# Expurgating expletives the right way

I made this part of an answer elsewhere, but I just want to reiterate it independent of all the other, more contentious stuff. This is a response to mistakes I see people making when removing the profanity — both when editing existing SE posts and when writing new quotes that bring up these issues (e.g. quoting text with expletives).

# When modifying quotations, mark your changes

If you're editing direct quotes from other sources, make sure you add the appropriate markings so it's clear the quoted text has been modified! This is just how you comply with basic standards of citation and attribution.

For example:

The rules on page 45 say "Your [stuff] breaks whenever you roll a 1."

Brackets around "stuff" to show that it's my own substitution as opposed to the wording in the source.

Bowdlerizing stuff with underscores and @\$@# or whatever actively hurts readability. If you're adding these, your edit is hurting the content more than it's helping. Find another way. Short of a direct naming issue like "Brainf---," there's absolutely no reason to ever clutter up an answer with ugly masking when you can use substitution or elision to achieve the same result gracefully.

We do not mark edits in text on SE - it's what we have a revision history for. I see your point about actual quotes from other materials, that's a fine suggestion.

Substitution or elision is better - but not requiring replacement in the first place is optimal. If your answer, or another you see, is edited in an inelegant way, improve it.

When editing for profanity, feel free and improve the rest of the post as well.

When a question is bumped due to a profanity edit, feel free to review it and add a new answer, interact with the other parts of the Q&A, etc. - there's no such thing as an obsolete question on SE! Having said that, the majority of the historical cleanup has been completed - we always tried to keep it clean, but over the years some posts slipped through and we weren't searching for it. The small number of posts using offensive expletives have been processed.

• We do and should mark changes we make to text quoted from other sources! This is standard practice among all reputable sources (one of which we're trying to be). It's widely considered to be actively dishonest to present text as a direct quote without signposting any modifications (with ..., [], &c.) – Alex P May 15 '14 at 16:56
• We shouldn't be editing just for profanity. There is no excuse for that. – wax eagle May 15 '14 at 17:01
• Sure there is. It's called our code of conduct. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 15 '14 at 17:03
• @mxyzplk the answers here pretty much sum up how I feel about this: Let's clean up low-quality posts with profanity on Stack Overflow. Point being, if all you're doing is editing for profanity indiscriminately, you shouldn't be editing the post. – wax eagle May 15 '14 at 17:13
• Historical cleanup is done. For new posts, yes, editing out an expletive is an acceptable edit. Your link is to a discussion of historical editing specifically. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 15 '14 at 17:24
• @mxyzplk I'm pointing out that the historical cleanup was done poorly, and should have been allowed to be done naturally. I feel like if we're going to do a historical cleanup like that it should at least be discussed first. If we'd talked about it on meta first you probably could have avoided the last two meta posts – wax eagle May 15 '14 at 17:27
• It wasn't large enough to have a referendum on IMO. It was what, four chunks, a couple dozen posts? I appreciate your feedback, but we don't put all moderation activity to a vote before we do it. If, like the SO example, it was going to need to be a community activity with multiple people working together to do it, sure. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 15 '14 at 17:28
• @mxyzplk Size isn't what's being disputed here, I believe. How big a job it is doesn't have any bearing on the community's thoughts on whether and how to implement the guidance. – SevenSidedDie May 16 '14 at 17:10
• @AlexP - but you're conflating two different principles. If you correct a quote from a source, then of course you mark it. If you're correcting a post, as put forth by an author on RPG.SE, that would mean that every correction to every post should have that same markup. That's just not done here as far as I can see. – Chuck Dee May 16 '14 at 17:23
• @SevenSidedDie sure, we can have a discussion on it. Default is, however, that we don't allow expletives and follow the SE-wide practice as in our help center, per the other question. You're welcome to open one; I don't generally open one every time I'm going to go enforce something clearly documented in our help center. Implementing the process and changing the process are two different things. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 16 '14 at 18:12
• @mxyzplk What I'm getting, reading all this after the excitement has passed, is that something simpler than a referendum is what people actually expected. Something simple, like a post saying, "Hey, I'm doing this over the next week. Just FYI." would take little effort and serve triple-duty as a heads-up, as a place to bring concerns, and as a record of community actions. – SevenSidedDie May 16 '14 at 18:34
• Yes, duly noted, horse beaten enough, moving on. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil May 16 '14 at 18:36
• @mxyzplk More like future horse-beating prevention, I hope. But yes, this instance is done. – SevenSidedDie May 16 '14 at 18:37
• @AlexP - yeah, thanks, I saw that after the fact which was why I deleted my comment :) – Chuck Dee May 16 '14 at 19:32