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I have found myself re-editing quite a bit until I feel a question is right, either I got things wrong (oops) or just get in a perfectionist mode, and have wondered what happens whenever I press the Save Edits button. Does this bump the question and also alert the OP that a change has been made, and if so is this really annoying for them!? OTOH I have found myself desisting from editing some of my bad grammar for this very reason!

Also are my edits stored, and if so are they publicly visible, and how can I see how many edits I've made?? I read that ten edits and your answer becomes Community-Wiki, which is some kind of limbo-land? In short what happens when I edit, and what is the etiquette surrounding it?

Note this was about self-editing answers to someones question, not editing other peoples posts so I guess a natural extension is to ask: do the same rules apply, i.e., can I see edits I've made to others questions? I've only done this once and I think it took four attempts to format things properly and I don't want to mess up someones post, is there a ten edit thing with editing someones question?

Edit: OK, forgot this! Should you always put something in Edit Summary. By this I mean I sometimes don't bother as I see no point for that edit, for whatever reason. Is this just (kind of) optional, or is it bad form to leave without an explanation?

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    $\begingroup$ It does bump the question, and alerts the OP. It also occupies the front page. Bad edits are stored. These are all the same for both questions and answers. The right thing is to edit exactly once [maybe twice, every now and then], and to check yourself before you "save edits." It simply should not take many edits in rapid succession to get it right. $\endgroup$ – davidlowryduda Aug 31 '16 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ @mixedmath OK, cool. I have been editing too much then, simply because I wasn't sure of the protocol and have been treating the edit like a LaTeX session of my own. Thing to do is edit everything off site before pressing the Button. Thanks. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 31 '16 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Good question, @Daniel...always good to "check it out" (like you did here) rather than to "keep on doing what one's always done." I think it's healthy for anyone to self-reflect and check things out. $\endgroup$ – Namaste Aug 31 '16 at 19:40
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    $\begingroup$ Agree with @amWhy. Props for asking here. Too many edits (IIRC the limit is ten) raise an automatic flag that moderators need to handle. I usually then give my sermon, but it looks like in your case I can skip that. The bit of advice I still want to give you is that: IF you foresee the need to do a lot of editing, THEN, instead of editing it as a question, an OPTION is to use the sandbox. Check it out! It was created specifically to be a place where users can polish their posts - TeXwise and otherwise. It may or may not help you. Your call. $\endgroup$ – Jyrki Lahtonen Aug 31 '16 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @amWhy. Definitely best to ask. It's more fun with others, and if you listen you usually learn something ;-) $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 31 '16 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ Hi @JyrkiLahtonen, hah, you probably noticed me getting in a pickle - all good now. Thanks for the sandbox link, that looks in need of investigation. I knew there was some art to the edit, I will be more careful with my use of it from now on. Answering questions on math.SE is a skill all of its own, you have to 'pace' yourself! More haste, less speed as they say. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 31 '16 at 20:38
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    $\begingroup$ Somewhat related older post: How much (self) editing is too much? BTW it is no longer true than 10 edits turn the post into CW: When does a post become a Community Wiki post? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 31 '16 at 21:43
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    $\begingroup$ Re: can I see edits I've made to others questions? You can access the revision history by clicking on the timestamp near the word "edited". Example: meta.math.stackexchange.com/posts/24910/revisions See also: Viewing Edit History and Link to view the edit history of a question. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Aug 31 '16 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @Martin I never knew all this stuff until today. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Aug 31 '16 at 22:20
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen: Should the sandbox not be mentioned in the editing help, to encourage its use? $\endgroup$ – PJTraill Sep 5 '16 at 12:13
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    $\begingroup$ Too much self editing makes you blind. $\endgroup$ – copper.hat Sep 6 '16 at 3:01
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    $\begingroup$ @copper.hat - It certainly does as you get older :-) $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Sep 6 '16 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ A reason (or at least my reason!) to edit several times is that I do not know of a way to store partial updates to my answers. If I need to do something more urgent than answering a Stack Exchange question (!), I am loath to leave my answering hanging on my screen and risk loosing the partial entry. If there were a trick to privately save partial answers, this would solve my quandary. $\endgroup$ – Xi'an Sep 11 '16 at 9:52
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    $\begingroup$ @Xi'an I was wondering about this: say you changed seven things, like a fullstop here, a $V$ to a $W$ there, etc., than if you have to be away for a time is it OK to just save the draft of your edited answer, then copy this straight over the old one later on. Would this be alright, i.e., would just the bits you changed be highlighted, or what? I know this wasn't quite what you asked, but is kind of related, as if you can't partial save seven edits it might be tricky remembering where changes were meant to go other than copying over a whole answer with a locally saved one. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Sep 11 '16 at 11:03
  • $\begingroup$ @JyrkiLahtonen Your comments made me aware of The Sandbox, which is exactly what I needed!!! But it looks like the question is deleted... $\endgroup$ – Xi'an Sep 11 '16 at 11:17
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Subsequential edits within five minutes of the initial edit are combined into that edit. So if you post a question or answer, and then read it after posting (which for some reason may involve a different state of mind than while editing) and find a mistake, then go ahead and fix it within these five minutes. Of course, the question will get bumped to the front page on the first edit already, so be careful not to post something seriously incomplete because people may downvote that while you are still editing.

If you have something substantial to add to a post, or found some serious mistake, go ahead and fix it. The same goes for language mistakes which might make reading harder. But while you are at it, read the post carefully and try to fix all mistakes in one go, so you don't have to edit again for each subsequent mistake you find. (It would be fine again if you found all of them within five minutes, though.)

Does this bump the question

Yes it does; an edited post will appear on the front page. Which also means someone may take a closer look at what you are doing. As the saying goes, never show fools unfinished work, so make sure you save only when you are ready.

and also alert the OP that a change has been made,

If you edit an answer of your own, the original poster of the question will not get notified, as far as I know. If you want them notified of some substantial change, write a comment as well. When editing a post from someone else, the original poster of that post (question or answer) will get notified.

and if so is this really annoying for them!?

Depends on reason for edit and frequency of edit. If a post of mine were edited for grammar five weeks in a row, I'd be annoyed. If the same post were edited to improve formulas, add illustrations, and fix language, all in a single day, then I'd likely only look at the edited question once, and I'd also consider each edit a worthy contribution.

Also are my edits stored, and if so are they publicly visible, and how can I see how many edits I've made??

The text “edited (by …) on …” below each post that has been edited is in fact a link to the revision history. There all the edits made to the post are publicly accessible. Edits occurring within five minutes will get bunched into one, though.

If you want to see all your edits, go to the the list of revisions in the activity tab of your profile. If you want to be able to tweak how this info gets displayed, the Data Explorer may be of some use, e.g. using this query I just wrote or one of those mentioned in Is it possible to see a list of all my edits using a query?. Note however that the data used for this is not perfectly up to date, so the main point here is finding older edits. This again demonstrates that all your activity is public in some sense.

I read that ten edits and your answer becomes Community-Wiki, which is some kind of limbo-land?

This is no longer the case, at least not automatically. And Community-Wiki is not limbo, it just means you won't get any reputation for the post any more.

it took four attempts to format things properly

There should be a live preview of the post below the edit box. So I see no urgent reason to save anything just to see what it looks like with formatting. If the live preview doesn't work for you, or displays things different from what the saved version will look like, that sounds like a bug to be reported, investigated and fixed. Comments suggested using the sandbox to prepare edits, but with the preview in place I rarely see the use unless you're switching between devices or something like that.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thank you so much, your answer has pretty much cleared things up. A lot of my (secondary) edits had been in the 5min region and I wondered why the Edit Summary box still contained my old explanation, which was fine as it was usually just grammar/formatting I was fixing (this was also my reason for asking about what to do about explanation of edits). In fact it was noticing that there appeared to be some natural breathing space between edits in short succession which led me to post this question in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Daniel Buck Sep 2 '16 at 9:43
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    $\begingroup$ Re: If you want to see all your edits, the Data Explorer may be of some use. Isn't a simpler way to look at thew revisions in the activity tab in your profile? $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 2 '16 at 9:54
  • $\begingroup$ I will add also a link to this meta.SE question: Is it possible to see a list of all my edits using a query?. One answer there lists a few similar queries, the other one mentions the possibility of checking user profile. $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 2 '16 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak: Yes, the activity tab is indeed an option. Personally I'm often annoyed by the pagination there, and the info as to who the original poster was isn't readily available either. Thanks for pointing out the meta.SE post there. I failed to find these while searching for queries on the data explorer, due to too many false positives. Comparing my query to those I think it does add some value, so thanks if you indeed post that as an answer. (If not I will probably do so myself.) $\endgroup$ – MvG Sep 2 '16 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ @MvG I certainly had not intention to post additional answer to the linked meta.SE question. So if you think it is useful - and you say that you have spent some time comparing the queries - go ahead. (Additionally, since you created the query, you should also get the credit.) $\endgroup$ – Martin Sleziak Sep 2 '16 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak: I've included your suggestions into my post, thanks. And I realize that there are two ways to parse your sentence. You meant “add (a link to …)”, so you wanted to add here a link to that question. I read that as “add (a link) to …”, with the “to” referring to “add” instead of the link, and thought you wanted to add a link to that question. Funny ambiguity. $\endgroup$ – MvG Sep 2 '16 at 10:17
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    $\begingroup$ Speaking of ambiguity, I like the idea of reading "never show fools unfinished work" as "never show [a] fool's unfinished work". :-) $\endgroup$ – LSpice Sep 4 '16 at 14:42
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From what I have learned today editing of an answer is to be used with discretion, and is not meant to be used as a sandbox in which to develop your (half) answer over a few hours (days (weeks (months(...)))) or so. (This also applies to editing questions, but my post was essentially about editing answers.) I have been looking at some of my past posts and this was the manner in which I was using the edit facility so thought I'd share some ideas for those starting out on the site. Note that every edit can be seen by pressing the blue link with the date on math.SE site found at the bottom of your answer, which looks something like:

blue math edit

where Sep 7 at 10:59 was the date of your final edit; note that the revision link colour is orange for meta.math.SE:

orange meta edit

This link will bring up all your revisions. Every change you make is also public and there for all to see. For instance the revision page for this page is located at:

https://math.meta.stackexchange.com/posts/24910/revisions

Also if you want to see all your revisions go to your profile page, click the all actions link followed by the revisions box on the right.

So if for one edit you changed one and to an are I guess it's pretty obvious without a description. However do describe any edits you make, (however small) which by now should be for some greater reason than for every time you see a comma or semi-colon out of place. One thing to note is that after pressing Save Edits you have a 5 minute window in which to quickly put right any small mistakes such as missing full stops etc. So do a quick read through and edit what needs doing within this 5 minute window and it won't count as an extra edit, all edits are combined into one edit.

The moral of the tale:

  • read the question first
  • answer the question fully as best you can
  • check it as best you can
  • post a complete answer
  • edit if necessary

Also of note is that if you exceed a certain amount of edits (10?) then this will raise an automatic flag which the moderators have to act on and you may then be alerted to this fact. In some cases, moderator action may cause your answer to be sent to Community Wiki, which involves transferring ownership of the post from the original author to the community, meaning you no longer get any further reputation for the post. As of April 2014, automatic community wiki has been turned off. See here: When does a post become a Community Wiki post?

Every edit causes a bump to the front page, this is the one at https://math.stackexchange.com/ and not the new question page at https://math.stackexchange.com/questions. This is where some cause for concern may lie, in the fact that every edit gets you some screen time on the front page, therefore greater coverage for being (maybe) less together than someone who didn't need to edit. Plus if things are going wrong, be aware that if you are trying desperately to fix something, every time you press Save Edits this bumps your half finished answer to the front page for all to see..

Every edit also sends an alert to the OP that you're still editing away, and so after a few reminders they might want you to give up bugging them or applaud your tenacity, who knows? Either way that is not the issue as we are then on the rocky terrain as to guessing as to how someone may or may not feel about something. On reflection if you have something to add to a post which can help the OP understand better their original problem, then it is your duty to Edit and they should be grateful you took the time. Conversely, you should know if this isn't the case.

It goes without saying as little editing as possible is best so one can move onto other things. However nothing is perfect first time, and after some proofreading you may decide your answer needs some re-jigging. Probably best to do a thorough proofreading of a revised answer and once satisfied, then and only then resubmit. Then you manage in 2 or 3 edits what may have been 15 edits! Of course the reasons for editing are varied, and the one in my case was overuse through misunderstanding the editing system (plus not reading the question, be honest :)). Someone else may have different reasons for numerous edits, so I'm not too sure how a case-by-case scenario works per the moderators.

So edit with care: if you get it wrong you'll get it right next time.

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