Gentle Editing

Like many programmers, I’ve come to love Stack Overflow and the rest of the Stack Exchange network. Its unique Wiki / Blog / Forum blend creates a fantastic platform for knowledge sharing.

Thanks to its Wiki-like editing capabilities, quality sticklers like myself can get stuck in and help to smooth out some of the rough edges of the content base.

Unfortunately we geeks sometimes allow our egos to get the better of us, resulting in reasonably common, dreaded, edit wars.  To avoid these, I’ve come up with what I feel is a very gentle and respectful editing style which I’d like to share with you today.  My edits always take a fair bit of time, but I feel it’s worth the investment in the interests of the greater good.

Be respectful. This is the most important part of editing.  Whatever changes I make, I always consider the original poster and try to get a feel for what message they were trying to convey.

The spirit of the post. Whenever I make an edit, I’m very careful not to change it so drastically that the meaning could be altered.  Any change I make should not alter the spirit of the post in any way.

Different flavours of English. I happen to have been taught British English, and as such write words like colour, centre, flavour, and favourite.  However, I will never impose this on others.  I will never change a person’s spelling of a word to a different style of English.  Again, this comes down to respecting the writer.

Edit once. Apart from reading the whole post before submitting my edits, I never come back to an edited post.  Edit once, and move on.  If others feel that further changes are necessary then so be it.  Communities that are as active as Stack Overflow tend to flow in the direction of what is right, so I really think people shouldn’t feel that they need to take it upon themselves to make sure that the post conforms to their personal standards.  This is what being part of a collaborative community is all about.

One’s editing goals should always be humble.  Edit for clarity.


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