We strive that the questions and answers on the site will be as full and complete as possible, that is very understandable.

We also want them to be as readable as humanly possible, whether it means linebreaks needs to added or removed, further formatting, capital letters changed, grammar fixed and $\LaTeX$ added/corrected.

However, nitpicking all the smallest changes is a tedious and long process, which one cannot possibly expect an answer over 15 lines long to have upon first appearing. Therefore we accept the occasional bump when correcting, adding, fixing and so on.

At some point, however, it becomes that the answer was fully given, well understood and perhaps accepted. Users may still continue editing, further improving and correcting.

Should we, as a community, support the continuing edits going further and further into the tiny details, or should there be a point where we say "This is fine, very readable, and the main page should be left for newer and more active issues than this question." - and if there is such point, what is it?

Edit: Before downvoting, I am not objecting such edits. In fact more than once I did such things myself and I have no qualms about people who do. I do think that this is something worth addressing at least once in the lifetime of a community like math.SE.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't get the downvotes. As far as I understand, downvotes on meta is a sign of positive/negative support. There is no idea, no suggestion, just a point that needs to be addressed. What is there to downvote? $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jun 21, 2011 at 18:28
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    $\begingroup$ I see no problem. If people want to edit even very old answers until they're pleased, let them do so. Even if some user has 4 or 5 questions or answers on the main page, what's the deal? They'll be gone soon. After all, I'm signing my posts here with my real name, so I think I have a right to try to bring them into the form I would like them to have. Finally, re. Eric's suspicion. As far as I'm concerned, reputation and badges are the very least of my motivations to participate here. $\endgroup$
    – t.b.
    Jun 21, 2011 at 18:30
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    $\begingroup$ @Asaf: Good point regarding the votes. I originally downvoted since I think people should be allowed to edit as much as they want. I have changed this to an upvote since you are completely right, the post asks for discussion, and does not support a particular side of the discussion. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2011 at 19:09
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    $\begingroup$ The issue of editing others' old answers should also be considered. For instance, it has happened more than once that when I intentionally used some HTML in answers (or stuff like n²) (to avoid the MathML rendering delay, etc.), someone else many months later edited them to TeX markup. Is this really necessary? $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2011 at 6:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Jasper: If I was convinced that it was an improvement, I wouldn't have made the comment. :-) I think that trivial edits changing something from one form to another form that is no better must be discouraged. Of course, the problem is that "better" is subjective, and presumably someone makes an edit only if they think (mistakenly or otherwise) that they're making an improvement. Oh well. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2011 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ I often revisit my old answers. At least, when I get a personal message related to that question. If I notice that there was a clear language error, I will edit and try to fix it. Should I stop doing that? We the foreigners feel some (admittedly mostly self-imposed) pressure to make our use of English at least passable if not impeccable. I fail miserably at this when I'm either too busy to proofread or too eager to post an answer. $\endgroup$ Jul 19, 2011 at 10:20
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    $\begingroup$ Presumably everyone would be happy to encourage polishing of old answers if it were not for the "bump" factor. Would it be possible to have a "Recently Edited" category, entirely separate from the "Active" category, for answers say older than a few days? $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2011 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe André's proposal should be a feature-request... $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2011 at 3:20
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    $\begingroup$ Another argument: I, and probably many other people, would feel freer to edit if there were no "bump" effect. $\endgroup$ Oct 15, 2011 at 4:28
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    $\begingroup$ I'm definitely tempted to edit this answer... $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2012 at 16:35

2 Answers 2


I personally do not think so. I see nothing wrong with editing older questions, and improving the quality of posts on this site. Old answers are occasionally looked over, and are not gone forever. (and sometimes they are forgotten to soon! IE exact duplicates)

Perhaps what you are concerned about is people trying to squeeze a little more reputation out of their old answers. The system already has a built in safe guard against this, namely that the post becomes community wiki after $10$ edits.

  • $\begingroup$ I forgot about that 10 edits mechanism :-) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jun 21, 2011 at 17:25
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    $\begingroup$ Recall also the prior question where it is noted that mods can revert such CWified posts back to personal ownership. Iirc the current mods have said they will be happy to do this when it is clear that no abuse is involved. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2011 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @Japser: I did not know that. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jun 22, 2011 at 8:34
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    $\begingroup$ @Jasper: oh, I didn't know that. What is the software's definition of "old"? $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2011 at 8:41

Fix it until it's perfect. The Broken Windows Theory says that bad posts on the site will encourage more bad posts on the site. That's a bit extreme, but editing typos is important because it makes the site cleaner.


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