I had a question regarding editing. Sometimes, a question looks ok in terms of its formatting but has a few math portions not embedded in math jax. Is it good or bad to be fixing this? To state an example : having matrices as mxn instead of $m \times n$ or similarly for variables i.e. Without the $$ embedding or have small looking 'fracs' instead of 'dfracs'.

The how to edit section doesn't explicitly talk about this. Will this come under "correct minor mistakes"?

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

► add related resources or links

► always respect the original author

This could be good because well, the post is improving (maybe by a little at times). This could be bad because it might not be warranted. What is the community's view on this?


This encompasses some of the points suggested in the comments:

About displaying equations or keeping them inline, the functions in-built into Jax

How about removing thank you, signatures, "helllllp", and smilies?

  • $\begingroup$ Well saved my time trying to type these things up. Perhaps, you should also add about displaying equations or keeping them inline, the functions in-built into Jax. $\endgroup$
    – user21436
    Mar 15, 2012 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ For what it is worth: \dfrac in-line creates other issues (separates the baselines too much); avoid it unless the fraction is hard to read in-line (in which case, consider displaying the equation instead). $\endgroup$ Mar 15, 2012 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ How about removing thank you, signatures, "helllllp", and smilies? $\endgroup$
    – user2468
    Mar 15, 2012 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ I am reluctant to approve changes that turn a question in accented but understandable English into unaccented English. The nature of the English in a question gives useful information about how one might word one's answer. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2012 at 15:47
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    $\begingroup$ These edits are a sequence of increasingly suspect edits! $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2012 at 21:37
  • $\begingroup$ The question When does editing become over editing? seems to be related. $\endgroup$ Mar 18, 2012 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ @MartinSleziak, the consensus was that there is nothing wrong in doing so. $\endgroup$
    – Inquest
    Mar 18, 2012 at 7:36

3 Answers 3


Been there, done that, got reprimanded for it...

If you are doing minor edits to a question or answer, consider that your edits make the question active, and thus bubble it up. So don't do it (too often) with old questions unless it is part of answering, fixing an answer or adding a worthwhile comment.

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    $\begingroup$ Oh the irony.,, $\endgroup$
    – Lord_Farin
    Aug 12, 2015 at 21:04

(I'm fairly certain that this has been addressed many times in meta, or maybe I've just ranted about it in chat enough to confuse the two...)

In the revision history for a question/answer, instead of (or in addition to) "rollback to version _", there should be the option to Flag as not constructive edit.

Then there could be a radio button menu to suggest to which previous version would be the best to rollback.

Then chronic (ab)users - AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE - can "earn" an automatic suspension of their editing privileges. Seriously, Max.

Added, to clarify:

  • Changing 50 to $50$, especially when it is in a sentence (not an equation) is not helpful.

  • Changing links from (e.g) http://www.google.com to google.com is not helpful. More generally, changing the format/appearance of an existing link in a Q/A is not helpful. Adding a link to an easily findable site/paper is marginally helpful.

  • Changing single \$ to \$$ is marginally helpful. In general, editing a Q/A to fit your visual style is not ideal. (Note: below)

  • If any of these is frowned-upon, how much more so when the offense is done after a long period of dormancy. Resurrecting an old Q/A for such a petty reason is bad, and you should feel bad for doing it!

(Note: Some users have such a distinct style (or LaTex spacing obsession!) that you know who wrote the answer as soon as you see the first equation. I love this about Bill D. (and soroban, elsewhere on the internets). Many of Arturo's more lengthy answers are also very well formatted ("Theorem: Proposition: etc.") and visually appealing. Of course, these anchors of the community can edit however they want! )

  • $\begingroup$ Define abuser please. Do you mean the ones who bring about edits similar to the ones I included as examples for small edits? $\endgroup$
    – Inquest
    Mar 16, 2012 at 14:29
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    $\begingroup$ "Abuser: noun. A math.SE user who makes unhelpful edits, especially in light of how long a question/answer has been inactive" (I jest, but do actually propose this sardonic definition)... $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2012 at 14:31
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    $\begingroup$ So, if a user edits more than one 50s to $50$ (or edits similar to the ones you pointed in your definition) in a new ($<1-2$day Q/A), would you tag him as an abuser? I agree about Q/As which are long dead. But, if a new question can be improved (albeit slightly) with such modifications, my question is, Would this still be wrong? $\endgroup$
    – Inquest
    Mar 16, 2012 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ I differentiate between a few cases. Many users type a question, hit "submit", and are never seen again. Often their questions need editing. But some established users are offended when others make petty edits. ... I don't know about "wrong". We'll see what the votes indicate about how the community feels towards this answer. $\endgroup$ Mar 16, 2012 at 15:06
  • $\begingroup$ Fair enough. I like and agree with your definition though. $\endgroup$
    – Inquest
    Mar 16, 2012 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ "Of course, these anchors of the community can edit however they want!" What question can they edit when however they want? $\endgroup$ Sep 11, 2012 at 9:32
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    $\begingroup$ Just to make it clear, can a 2k+ user edit something like 50 to $50$ ? its not very helpfull, I agree - but it doesn't take anyones time to approve [assuming that the question is not old so it is not bumped up] $\endgroup$
    – Belgi
    Oct 11, 2012 at 9:12

Posting this here so that people can vote (and comment, if so inclined). I claim that there is no significant aesthetic difference between $$ \sin\left(\frac x2\right) $$ and $$ \sin(\frac x2) $$ or even $$ \sin\frac x2. $$ Therefore making changes here is ill-advised as it amounts to forcing your stylistic preference over that of the original author.

Upvote if you agree, downvote if you disagree.

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    $\begingroup$ In some cases (in particular in inline text) I would even prefer $\sin(x/2)$. But you are probably mostly interested in the three possibilities you've mentioned. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2013 at 6:27
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    $\begingroup$ I agree in the case of posts older than a week or two. In the case of a fresh post, I see no harm editing these things if they seem appropriate. Forcing of style or not, most people on this site seem to get their LaTeX code from codecogs or other online generators. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Mar 11, 2013 at 7:52
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    $\begingroup$ In inline text I would certainly do it the way Martin suggested. I see the case of sometimes doing it that way with a displayed formula also. Case-by-case judgement is called for! What prompted me to post this is that my posts have been "improved" in this way in the past, and today I saw more similar suggestions for edits. I rejected them as minor. If I'm in the minority here, then I will refrain from rejecting such changes later. Hence the desire to poll the crowd. $\endgroup$ Mar 12, 2013 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ The second alternative makes my eyes bleed... ;-) $\endgroup$
    – vonbrand
    Aug 13, 2015 at 18:22

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