I asked this question on Meta Stack Exchange, and we there came to the conclusion that the edit made sense. I figured I'd ask here anyway, just to see how the communinty thinks of it
MJD has other rejected edits for the same reason:

First of all, the edit was approved, but a very high-rep user rejected it because it

Disguises the author's non-fluency in English

While it did (sort of) fix other major flaws with the question (it had no MathJax), I don't really see how Disguising an author's non-fluency in English is a reason to reject an edit, isn't rewording questions to be more clear and easier to read a major reason for editing?

Note to future users: I did change a ! to a ?, changing the meaning of the question, but that wasn't really the point of the question.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ For the example that you linked to, I found the OP's English acceptable. That is, it didn't seem to me that the OP was non-fluent in English. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    Jan 23, 2017 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ I do find it a bit odd that the example you've given is two years old, almost to the day (recently, Community bumped a question that didn't seem familiar but had a title I found interesting; it turned out, I had provided an answer and had zero recollection!). It's maybe not so great to be calling out a particular user ("how we should handle the MJD", who is as far as I know a pretty upstanding member of the community) rather than discussing a reason for rejecting an edit. $\endgroup$
    – pjs36
    Jan 23, 2017 at 5:53
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    $\begingroup$ Regardless to this specific case, where an edit may or may not have been justified, asking outsiders about what would be the correct thing to do in this community is like asking an American to decide whether or not you should take off your shoes when you enter a home in Japan ("what? of course you shouldn't, your socks will smell..."), or worse. In short, outsiders don't have a say about how this website should be run. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Jan 23, 2017 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @pjs36 there are two examples. The motivating example is less than a day old (and involves OP). The old one is referred to as "other rejected edits" and is there to emphasis that this is done with some consistency. That said, I agree that the meta post is a bit odd. Nevertheless it raises a valid point. $\endgroup$
    – quid Mod
    Jan 23, 2017 at 11:09
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ That should not be a valid reason to reject an edit. The general quality of questions on this site is low enough as it is and we do not need people working against people spending time trying to improve it. If someone feels strongly about using simpler language in these cases then they should use the “Improve Edit” option and fix it themselves. $\endgroup$
    – Winther
    Jan 24, 2017 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ The real problem with the edit is that it turned $2017!$ to $2017?$ But the title still says $2017!$ The questions "What is the highest power of $5$ which divides 2017!" is different from "What is the highest power of $5$ which divides 2017?" $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2017 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ It didn't add a question mark, and that detail wasn't in the title when the edit was made, @Thomas Andrews $\endgroup$
    – Travis
    Feb 5, 2017 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Travis That's not what the edit shows - there was an exclamation point in the title. It wasn't explained, but "2017!" is not mere punctuation. And the edit has you removing the exclamation point in the body of the question and adding a question mark in its place. The next edit, by another user, put the exclamation point you removed back into the question. $\endgroup$ Feb 5, 2017 at 22:31
  • $\begingroup$ @thomas Andrews, almost certainly a typo by me, regardless, that's not the point the question is trying to make $\endgroup$
    – Travis
    Feb 5, 2017 at 22:47
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    $\begingroup$ For the record, my comment above (dated Jan 23) refers to an example that has been changed. That is, the example linked to right now is not the same example that was linked to on Jan 23. $\endgroup$
    – JRN
    May 4, 2017 at 7:55
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    $\begingroup$ @ThomasAndrews The list of reviewers contains the user Community with the action "approve" and the user Joffan with the action "edit". I think this means that Joffan did not "accept" but "improved" the edit of Travis. Maybe Joffan replaced the "!" by an "?". $\endgroup$
    – miracle173
    May 4, 2017 at 11:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Travis Are you sure you changed the "!" to "?" ? The list of reviewers contains the user Community with the action "approve" and the user Joffan with the action "edit". I think this means that Joffan did not "accept" but "improved" the edit of Travis. Maybe Joffan replaced the "!" by an "?". $\endgroup$
    – miracle173
    May 4, 2017 at 11:57

2 Answers 2


The idea behind rejecting an edit as it "[d]isguises the author's non-fluency in English" is others could take the fact that the poster is not fluent in English into account in their interactions. For example, they could write and answer in simpler English or could use more formulas instead of words when they know the asker is not fluent in English. (I believe I have seen that type of argument being made at times here on meta.)

That said, while well-intentioned, I think this does more harm than good (even considering only the interest of the original poster). The good it might do is marginal, especially for the type of questions we are talking about here. The typical answer will not contain all that much text, and the style should be pretty straight-forward anyway. Leaving aside that not all that many answerers would (or even could) take these nuances into account.
And, if there is a problem with understanding, one can then still ask for clarification.

By contrast, the advantages of a clean-up are immediate. Somewhat cleanly written posts are much better received. Especially your examples seem like standard clean-up edits that also slightly improve the language. I see no reason to reject them.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ While I agree that this particular edit does not appear to be harmful, I have rejected edits in somewhat similar situations, where cleaning up the wording seemed to remove possible clues to what the asker's underlying misunderstanding might be. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2017 at 21:32

Good English is always desirable, and edits to improve clarity of expression are to be welcomed. However, editors should be wary of "clarifying" a question that shows basic confusion in thought or understanding. In such cases, it would be better to leave the question as it stands, to provide clues as to the kind of explanation needed. Usually a focused query in a comment to point out the muddle would be helpful.


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