What should be done to correct a question if OP is not responding. In this question Comparing acidities of substituted and aromatic carboxylic acids

The OP (I think by mistake) wrote

Electron withdrawing group reduces the acidity by stabilising the anion by electron withdrawal.

Whereas it should be corrected from reduces to increases as we all know the latter is correct.
In this case shouldn't moderators edit those questions by themselves if such an issue is brought to them? This is because their edits are imposed directly and are not reviewed.

  • $\begingroup$ My guideline for editing is that whenever someone improves a post without putting words in the author's mouth, I approve the edit. This case is weird though, the answerers do not seem to mention the OP's logic, and it doesn't occur to me whether or not correcting reduces renders part of the answers obsolete or the question nonsensical. And no, it's not moderators' job to edit things. They just usually are cool people and help out anyway. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 5:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DEAD I mean to say that if a mistake is brought to them then they can edit easily because their edits are imposed immediately. Also I am sure that OP might have mistakenly wrote reduces, I simply tried to edit that but it was rejected. $\endgroup$
    – JM97
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you need to understand Mart's stance here. The reject reason is basically 'this deviates from the author's intent'. It does, and ultimately it boils down to whether that's a typo or a crucial part of the author's reasoning. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Dead it's a typo because he says by "reduces the acidity by stabilising the anion" at last if you were the OP what you will do? You will correct that, so I want to say since OP is not responding, and to maintain site good we as fellow members must correct it. $\endgroup$
    – JM97
    Commented Sep 4, 2016 at 5:51
  • $\begingroup$ I see it now and agree that this can only be a typo (which should be changed). I have laid out my reason for rejecting this edit in the comment there and, below, to Jan's post. I think a valid procedure for these rare cases is bringing them here to meta just to make sure we are all on the same page. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 3:10

2 Answers 2


Edit (9 Sept 2016): The question in question has been edited.

Firstly thank you for posting this to meta. Any and all discussion helps us and the site to get better.

Now, I don't agree with the argument that it "deviates from the author's intent". Quoting from the bottom part of the post directly (emphasis mine)

  1. [...] The negative inductive effect of chlorine helps in dispersing the negative charge on the carboxylate ion. [...] Therefore, the negative inductive effect should increase the acidity by improving the stability of the conjugate base.
  2. Why is benzoic acid weaker than formic acid? Unless I am mistaken, in several other places, the phenylic moiety is treated as slightly electron withdrawing (implies that OP thinks it should make benzoic acid a stronger acid) [...]

I think it's obvious enough that OP knows that electron withdrawal leads to an increase in acidity and that writing "reduces" was just a minor slip-up. The answers to the question, both by reputable users with a history of good answers, do not bother "correcting" the "mistake" either. Why should they? I have made worse mistakes in some answers of mine, including the stunning assertion that sodium has 19 electrons. If you edited that for me, I would not complain about you putting words into my mouth!

There have been so many posts showing fundamental misconceptions with things (the most common culprits being atomic orbitals and thermodynamics). It would be wrong to edit those because even though the premise of the question is not correct to begin with, editing them invalidates the entire point of the question. However, this is clearly not one of these cases.


First, I want to get a confusion of terms out of the way. There are community (or: diamond) moderators — on Chemistry, these are Martin, Jonsca and ManishEarth at the time of writing this — and there is the help centre which talks about the moderators being the community. There is also the community user who acts as a bot-moderator, if you wish.

From most places on the internet we are used to a specific subset of people having a high degree of control over content and everybody else being just there, sometimes flagging problems for moderators to handle.

On Stack Exchange, a certain reputation threshold gives you certain moderation rights. The newly-arriving user can only post questions and answers and suggest edits. With increasing reputation they gain (amoung others) the right to flag, to edit posts, to close questions and to delete answers — these last two as part of a community quorum system. Hence why Stack Exchange says that the community is moderating the site.

Sometimes, the community cannot reach an agreement, and there is cleanup stuff that needs to be done but has not been put into the community’s hands. That is what the diamond moderators come in: They are human exception handlers that clean up what is left. Going by the internet understanding as presented in the second paragraph, many people call these ‘moderators’. However, I assume you meant the Stack Exchange reasoning, i.e. should the community (everybody with 2000 reputation and more) etc. etc.

To answer the actual question, there is a fine line that we need to be balancing on. Maybe we can all agree that something is a typo; in that case the edit is okay. Maybe OP responds in a comment but is too lazy to edit themselves; in that case the edit is okay. But maybe we do not.

In this case, of course, the wording does not make sense. And it should be increases by general logic. But maybe OP has a double-flaw in their logic, that miraculously cancels out the error. We may comment to them, we may pre- or postfix our answers with a comment explaining that the logic reasoning is flawed. I don’t think we should edit the post, though. We don’t know whether that is what OP wanted to say or not.

This edit deviates from the original intent of the post. Even edits that must make drastic changes should strive to preserve the goals of the post's owner.

  • $\begingroup$ Two points I would like to clarify. The named mods are not community moderators; we a just moderators on Chemistry. A community mod acts across the network, they are staff members. But the difference between the privileges on the site are minimal. We are elected by the users, while CM are appointed through their job. Secondly, I rejected that edit because there was an earlier one (the same) already rejected by community members and I did not feel like overruling this verdict. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 3:04
  • $\begingroup$ Community manager is the term. And the abbreviation is CM. $\endgroup$
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 6:59

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