From time to time when reviewing questions I stumble upon posts that are terribly formatted. Here is a good recent example (note the screenshot with almost invisible text): transformation retransformation von Estimates

Poorly formatted questions usually use screenshots where text would be better, or they just paste some formulas or tables without formatting, etc.

My question is - what are reviewers expected to do in such situations? Should I downvote, leave a comment about formatting, vote to close, or try to transcribe the text from the screenshot (some nice souls do this, but ...)?

  • $\begingroup$ A short reply is that it all depends. Sometimes a little work by yourself is enough while at the other extreme a question is such an awful mess that the OP needs to work at cleaning it up, or else the question is just not suitable for CV. On downvoting the issue is longstanding; some lean towards extreme gentleness to anyone new in particular, while others want to send a strong signal that a very poorly presented question is no use to anyone, including the OP, given that an answer is unlikely. CV is not a help line; it is intended to be an archive of good questions and good answers. $\endgroup$
    – Nick Cox
    Jan 8, 2022 at 12:37
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thank you @NickCox - the question you suggested as duplicate had all the answers and more. $\endgroup$ Jan 9, 2022 at 8:53

1 Answer 1


I think it depends on how egregious the poor formatting is. In this particular case, I would probably leave a comment to the OP asking them to first paste the output into a text editor and then copy-paste that into a code block instead of the image, for the reasons you describe. If a reasonable amount of time passes without an update, I personally would leave this one, as despite being poor, I think it's readable, but it all depends on how bad the formatting is in the eyes of the reviewer. For example, someone pasting as text the result of a PDF should be closed/deleted pretty much right away as it is not salvageable.


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