The issue of unnecessary edits has been brought up many times here, both on meta and in chat.

The "Hidden points of editing you probably didn't know" post puts it fairly succinctly:

In any event, do not edit lots of old or low-quality posts at the same time so as to flood the main page with old stuff and hide newer content.

And as ever, M.A.R. has some words of wisdom:

Oh +1000 for this! I see much editor and reviewer time here on Chem that could be spent on something better.

Two examples of the kind of edit I'm talking about. One (the top image) is a relatively recent question, so I can see the logic in editing.

The other, however, is a post from 2014 which wasn't particularly interesting/well received and certainly didn't need to be resurrected merely to change the spelling of sulfuric (although sulphuric may be depreciated, its widely found in the UK and other parts of Europe, and google is perfectly capable of finding both spellings from the same search).

enter image description here enter image description here

Similarly, I've seen years old posts edited to insert punctuation marks and change words as a matter of personal style/preference. In addition to this bumping posts to the homepage, theres also the issue of the fact that american english and style is not the de-facto standard here, and so long as the sentence makes sense and is readable I see no justification for editing other peoples personal styles of writing.

I wonder whether, as per the fact that posts/comments have to have a certain length, the system could be modified to prevent users from making minimal edits (a couple of characters), without the edits ending up in the queue before being bumped to the homepage.

  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Google can find sulphur/sulfur, but site search cannot, that is one small thing to bear in mind. // I don't think I have ever explicitly instructed people to specifically hunt for instances of sulphur, and I don't think I have ever done that myself, but at some point in time I would like to propose that we standardise our spelling (see also post here). I will certainly let the site vote on whether it's an appropriate policy or a rubbish policy, though. $\endgroup$ May 19, 2017 at 23:50
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol, my issue was more that old posts were being dug up for this very trivial matter (and the comment at the end about not editing for personal style/preference) . I agree that sulfur is the accepted IUPAC/internationally agreed spelling, and on new posts should be changed, however (this seems common sense, I think (?)) $\endgroup$
    – NotEvans.
    May 20, 2017 at 12:15
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I absolutely agree in general that old posts don't need to be dug up specifically for this, especially ones that aren't good (SE policy is, don't polish turds) - in that comment I was just going off on a (barely marginally related) tangent. $\endgroup$ May 20, 2017 at 12:29
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I am tempted to close this as a duplicate of Editing gone wild. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2017 at 3:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @orthocresol "standardise our spelling" This means war! ಠ_ಠ $\endgroup$ May 22, 2017 at 15:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Martin-マーチン it possibly is a dupe, though recently every time I log in there is an awful lot of old shoddy posts being bumped by edits composed of a couple of characters. By all means close, but perhaps the guidelines on editing can be clarified / possibly re-discussed as they're clearly not being read. $\endgroup$
    – NotEvans.
    May 22, 2017 at 18:52
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think that's a good point, there has been talk for a while about providing more thorough and consistent guidance to users, but nothing has really materialised yet. There are lots of things to discuss, it is clear that not everybody agrees on how much editing is acceptable. (I think that digging up old posts is OK as long as it does not get excessive. But if you asked me what "excessive" meant, I wouldn't have a good answer for you...) $\endgroup$ May 23, 2017 at 23:19

3 Answers 3


The best way to combat this is to reject the edits. If you see an edit that was accepted and is as poor as the one above, please flag it for a moderator to take a look at. We have a means to take action on these type of cases if necessary. Rolling back is okay in this type of situation, too, but that can lead to "rollback wars" over contentious edits.

Any editors can be "@"ed in the comments section, even if it does not come up in the autocomplete. As such, if you see an egregious case of this from someone with editing privileges, you can offer a metered amount of constructive criticism, or even better, take it to chat to discuss.

As an aside, regarding this particular example, leaving (acceptable) British spellings of words is generally the de facto standard on the network, and is definitely justification for outright rejecting that particular edit.


TL;DR: Google may understand the difference between sulfur and sulphur, but gives better rankings to pages (and entire sites) with better spelling, grammar, and mechanics. Also, it's easier to read a post with better spelling and grammar.

I have been doing copious editing. However, I do not typically edit for American v British spelling unless I see a post that is using both spellings. I've seen posts that use both color and colour and, in these cases, I've already opened the post because I had found a different issue with it. In addition, my edits no longer go into the review queue so it doesn't clog it up.

I am specifically targeting 'sulphur.' It may seem petty, but it gives me a search term I can use to find posts that may need other changes. I've been doing a lot of edits on "Sulphur" posts as it's a way for me to visit posts I've never before seen. I also edit grammar and punctuation on these.

As Google gives ranking priority to pages with better grammar and spelling, I visit a question and each answer to the question as a way to suss out any problems with a question. This can bring forward an unanswered question to users who hadn't seen it before and thus give it a breath of fresh air.

I edit at times of the day when user participation is low so it doesn't clog up the new stuff. In addition, I like to finish off a day of editing by visiting new questions and seeing what edits could be made in order to push some of the newer stuff back up to the top and find questions that should be closed.

My main goals in editing are the following:

  1. Clean up posts for better searchability in search engines = traffic. Yes, Google can differentiate between sulfur and sulphur. However, when it comes to ranking in Google search engine results, it's best to clean up a post's grammar, spelling, etc. Again, searching specifically for "sulphur" allows me a guaranteed hit on a question I've never before visited. I could also edit by tag, but this could lead to, "What's the deal with all the edits to organic chemistry questions? Is it that important that we clean up only organic chemistry?"
  2. Meet IUPAC standards.
  3. Improve searchability on the site allowing users to be able to find all the sulfur posts in one go.
  4. Increase our number of answers per post. I believe we have something just over an 80% answer rate, which is great. However, one interesting point is that many questions have one answer and oftentimes that answer isn't that great. By pushing some of these questions to the front with a breath of fresh air, perhaps they will garner either an answer or a better answer.

Here's an example of an edit that (while seemingly minor) deals with punctuation and spacing issues, adds a few missing words, actually changes some words, pluralizing a word, etc... However, not only might Google give it priority over a similar page, but it just reads better.

Here is an example: site stats This data represents the traffic, over the course of a year, to some of my written work on the web. At one point (which I'm sure you can clearly discern given my philosophy on editing), you can see Google search is sending me more traffic (as a result of significantly higher rankings.) This was due to me editing only around 90 pages of my own work. Much of this work included things as small as grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling. Google gives much more love to pages that are error-free (in terms of language.) Also, those pages look more polished and professional.

I hope this better explains why I edit and why it's part of my work here at Chem.SE. I not only want the site to grow, but I want what we show to the world to not only be authoritative but also look authoritative.



There actually is a minimum character requirement for suggested edits. If I remember correctly, that is six characters. Additionally those edits have to be approved by two senior users or one moderator.

An edit in general should always be substantial and I agree with our fearless leader (jonsca) that the best way to combat bad practices is to reject those edits, which are trivial. I occasionally look through past suggested edits which were received controversial and try to see emerging patterns. At least from that experience I cannot report any big problem. The only thing that regularly occurs is that these suggested edits are basically focusing on a too small number of changes, while there are multiple more issues with some of those posts.
There has been discussion about both, dropping that requirement altogether, or introducing it to all edits. However, there never has been a conclusion. If you would like to further discuss this, you should take it to meta.se, because a change would affect the whole network.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There is always the problem of >2k rep users who like to edit posts, one character at a time, for whatever reason. (see what I did to your post? ;)) Of course, jonsca's answer already covered that case. $\endgroup$ May 26, 2017 at 11:00

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .