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I have a few edits. Sometimes I'll see a typo or a small LaTex thing that can be improved, but my rule is I only edit posts that have some value to them. But the problem is that most posts that have value to them, don't need to be edited!

I see people edit obviously awful questions full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, no LaTex, no effort. What is the point of this? The question usually gets put on hold and there are little to no good answers anyway so it's just a waste.

I honestly rarely see any motivation to edit. What is the point of editing? When should I edit? What incentive is there to edit? Either it's a bad post, which should be closed/deleted. Or it's a good one, which usually means no errors.

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    $\begingroup$ There are questions that is full of spelling and grammatical mistakes, no LaTex, no effort, but is interesting (at least to me). Very likely I will edit it, so it is less likely that it is put on hold. $\endgroup$ – user99914 Oct 6 '15 at 7:04
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    $\begingroup$ If you believe in the pedagogical value of this site, then poor formatting on a question is a relatively minor detail, as there is no reason to believe that every user with a good question also knows how to use TeX, let alone the formatting do's-&-don'ts on MSE. Editing a question for formatting helps the answerers to do their job, and also helps the asker by drawing more answerers (some of which are indeed turned off by poor formatting). If the choice is between closing a question for poor formatting (regardless of mathematical or pedagogical merit) or making an edit, I'd choose the latter. $\endgroup$ – Gyu Eun Lee Oct 6 '15 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ A new user can’t embed a picture; converting a picture of mathematical text to $\LaTeX$ or, if it’s not text, embedding it myself clearly improves the question. Neither of these situations should count against the user: it is arguably better for a new user who does not know how to use MathJax to post an image than to attempt to write the mathematics in flat ASCII, and a diagram or picture is sometimes an essential part of the question. $\endgroup$ – Brian M. Scott Oct 7 '15 at 22:34
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One of my favorite Shog9 quotes is

The history of the Internet is littered with the corpses of communities that thought they could demand compliance from new members without showing them how. Editing is hands-on education for those willing to learn and a means of salvaging the efforts of those answering even when the asker never learns anything. (source)

Education aside, searching is also important. Titles heavily influence both Google search and "Related" column algorithm. And informative titles are few and far between. Almost all titles are too vague or too short, or both. Many of my edits come about when I look at the list of questions I recently answered and go "ugh, I left my work under that title?". (A random recent example, not an extreme one.)

Tag edits are also important (when the tags are meaningful): they channel the questions toward those interested in them. Post body edits are sometimes for spelling/grammar, something for math formatting, or rewording a confusingly worded sentence, including context that was provided via a comment, etc. There is a lot of this to do around the site.

Always Be Closing and Deleting or Editing.

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  • $\begingroup$ So the motto is ABCADOE? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 8 '15 at 17:59
  • $\begingroup$ I don't count conjunctions. $\endgroup$ – user147263 Oct 8 '15 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ Right. ABCDE. It's easy as 12345, I guess. $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 8 '15 at 18:02
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf, sounds like that should have an accompanying dance... $\endgroup$ – J. M. is a poor mathematician Oct 11 '15 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ @J.M.: Will it also be included in the next Kevin Smith movie? If not, then why bother? $\endgroup$ – Asaf Karagila Oct 11 '15 at 14:23
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Mr. Ramanujan's methods were so terse and novel and his presentation so lacking in clearness and precision, that the ordinary [mathematical reader], unaccustomed to such intellectual gymnastics, could hardly follow him. - Seshu Iyer, P. V. (June 1920). "The Late Mr. S. Ramanujan, B.A., F.R.S". Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society 12 (3): 83

On the other hand, English is not everybody's first language. Mistakes in spelling and/or grammar do not necessarily mean a lack of quality.


from the comments:

That clears things up: every question lacking in context and in personal input asked on this site is actually asked by Ramanujan (and who would dare to close questions asked by a genius?). Cool.

I don't understand how this relates to my answer. I didn't talk about questions lacking context or personal input at all. Nor has my answer anything to do with close reasons. I appreciate the attempt of being sarcastic.

I tried to point out in my answer above that a question can be awful due to difficulties of the asker with the Enlgish language. An edit can help to overcome such difficulties. I think this is one situation when one should edit. (which was the question asked here)

It took a Hardy to sift out Ramanujan from the chaff. We are not Hardy and don't expect us to be.

I have to say I'm a bit surprised and disappointed to get such childish responses. I didn't not make any expectation of level of expertise (or whatever), which thus can hardly cause such a "How dare you expect this from us?" comment.

I provided the quote to show that there's a wide range of reasons for askers to create an "awful" question. Anything from being a mathematical genius to being unable to express the question or answer well in the English language. Such content can be improved by editing.

Further, spelling and grammar mistakes are not the main source of confusion, but rather a lack of clear thinking.

I'm not sure I understand this sentence. Stating that confusion is caused by a lack of clear thinking seems to be a tautology. I'd sure have a hard time thinking clearly if I had both a mathematical problem and the linguistic one to describe it at hand at the same time. It seems reasonable to concentrate on getting the math right compromising on the quality of the language. Which again can be fixed via editing.

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    $\begingroup$ It took a Hardy to sift out Ramanujan from the chaff. We are not Hardy and don't expect us to be. Further, spelling and grammar mistakes are not the main source of confusion, but rather a lack of clear thinking. $\endgroup$ – Ron Gordon Oct 8 '15 at 21:46

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