While reviewing many Suggested Edits in Math SE, I've found that many users are editing the prominent mistakes of the author. However, if I'm not wrong, editing should not conflict with the author's opinion or something else of him.

Here's the instance. the author wrote:

\begin{align} & ... \\ & a = 2 \\ \therefore \; & 2a = 3 \\ & ... \end{align}

Yes, there's no doubt that there's a typo.

Now, someone corrected this... as $2a = 4.$ Then, is editing this legal, though it might lose the author's opinion?

(Of course, what I've experienced is more difficult than this example...hah)

  • 15
    $\begingroup$ In general, you are correct. Edit for style, spelling, etc, but don't change the meaning of the content. In cases like this, however, where the mistake seems to be a clear typo, fixing it is not a big deal. If you don't know where the line is, leave a comment. $\endgroup$
    – Xander Henderson Mod
    Commented Apr 13 at 15:59
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ On questions, every questioner certainly has their context. I don't have a problem with edits that correct obvious typos, fix obvious math/grammar errors, or even edit OP's comments into the question, because it's the OP that has said them. However, clarifying the meaning of what the OP is saying and adding context via direct edits are IMO incorrect because they fundamentally change the question by mixing the contexts of the author and the editor. Your edit doesn't change the author's opinion, so there's no problem. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 15 at 6:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Here is a previous Question of similar nature. In general we should encourage the author of a Question to take responsibility for clear writing. It can be acceptable to fix typos in Questions or Answers if the context makes the meaning evident. $\endgroup$
    – hardmath
    Commented Apr 16 at 6:13
  • $\begingroup$ Also, what should we do if the typo is the source of the question? What if the OP made a calculation mistake that led them to a wrong answer, so they posted it here, and then someone edited the mistake? Then the question does not remain a question.... $\endgroup$
    – D S
    Commented Apr 20 at 6:46
  • $\begingroup$ I think that it's unclear from this example what one should do. If the question is asking where the mistake in their calculation is, then editors need to leave the mistake in so that people can answer. If the question is about something else and this derivation simply appears somewhere inside of it, with a mistaken line along the way, then editors can fix that. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 20 at 23:56

4 Answers 4


editing should not conflict with the author's opinion or something else of him

Mathematics itself is not about "opinions and personality". Unless the question is "opinion based" from the very beginning, the only things that matter are correctness and clarity of the presentation. If one can improve upon either of the two, they are welcome to do it. The only restriction is that one should understand the whole post and its formal logic before pushing the "edit" button.

As to the "editing for style", I'm never concerned about the style or language as long as the message is clear and coherent. Neither do I care if some people, mods or otherwise, edit my posts removing "unnecessary parts", etc. First, I'm not pretending that what I think outside of the realm of formal logic is an absolute truth (I don't change my opinions easily, but I have neither power, nor desire to impose them on everybody), and second, this site is not my personal blog, so, while I never restrict myself when saying something I want to say, I do not think I have any particular right or privilege to prevent other people from discarding it here. Of course, "discarding" should be just what it means, not "distortion beyond recognition", but so far I had no reason to complain about the latter :-)

Just my two cents.


My opinion: Our purpose is to build an archive/library of knowledge that will help others. The Stack Exchange model is to do this by structuring the library in the form of questions and answers. The site is a place where people can collaborate to build that library. Everyone benefits if those question and answers are of the highest quality possible.

From that perspective, my opinion is that editing questions to correct typos is obviously beneficial and advances the mission.

We even have help pages that articulate this vision:

Why can people edit my posts? [...]

[...] this site is collaboratively edited, like Wikipedia. If you see something that needs improvement, edit it!

Editing is important for keeping posts clear, relevant, and up-to-date. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.


Any time you see a post that needs improvement and are inclined to edit it, you are encouraged to do so.


However, I should also let you know that many do not share my perspective, and I appear to be in the minority on this site with respect to how I think about editing. There appears to be a sizable contingent -- perhaps the majority -- which does not subscribe to that point of view, and believes the poster has moral ownership rights in their question, and believes that, in many/most cases, editing someone else's question is impolite or improper. Regardless of what the help pages may say, the culture here appears to differ a bit from what is written down in the help pages.

As such, you might find that the response to edits is variable. It might be welcomed, or it might attract hostility. Be prepared.

Certainly, everyone agrees that we should not be using edits to completely change the question. I suspect there might be widespread agreement that it is OK to fix obvious typos (I'm not 100% sure about that, but that's my impression). But -- for better or worse -- any edit more substantive than that puts you on shaky ground, in practice.

For folks reviewing these suggested edits, my recommendation is that you liberally vote to accept any edit that improves the question, including edits that correct typos, fix errors, clarify the meaning, improve the spelling or grammar, incorporate information from the comments, etc.

For folks considering suggesting edits, I have no recommendation. You might want to consider the cultural norms on this site and your level of tolerance to deal with negative reactions from the community.


I think that the comment left by Xander Henderson deserves to be expanded into an answer.

If you don't know where the line is, leave a comment.

My approach is:

  • If the posted question contains a math expression that does not use MathJax, I will strongly consider converting the expression to MathJax, via something like $...$. Here, I will also add a separate comment, such as "please use MathJax to express math".

  • If the posted question contains a link to a graphic, I will edit the posting so that the graphic is embedded directly into the posting. Here, if the graphic simply contains math, rather than (for example) a graph or geometric illustration, I will also add a separate comment, such as "please use MathJax to express math".

For any other situation, where I (even just) suspect that there is a typo, I will not edit the posting directly. Instead, I will leave a comment such as : "Possible typo: $~2a = 3~$ should be $~2a = 4$".

This approach kills two birds with one stone:

  • It shares with other reviewers a possible correction that may make the posted question more intelligible.

  • It tips off the original poster that they should consider editing the posting to correct the (possible) typographical error.


As one doing those edits, I usually try not to do any edits that take away from one's thinking, rather, I try to clarify to others what they are thinking and ensure that it looks correct. It is hard to read a post when it is flooded with such issues after all. But I never attempt to destroy their thought process, merely make it much clearer for anyone reading their post.

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    $\begingroup$ This sounds fine, but please do note that some questions are based on a confusion the poster has, and the answers clarify that confusion. I have seen people (other than you) edit the question to remove the confusion, and then the answers don't make sense anymore. I think questions like those are best left alone, or minimally edited. $\endgroup$
    – JonathanZ
    Commented Apr 23 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ Agreed. I think going forward I will try to ask them myself about the question before editing. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23 at 20:37

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