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Sometimes one can find a question or an answer containing a lot of typos and/or grammar errors: is it ok to proceed in correcting them (at the best of one's knowledge) or is it better to leave a comment to the author and suggest them to correct the post?

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2 Answers 2

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Yes, that's absolutely fine and encouraged. Edits to fix grammar and typos help the entire community. From our editing help article:

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)

(The list continues but these are the important bits here.)

Fixing mistakes in the post is great! By doing so you also help make the post clearer and more legible. You may also rephrase in the process if it assists with clarity; some edits I've done have considerably restructured the post.

The times I'll leave a comment instead of fixing an error myself are mainly those times I'm not sure how to fix it: part of a sentence is semantically meaningless or can mean several different things. I'll improve what I can, then draw the author's attention to that bit and ask them to clarify for us.

If they're having trouble communicating with us, for example if their English skill is limited and they probably won't be able to fix the sentence themselves, I might ask a pointed question or two in my comment that will resolve the ambiguity for me and then edit the post to resolve that error I left.

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As long as you don't fix factual errors and tone

I wholeheartedly agree with doppelgreener, fix away what makes the answer more readable.

But don't alter the following to preserve the integrity of the answer:

  • Choice of examples
  • Conclusions

Bad examples that just don't work or wrong conclusions are the substance of the post, which is changing the meaning. If the question would require listing some examples of different types of pants, and the examples are all examples of the same type of plant (like, all of them are tomatos), then changing the examples is changing the substance.

A bad example might be fixed, but if that would mean you rewrite the whole answer: Instead, write a better answer and vote!

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't agree with this list: we can change choice of metaphors and examples if it makes the question clearer; there's nothing about these that make them off-limits for editing. Some metaphors are just bad & could be replaced with clearer ones or could be removed altogether when they interfere with reader understanding. Sometimes someone expresses their question or point quite well, but they chose a bad example to represent it, and we can replace the example to help them communicate the same point. We can do those things while respecting the integrity of the answer and the author's wishes. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 11:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ “Don't change the conclusions of the post” however is quite reasonable; if we change the conclusions, we're changing the meaning of the post, and that's something to avoid. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 11:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, I feel like I should downvote this answer because we should fix bad examples and metaphors as long as we keep integrity. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Apr 11 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener Changing examples is bad because it destroys the integrity. If my list of "BBEG" is The Emperor, Tiamat and Darkseid, it is not an improvement to add Sauron and Xerxes to the list. I see your point on the metaphors and removed them. However, BAD examples are better served by making a better alternative answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 11 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Akixkisu Examples should be kept: what you consider a better example might be not a good fit at all. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 11 at 14:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Trish "choice of examples" also means things like: someone tries to provide an example scenario to demonstrate how something works, but they choose an overly complex scenario or one that doesn't actually demonstrate the point very cleanly; we can substitute it with a different example scenario to show how the thing works. This is a thing we have done in the past. That's a thing that is an example, that is being replaced, that does not change the meaning of the post in doing so—it's clearing up communication. This isn't forbidden! \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 14:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you mean that when changing an example changes the meaning of the post, we shouldn't make that change. Which is fair to assert, but the core issue there is the meaning, not the examples themselves. And this isn't even a question about changing examples; it's about fixing grammar and typos. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 14:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I had someone add totally superflous examples to an answer where I had chosen my examples of CE people very carefully. Such lists are off limits to be added or changed, that is what I try to point to. Oh, I rolled that silly addition back... but it bugs me just like people altering citation style. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 11 at 15:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish I think that might be bringing in baggage here where it doesn't relate, & where it would be harmful to establish "you can't change examples, ever" because we should be able to do that because it's good to be able to that. (And it didn't work out for you that one time but you resolved it already.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 15:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Re the new title, “As long as you don't fix factual errors and tone”, I want to raise that we do in fact sometimes fix factual errors, because we may want to help someone's post succeed that's already mostly there and help ensure our answers are accurate, and do edit tone (when it's an improvement to do so). Why are you asserting we don't or can't? Since when and on what basis? \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 16:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ If the answer is written in a snarky way, who are you to remove the snarkiness? If the post violates "be nice", that is not grounds to fix it but to delete it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Apr 11 at 16:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Trish Who I am is a content curator with an edit privilege resolving an issue with an answer that I feel is otherwise valid and useful. If it's bad enough I'll report it instead; I may even edit and flag for moderator attention if I consider that an appropriate way to handle the situation. But sometimes a poor choice of tone is not a violation of "be nice". (And in response to the flag, the diamond moderators will sometimes edit for tone rather than removal—and have done so many times.) \$\endgroup\$ Apr 11 at 17:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Semi-related Q&As about how to handle questions that have factual inaccuracies (or are based on incorrect ideas): How do we handle it when the asker's problem is just that they're confused?, I was told to not correct misconceptions in the question comments, what should I do instead?. A question has some facts majorly wrong: should I be correcting them in comments or an answer? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast StaffMod
    Apr 11 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that this answer goes a little bit out of scope: I was asking about the writings (typos, verbs conjugation, false assonances e.g. it's -> its, et cetera), not about contents. \$\endgroup\$
    – Eddymage
    Apr 12 at 7:18

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