spelling--both of which were documented in the 'reasons for editing' form. Of course I wouldn't have paid such attention to an answer that didn't have such obvious merit :-). $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ +1 This is especially important with LaTeX; not to mention R comments starting with Markdown's header mark. $\endgroup$ – user88 Nov 1 '10 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ One thing that I've seen on other SE sites is adding appropriate line breaks to code blocks to prevent the horizontal scroll bar. This often adds a boost to readability of a code block. Of course discretion should be used because some languages use white space (like python) $\endgroup$ – Erik Sep 18 '15 at 21:48
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Editors can add hyperlinks immediately as appropriate. If the question relates around a topic that is not ubiquitous, a link to a general description of topic should be provided (such as wikipedia).

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    $\begingroup$ Unique hyperlinks (such as links to cited documents) are fine, but adding generic links, such as to Wikipedia articles, can constitute an appreciable change in meaning and in some cases could be misleading or wrong. I would discourage people from adding any links that do not have obvious and unique targets. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ Do you think we should ask OP's to add links if we did not initially know what topic they were talking about or an unknown acronym? $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 30 '10 at 19:33
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    $\begingroup$ Requests for links are frequently made in such cases. That can also be a gentle way of hinting that the OP will easily find the answer with a quick Internet search. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 20:42
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The site as is fine. If someone thinks a specific instance of editing is inappropriate they can ask a specific question on meta addressing the specific issue.

We expect editors to use discretion wisely and in any circumstance.

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This one may be a little more contentious (and what I'm going to suggest is actually not how it is done now)

For poor grammar the original poster will be asked to clean up their question/answer. If it is not done so within a day editors can take action to clean the question/answers content appropriately.

I personally think we should let the OP's clean their own responses, but I think the actual question listed on the main page should be edited ASAP to be correct both for spelling and for grammar purposes.

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  • $\begingroup$ Minor fixes should be done by users with editing abilities. Re-writing the question/major overhaul of question for grammar/clarity by the OP. $\endgroup$ – svadali Oct 29 '10 at 16:53
  • $\begingroup$ I'll look for some examples, but I remember some questions having been edited more than I am suggesting without simply asking the OP to edit it themselves. While the editors are admirable, I think we should give the original poster an opportunity to edit themselves (as well as not expect the editors to spend time on correcting questions when they should be spending that time giving good answers!) $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 29 '10 at 17:04
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    $\begingroup$ Editing for grammar risks changing meaning. However, in some cases the problems are clearly due to unfamiliarity with English. For those, it may be too much to expect effective editing by the OP. Editors should have the freedom to suggest and even make more significant changes in such cases. $\endgroup$ – whuber Oct 30 '10 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that sometimes it is due to unfamiliarity with English. Often it looks like someone asked a question via text message (lack of punctuation and capitalization). I think in all cases we should allow the OP to make changes themselves, although I don't want to be the spelling police either. Part of the reason I asked this question is because IMO there is more editing going on than is necessary, and I don't want to discourage new posters because their questions are heavily edited at the onset. $\endgroup$ – Andy W Oct 30 '10 at 19:38

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