I made an edit to an answer. I feel the edit is a clear improvement in terms of spelling and format.

The user sent me an angry email and rolled back the edit. enter image description here

I thought it was funny, so I made the edit again.

Does a user have a right to not format and use incorrect spelling?

  • 34
    For the record, that was a fine edit. You improved the formatting and made the post easier to read. Thanks and keep it up!
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 9:59
  • 19
    "I thought it was funny so I made the edit again" might be misinterpreted. Sometimes it's better to explain your edit before reapplying it.
    – Nemo
    Commented Dec 3, 2017 at 9:13
  • 22
    I have to second the humor value. A ranting email demanding that you not meddle with their sacred words, ending with an apology regarding the writer's poor English skills — that's just irony-blindness at a truly spectacular level.
    – FeRD
    Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 11:08
  • 4
    @Nemo 100%. First posters may well be young (a little less mature?) and may have cultural values different to your own (especially in these days of ubiquitous globailisation). Playing well with others - collaboration and accepting criticism neutrally - is a learned thing. Though the reaction was well off the scale.
    – bu5hman
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 6:41
  • 8
    Just a heads-up: Your email censoring doesn't really censor the email. Use an opaque pencil instead of a transparent brush, or—better—use the rectangle selection tool and fill the area completely.
    – Zeta
    Commented Dec 10, 2017 at 8:15
  • 3
    @FeRd that's just irony-blindness at a truly spectacular level. hmm, I think it means that the writer is able to maintain some level of composure and politeness despite being (perhaps unreasonably) angry. I think this is an important step to being able to tweak your own behaviour!
    – Att Righ
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 17:45

5 Answers 5


No. Every so often we have a new user who thinks they maintain total control over the content they post, but the FAQ is pretty clear about this:

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers 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.

  • 1
    Ugh. This feels all a bit wikilawery. Rules have their place, but should be used appropriately with a little context. Invoking rules is kind of like throwing someone out of your house at a dinner party.... you can do it, but don't expect it to be without consequences.
    – Att Righ
    Commented Dec 11, 2017 at 17:54
  • 3
    @AttRigh I agree that rules should be used appropriately with a little context, but do you really think there's some context to this situation that would call for overriding the rule in question? I'm not seeing it. (The rule in question being that people can edit each others' posts to improve them without changing their meaning.)
    – David Z
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 9:46
  • @DavidZ I do think having rules and knowing how they apply is useful. In this situation no I don't. I can imagine lots of edge cases: people rejecting edits that actually change meaning, fighting over terminology, preferred layouts, revert wars. I've head edits that change meaning on the English stack exchange. I guess there's also a question about how one invokes rules: there's "I win, here are the rules" and then "there's hmm, here is what the rules say, what do you think about that then?".
    – Att Righ
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 14:11

I like to hope that enough of us remember what it was like being new and low on damage points to understand what is happening here more thoroughly than some simplistic FAQ-waving. For one, I remember.

The critique that people edit posts just to gain points is not an uncommon one, and people do encourage people to make such edits substantive ones as much as they can. Whilst that is not true here, the editor of the question does not help to demonstrate that it is not true by saying that xe repeated the edit because "I thought it was funny". Xe would help more by pointing out that it was a substantive edit that corrected grammatical errors such as mis-spelling the pronoun "I".

From the new user's perspective, remember, what happened here was that

  • a diamond moderator high-handedly stepped in to lock the questioner out of xyr own question, rolling back a spelling correction made by the original questioner in the process;
  • there was no mention from either the diamond moderator or the original editor that the original edit actually was correcting both spelling and punctuation errors in the question;
  • neither the diamond moderator nor the original editor removed or clarified the "xD"; and
  • the only response from two diamond moderators was still not to explain this but to repeatedly say (once twice) "you will not be happy here" and to imply that the new user was an outright vandal who was "defacing" the question.

We all have to remember what the process looks like to the people who do not have the accrued damage points that we have; and what our actions look like. It does not behoove us to call someone a vandal who clearly is not, any more than it behooves us to go around calling people "noob kali users". We know what questioner vandalism actually looks like, and it is far from simply clicking on the "reject this edit" button that the site gives to authors when their questions have suggested edits, which is what in fact happened here.

It does not behoove us to explain that we did edits because "I thought it was funny", and when we use the edit summary "Add formatting" it should not be that much of a surprise when people naïvely take us at our word and think that adding formatting was what we did.

And it does not help to then inflame the process by mis-characterizing this on Meta as the original author wanting "to not format and use incorrect spelling", especially when the original author made a spelling correction of xyr own and so very clearly did not want that.

In addition to the things that the regular users around here could have done better in this situation after remembering what an opaque system Stack Exchange is to novices, from being aware that people see edit summaries and "reject edit" buttons to not calling someone a vandal for rejecting a suggested edit and telling them in essence to just go away, is also remembering that novices come here with preconceived and wrong ideas based upon how other sites work.

They put "SOLVED" into questions. They put entire answers into questions. They think that posts should contain "Thank you in advance.". They use wacky markup conventions, such as the original questioner here using curly brackets. They bring in silly prejudices, that they have learned from decades of people wrongly saying how bad these things are, against "rich text" formatting such as boldface, italics, and monospace. (This is especially antithetical here on Unix & Linux, given the text processing history of Unix going back to the 1970s, and the fact that we've had things like boldface and italics in our document processing tradition for all of that time.)

So whilst the original edit was a good one, a lot of subsequent steps, from the edit summary onwards, have been mis-steps. This is not as vastly one-sided as the votes on answers here might lead one to think. The votes simply tell us that there have been only two extreme positions expressed until now, one telling us the received wisdom that one can still receive from all over the place today that formatting in questions is "shit" and one telling a novice to just read the FAQ and go away because "this site is not for you".

I suggest a less extreme position of remembering what it is like to be a novice, complete with these daft and wrongheaded learned prejudices against any sort of text styling.

And far from "this site is not for you" I suggest that this site may well appeal to you, once you un-learn the unfortunately pervasive but quite wrong received wisdom that you have that one should not use in questions the same simple kinds of text styling for the literal text of commands and output that our operating systems' own manual pages have been using for the past almost half a century. As well as the idea that sentences end with full stops. ☺

Further reading

  • 7
    and I would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for you meddling kids Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 0:30
  • 30
    Maybe you should also include that the new user operated in psycho-stalker mode by going to the effort of digging up the user's email from another site and contacting them directly. Clearly not an action that will predispose anyone to treat them like a snowflake and spend time explaining anything.
    – muru
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 15:55
  • 5
    I upvoted this post because I thought bringing up the issue of the response needing to have been more considered (a better commit message, not throwing in the bit about being funny in this meta post, etc.) was on point, but I am not entirely comfortable with the last sentence. Did you mean the poster needs to unlearn that sentences end with full stops — or that they needed to learn that that they do? Judging from the emoji not being used in leu of proper punctuation I voted +1 giving you the benefit of the doubt, but that paragraph could use some clarification.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 19:47

The edit was OK.

The user's angry retort via e-mail was not OK.

Your pointing fingers at the user and actively seeking conflict instead of trying to understand their feelings and resolve this peacefully was not very OK, either.

Stackexchange does not look like a wiki. It looks like a more conventional forum, e-mail, or even a science magazine, where every post is "owned" by its creator, and it's understandable newer users may take it very close to heart when someone twists their words without their explicit consent. This striking difference in netiquette may cause a lot of grief to some new users unless it's thoroughly explained (and it usually isn't).

Personally, I think the least "offensive" way to suggest edits would be either via comments, or by leaving a more thorough explanation why you thought the edit was needed.

  • 3
    I agree in general, but when the edit to be made is just to use Markdown formatting for code, it's a lot more helpful to just make the edit. New users usually don't know how, and by seeing your edit, they will learn how to format their own post next time. (That's how I learned.)
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jan 23, 2018 at 1:15

The subtleties of a person's tone and intent generally do not make it through in writing. That gets exponentially compounded by differences in cultures (and language). Add to that the knee-jerk responses that online communication cultivates, and emotions can get raw very quickly.

I fully agree with @JdeBP's answer, particularly:

novices come here with preconceived and wrong ideas based upon how other sites work

To make it even more confusing, when a novice comes from SE to SE Meta, those wrong ideas are compounded, as the same SE user interface is used, but the meaning behind the votes is completely different. The negative votes against @user261897 in his answer here would have almost certainly alienated him further (let alone some of the comments).

The truly sad thing is that the user (user261897) has left SE - one who was willing to offer answers and help. In my opinion, he is likely owed an apology, particularly since you have his email address - perhaps even from a moderator.

Aside: as a low-rep user, when I come across a post that could use polishing, I occasionally do take the time to clean it up. Sure, the extra rep points won't hurt, but far more importantly, I do it just for the sake of making it better (on various SE sites). A few of my edits have been rejected, and admittedly there's a sting to that. Both sides here have had a sour experience, when each was beginning off with the best of intentions.

...Now, as I hit Post Your Answer, I'll go put on my thick skin as everyone prepares to tear my post apart :-)


Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date.

My answer was clean, relevant and up to date. There is no need to change nothing if you are not adding useful info.

I appreciate you correct me if I write bad words, or I can explain better because my english is too bad and I need a correction most of the time { I will learn more with this}

But you just added formating while is no need to do because my answer is very readable and the user can see the info he needs.

Edits are to correct and improve. The user will have no sense between your edits and my original post.

I don't like your arrogance.

I thought it was funny so I made the edit again.

You said two times this site is not for me just because I don't wanna let you do useless things.

The text is short and readable. It needs CSS?

Why instead of add formatting aren't you including more info or looking for other texts which really needs your help, and I'm not talking about formatting, I mean wrong words, or explain better.


You prefer block my post and don't let me edit it in future time, and let my answer with your changes.

You shouldn't have the right to do that because you are acting with arrogance {both}

  • 23
    You are the one being arrogant, he clearly sent an appeal to edit your question and it was accepted by other people who had a vote, it is not only him who thought you needed an edit but a few other people who voted yes. There is no need to be offensive and arrogant over an edit approved by other people. Clearly means your answer needed an edit. Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 20:48
  • 12
    You agreed to the possibility of collaboratively edited posts when you posted content here. You aren't posting with "All Rights Reserved." You should read the terms of use more carefully if you have a problem with that. That said, the community is good at respecting the intent of the original author. But that doesn't mean you get to leave your posts unformatted and be unpleasant about it.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 7:11
  • 24
    And honestly, if you had rolled back the edit to the unformatted version and then not sent an uptight, angry email about it, it very likely would have been left how you wrote it. I'm probably not going to make a friend in you by saying this, but you have more than a little bit of responsibility for creating the situation. Complaining about how mean everyone else is being isn't going to help, either. Take full responsibility or just drop it.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 7:13
  • 8
    It seems your problem is not like "my formatting is better than yours" but rather "my answer is my castle". The solution is simple: format your posts right by yourself, so there's nothing to improve in the first place. I do that. I have written hundreds of answers (most of them on Super User, but still) and after the initial stage of me learning the syntax, I recall not a single "third party" edit just to improve my formatting. Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 7:32
  • 1
    Your points are not without value but this is the wrong place to make them. Don't take information exchange so personally. This is not Facebook.
    – glarry
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 9:15
  • 25
    Note that only moderators can lock a post and that's what happened here. A mod locked your post because you insisted on defacing it by rolling back helpful edits. Phillip had nothing to do with that. If you feel so strongly against others editing (improving) your posts, I am afraid you will not be happy here.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 10:01
  • 7
    Honestly, I don't see a point in all the fuzz over being edited, I for myself are pretty new to the site, and while I'm very much trying to format and spell-check my posts properly, I'm not getting mad when someone changes a sentence around because of my awkward wording or correct a typo etc. (I'm simply not native English speaker).
    – Videonauth
    Commented Dec 1, 2017 at 17:22
  • 3
    I really love if somebody spend time to improve my posts. In any field of life, getting an edit is the best way of learning. Be thankful for the time they spent to edit your post. It's a place of learning and Unix, English, formatting all can be learnt more. And I believe most of the users irrespective of new or old don't mind an edit. So, requesting you to accept edits.
    – Abhik Bose
    Commented Dec 2, 2017 at 19:03
  • 8
    Your answer was readable. Philip made it MORE readable, and that is the correct thing to do.
    – klutt
    Commented Dec 4, 2017 at 12:15
  • 5
    Wow. All this over an edit to improve the quality of your post? Do you think that the editor gained 'co-authorship' on the answer or something by making the edit? I am guessing the 'edited' text makes you think that people will think your answer was factually incorrect prior to the edit? But that's the wrong way to think about it. On a separate note, I do not know who you are, but I hope I never have to work with you in person.
    – learnerX
    Commented Dec 7, 2017 at 5:33
  • 1
    @terdon - "...you insisted on defacing it..." I don't think it helps the situation (any situation) by speaking so disingenuously. It is the users right to insist the post reads as they want, and it is also the right of the editor to (suggest an) edit the post; and, the right (and responsibility) of the moderator to step in and settle the dispute. It is not fair or "genuine" to characterize any of those actions as having the intent to "deface" the answer. Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:23
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    @KevinFegan Actually, I chose my words very carefully. It is not the right of the user to insist the post reads as they want. That's precisely why I used the word defacing. When you post here, you are releasing what you write under the CC BY-SA creative commons license. By the terms of the license and, more importantly, by the norms of behavior established by the community, this means you accept that others may edit and improve your post. Insisting on your version and rolling back improvements is defacing content of the site.
    – terdon Mod
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 22:35
  • 3
    @KevinFegan those aren't rights. Those are privileges granted by Stack Overflow the company. Users have the right to have their posts attributed to them because they licenced it to us thus, or posts disassociated from them, or their accounts deleted, because those rights have been established as existing by governments and courts. Don't conflate rights and privileges.
    – muru
    Commented Dec 12, 2017 at 0:16

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