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What is the most appropriate way to proceed if you think that a question or an answer that you did not write yourself probably needs to be edited?

E.g., something trivial to the experts and the experienced, but which a novice might not necessarily spot her-/himself. E.g., within a piece of code insertion of a forgotten \endcsname or \fi or closing brace or the like.

Should one just make the edit? Should one not make the edit but draw the author's attention towards it via a comment and wait until the author takes action her-/himself, and then delete the obsolete comment?


I don't feel good when a post written by someone else also has my name listed in a big way under "edited by...", even though my edit can't be seen as a significant contribution.


Is there something like an "editing policy" or a code of conduct for editing other than not doing trivial edits and not doing edits that distort the gist of an answer?

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    If it's something that I think the OP has just overlooked, I will usually leave a comment suggesting that they make the correction. If it's something fairly trivial, like unformatted code, I will make the update, but usually leave a comment saying that I have done so. Of course, the edit reason should be accurate, but not everyone will read those. Feb 22 at 20:23
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    In the related discussion meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/416114/… the argument is made that people don't learn to write better answers if other people edit them. I don't fully agree with that sentiment because it goes against the principle that SE is collaboratively edited to make the overall end result better. However, if someone posts an answer that doesn't work because there is a \fi missing I do think they should be made aware that answers are supposed to be correct and tested.
    – Marijn
    Feb 25 at 7:45
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    The making aware part should not be with an edit but with a comment, to force/encourage them to improve the answer themselves (and then delete the comment afterwards not to 'shame' the user after the improvement has been made).
    – Marijn
    Feb 25 at 7:46

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I think the first approach to problems you find with answers should always be through comments. This is especially true if the answer is active/new, and it's likely that the poster will see the comment.

Although the SE model is designed to encourage collaborative editing, posting comments is a much more collaborative act, IMO, and it shows more of a sense of community than just jumping in and editing a post.

Of course on older answers, commenting is less likely to work unless you know that the poster is generally active on the site. In such cases it's probably fine to edit without commenting first. Even in that case, I don't think it's a bad idea to add a comment explaining what you did (independent of the edit history comment.)

I think that editing the actual code of an answer is much more the kind of edit that should warrant commenting first than, e.g. simply correcting typos/English, or applying code formatting, which I do fairly routinely without commenting. But since code is usually the core of any answer, I think it should be up to the poster to fix it, even if the fix is relatively minor.

The system also already has a method for truly collaborative answers: the Community Wiki status. These types of answers are designed to be freely edited and I don't think that commenting first in that case is necessary.

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