At present, users with enough reputation are allowed to edit posts, but no guidelines are given about the editing process. In view of my proposal to make the user rights more precise, we also need to specify the editing rules guidelines in more detail. hence my proposal below.
Also, to make changes to the FAQ easier to follow, I propose that the page with the FAQ should have a history, and a link to all pages where they are discussed. The discussion should be separated from the FAQ itself. FAQ discussion pages should be locked after a month of inactivity; new ones can be created easily when need arises.
I propose to replace the heading ''How do I edit a post?'' of Section 8 of the FAQ to ''Editing posts'', and append the text starting with the next paragraph after the current text of this section. I post the current version just for discussion; after the discussion subsides I'll make an updated proposal for voting; if necessary split into several parts.
Note that the following are intended to be guidelines only, not laws; each editor should use common sense to modify existing text.
Original contributors of a question, answer, or comment may edit their contribution in any way deemed to improve the text. However, mutilation of existing upvoted answers and comments by the original contributor is not acceptable and may lead to a loss of the upvotes.
Editing by others than the original contributor is at the same time encouraged, and restricted to, matters of spelling, languange, and politeness; see the amended user rights proposed here. Anything else - in particular, dissent about matters stated in a contribution as a fact - should be addressed by submitting a comment rather than by an edit.
Spelling should always be corrected in question titles; in other contributions only together with other changes. Don't enforce British or American English spelling; both are acceptable.
Grammar should always be corrected in question titles; in other contributions only in case of multiple errors or together with other changes. Rephrase poor English phrasing but preserve the meaning of the text.
Impolite text should be toned down to a level acceptable in everyday spoken and written conversation between respected collegues. The tone of all contributions should be made consistent with an atmosphere where people are informed, educated, and corrected for free, and in a professional, respectful, friendly and forgiving way - so that they like to be around and contribute.
Make sure that all seemingly factual information (including value judgments you disagree with) is preserved by any rephrasing. You should not change a statement that something is wrong invalid, irrelevant, or meaningless, even if you are convinced this statement is nonsense or you find it arrogant; rather state your opposite assessment and the reasons for it in a comment or answer. On meta, you should also preserve more emotional language, since there discussions are not just about scientific facts.
However, you should change (both on the main site and on meta) statements that someone is wrong, deluded, lying, a fanatic, a fool, an idiot, etc., and statements containing other offensive words into corresponding statements about the underlying matter (unless contributors talk about themselves). For example, replace
'You are completely wrong!' by 'Your claim is completely wrong', etc..
You may also simplify statements containing dirty words or superfluous, non-factual content. In this case, preserving the meaning is impossible, but try to preserve factual connotations implicit in the phrases modified. For example, you might replace
- 'totally worthless' by 'worthless',
- 'wrong, wrong, wrong', 'completely wrong' or 'more than wrong' by 'wrong',
- 'full of shit' by 'valueless',
- 'full of crap' by 'irrelevant',
- 'a construction of absolutely zero interest' by 'a construction of no interest',
- 'the result is a literally funny theory where there are a bunch of noninteracting bosons' by 'the result is a theory where there are a bunch of noninteracting bosons',
- 'horrific misunderstanding' by 'misunderstanding',
- 'not even wrong' by 'meaningless' (except if it refers to Peter Woit's site, and the reference makes scientific sense in the context).
Remove links to nonscientific content such as Tourists as tax spies and similar Greek tragicomedies
even though it refers to the blog of a competent physicist (Lubos Motl).
Delete factually empty remarks such as
- 'Do not fool yourself',
- 'It actually can be interpreted as a mathematical joke, if it weren't so formal',
- 'My patience for this paper is nil, it's insulting it's readers' intelligence.'
But if a comment is factually completely empty, such as ''If you do not have any doubt, aren't you a "fanatic"?'' flag it for moderator attention rather than edit it to the empty text.
Note that this site guarantees the freedom of speech; PO has no censorship rules and bans nobody who contributes scientific content, even if his or her contribution is based on misunderstanding. Thus (apart from users striving for excellence) editing is our only way of ensuring high quality, by striving for a professional, inviting atmosphere that attracts excellent contributors. High quality editing is therefore very important.
If you are a contributor whose text was edited, take it as a sign that the form of your contribution wasn't seen as being up to professional standards. If you don't like the edit, it is far better to improve it further in the light of the corrections made than to undo it, which should be done only in case the editor misunderstood what you meant to say. (But if you meant to be rude you should learn to improve your social habits. People may be rude on their own web site but it is inappropriate in a professional place such as PO.)