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Other sites in the stack exchange network have established policies against signalling edits in text. Examples such as this meta from RPG.SE and this meta from Worldbuilding.SE.

The summary of those posts is that signalling edits:

  • Adds nothing not already visible in the edit history
  • Makes posts harder to read
  • Makes posts harder to find in search engines
  • Becomes less relevant as time passes
  • Leads to multiple edit which can be confusing

I believe that each version of a post should be the best version of that post and does not need a "Edit:" line to notate that something has changed. Do we have/need a policy on this?

For examples where this may be a problem see this search for posts containing "Edit:" .

  • Why would you need to search for posts containing "edit"? Use the "editing" tag if you want to look for questions about editing! – user37583 Apr 2 at 21:19
  • @user10915156 Because we're not looking for edit histories, I was specifically looking for posts that contain the text signalling an edit. – linksassin Apr 4 at 3:26
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This is my personal opinion, what I'd like to see us do, and not a moderator ruling.

Common practice on the sites I'm active on is as you say -- the post should always be complete, coherent, and no harder to read than necessary. A post followed by errata ("edit", "edit #2", etc) is harder to read than it needs to be. Somebody who wants to know what specific changes were made can review the revision history; most people just want to know what the question or answer says. We, especially on a site about writing, should edit posts the way we would edit manuscripts, with an eye toward the final product.

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    Not a moderator ruling either, but I agree with Monica here. It always irks me when I see a post and then near the end there's "edit: ...", "edit #2: ...", "edit #3: ..." that somehow change the actual content of the post. I guess I can live with summaries of the edits on that form (something like "edit #2: fixed typos" is tolerable, if superfluous given that the revision history is available), but that's rather what the revision comment field is for. – a CVn Apr 2 at 7:24
5

We don't have a policy but we should

From the answers and comments on this question is has become clear that we have no standing policy on signalling edits in text. By the votes on the answers it seems as though people are mostly in favour of us having a policy but can't agree on what it should be. Here is my suggestion.

Feedback and improvements on this post are encouraged. I hope we can find a policy we can agree on and use to improve the quality of the site.


Avoid signalling edits where possible

In general terms the "edit:" syntax should be avoided, there are some exceptions however. Let's consider some use cases:

Signalling edits in questions

Using the "Edit:" syntax should be avoided in questions where possible. It is not required for:

  • Edits that do not modify the intent or meaning of a question
  • Edits to add an example or clarify a point
  • Edits to correct typos or clear up wording
  • Edits to include information from comments

Under some circumstances it may be appropriate to indicate an edit was made within the text. These circumstances include:

  • Making a significant change which may invalidate answers already made.
  • Making a change which may affect users voting decisions
  • Other edge cases at the discretion of the community.

When making edits:

  • Use the "edit summary" field of the edit window to summarise changes
  • Incorporate the changes to create a single cohesive post. Do not create a separate post under an "Edit" heading.
  • (Optional) Leave a message "Question has been edited to..." at the bottom of the post if you feel it is required. Comment should indicate the intent of the change not a list of the changes made. Revision history can be used if users wish to see the differences.
  • (Optional) Comment on any answers to prompt the authors to update in line with the new changes if required.

Signalling edits in answer posts

"Edit:" syntax should not be used in answers. Edits and improvements should be incorporated into a single post that is the best version of the post. Edit history can be used to find previous revisions. Unlike questions there is no need to be concerned about invalidating answers with edits here.

The only exception is when a significant revision is made that contradicts the original answer and may effect voting. I would prefer that these answers were deleted and a new answer posted but if that doesn't happen a small note can be included to state:

This answer has significant changes since an earlier revision.

2

I edit my posts, and sometimes DO indicate something added at the end, in particular if I have a significant number of votes before I felt the need to edit. I think it is fair to the people that voted to signal that what I am adding is NOT what they voted for.

I think it depends on the nature of the edit. If I edit somebody else's Q/A in order to correct grammar or punctuation or incorrect word choices; I won't note that.

But if I am making a change or reversal in my own post that might make it seem like a different answer, then I do note the nature of the change. And perhaps the vote count when I made the change.

  • I didn't think to note the vote-count at time of edit -- I have had some questions where I revised them significantly with more clarifications, etc. – April Apr 2 at 13:41
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    The "substantial change that might affect your voting decisions" case is one I hadn't thought of. I hope it's rare, but when it happens, I prefer that the edits still be integrated (not appended), with a notice summarizing the major change. People can look at the revision history if they want to know the details. While it's important to give a heads-up to the people who voted already, we hope they will be a very small minority among all the people who will view the post -- so let's optimize for the readers. – Monica Cellio Apr 2 at 13:58
  • @MonicaCellio I know at least one was when the OP revised or clarified their question; and I revised my answer despite having a dozen votes or something. – Amadeus Apr 2 at 15:00
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    This is where I'm at. I hear everyone who is saying edits should be incorporated, like they would be in a book or article. But sometimes it is appropriate to note the edit. For the reasons Amadeus cites. One thing I hate is writing an answer then the question changes and it looks like I never bothered to read the question. If there's no indication that the change was a later edit (seriously, who reads the revision page to find this out?), I might add an edit to my answer to make this clear. – Cyn Apr 2 at 17:09
  • @Cyn it's bad form to edit questions in ways that invalidate existing answers, exactly because of what you said. If you see that happening, please speak up -- ideally by explaining this to the asker and getting the asker to roll it back, but raising it in a flag, in chat, or on meta works too. Or just edit, if you think you can do it without it turning into a fight. – Monica Cellio Apr 2 at 21:58
  • @MonicaCellio I agree that it is bad form and I do speak up, or at least grumble. Sometimes it really can't be helped. If I thought I understood the question and gave a good answer based on that, but I was wrong and the asker clarified, well it happens. I mean what do you do if you get half a dozen people asking you the same clarifying question? Do you not clarify it because someone wrote an answer already that assumes something different from what you meant? – Cyn Apr 2 at 22:00
  • Ideally, if the question isn't clear we try to get the clarification before answering. But yes, sometimes it's clear to you and then it turns out the person meant something else; that happens to everybody sometimes. But to the extent we can avoid the problem (the author can always ask a new question with different parameters), we should. – Monica Cellio Apr 2 at 22:05
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    @MonicaCellio It isn't always bad form; if I am trying to recast a question so it won't be closed as off-topic (or so it might be reopened), then I might invalidate some answers that already exist. – Amadeus Apr 2 at 22:11
  • @Cyn There isn't "no indication" the revision history on stack is extremely robust and shows when the changes were made. Hopefully users will notice that before downvoting. If not hopefully someone nice will comment on your answer and say "OP has edited the question, you may wish to update your answer" – linksassin Apr 2 at 23:23
  • @Amadeus In that situation the "bad form" were the answerers who answers a bad question. It is fine (IMO) to edit this question to invalidate them if they shouldn't have answered it anyway. It may be good to also comment on the answers to give them a chance to edit before downvotes come it. – linksassin Apr 2 at 23:27
  • @linksassin my point is that most people aren't going to look at an answer, think hmmm, this isn't quite on the mark, then check the revision history just in case. I mean we're lucky if these people page up to underneath the question and read the comments. And yeah, you're right that the answerer doesn't always even know the question was changed...that is one reason why highlighting the change in the question itself is helpful. – Cyn Apr 3 at 0:21
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    @MonicaCellio and others, I do sometimes ask for clarification but, by the time the OP answers, if ever, there are multiple other answers with votes and sometimes even an accepted answer. Answering late (which can be half a day) means your answer is probably going to be overlooked. Not always, but often enough that, if I feel ready enough to answer, I don't wait for clarification. Only if it's really needed to answer the question. – Cyn Apr 3 at 0:23
  • @Cyn what you are referring to is the fastest gun in the west problem and it is unfortunately one of the drawbacks of the stack exchange model. The only correct solution is to be vigilant in checking back for edits if you answered early and were unsure. – linksassin Apr 3 at 0:26
  • @linksassin yeah, it is an artifact of how the system works. I just try to get in there with an answer and do my best. – Cyn Apr 3 at 0:29
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    @linksassin I still disagree. If I edit an "edge case" question to make it acceptable, it is because I think it is a valid question that was asked in poor form, and can be revised to make it about the craft of writing. If I don't think that, I will vote to close it. But edge case or not, the rules are the rules, it isn't closed until it is closed, and if it is open and somebody chooses to answer it, they were playing by the rules! They have no obligation to censor themselves and withhold help they believe they can provide because they think it might get closed. – Amadeus Apr 3 at 4:01
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A

I think adding an explicit edit instead of changing your question is fair if an answer has been given that your edit invalidates.

B

This is not an encyclopedia, but a question and answer site. We do not write knowledge articles for Wikipedia, but try to solve problems. People come here seeking help, and once that help has been provided and the problem solved, the question and answer become obsolete for the asker.

The process of clarifying a question through edits added at the question end is completely transparent for those who are currently involved in it. And since it is often much work to revise a question in which the asker has no lasting interest once it has been answered, I don't see why they should invest that time and effort.

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    If you (generic "you") need to edit in a way that would invalidate existing answers, ask a new question instead. Don't waste the work people have already put into helping you by turning their answers into rubbish. – Monica Cellio Apr 2 at 21:59
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    This answer goes against the mission of stack exchange. From the tour: "we're working together to build a library of detailed answers to every question about professional writing", building a library of detailed answers means that questions do have a lasting value. – linksassin Apr 2 at 23:31

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