In the last 24 hours I've had two posts edited by moderators/high reputation users which were automatically applied. One was on WB and the other on another stack exchange. In both cases, the edit reason given was "Removed/Added X Characters in Body".

Now, don't get me wrong, I understand that editing posts for clarity and acceptability is an important aspect of the site, but this seems pretty uninformative. In the case of the WB Edit, the revision seems to provide little to no improvement - a 12 character change replacing "-" with a longer version. Was this a readability change? Why was it necessary? Is it a standard that I should be following? How am I meant to improve the quality of my posts so that future edits aren't required if the reason for the edit isn't explained?

Given that the edit reasons given in both posts were almost identical in format, I'm guessing that this is either:

  1. The automated message that comes up if you don't put anything in the reason.
  2. What people are taught to do somewhere.

If it's 1., should it not be mandatory to explain why you are editing someone else's post, and if it's 2., where does it say this so that I can suggest it's changed?

P.S.: I realise that this may be better suited to Meta Stack Exchange rather than the Meta WB. If this is the case, please let me know/Move it!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Please don't confuse high reputation users with elected (or appointed, as is still the case on Worldbuilding until we have our community election) moderators. While semi-high reputation users can edit directly (1k rep isn't very hard to get to), and lots of moderation is offloaded to ordinary community members, the two categories of users are highly distinct. $\endgroup$ – user Jan 17 '16 at 13:07

I can't speak for the users who edited your posts, but I can speak to your points:

"Added x chars in body" is in fact the automated edit reason if one isn't given. The edit itself was not automatic; the user did manually go in and edit your post.

With a little speculation, my guess is that they might have felt their edits were minor but also self-evident, so they didn't require a reason. When you see someone replace your hyphens with em-dashes, the only possible conclusion I can think of is, "that person is telling me that I should probably use em-dashes instead".

It's a minor thing, of course, but I can answer your many sub questions succinctly:

Was this a readability change? Why was it necessary? Is it a standard that I should be following? How am I meant to improve the quality of my posts so that future edits aren't required if the reason for the edit isn't explained?

It's an em-dash, which has always been typographically superior to double hyphens. Thus the intent and implicit recommendation behind the edit seems evident to me.

  • $\begingroup$ Makes sense! I'll use — from now on then. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 18 '16 at 9:40

The "removed/added X characters in body" is the default if an edit reason isn't given.

As for learning from an edit, it depends. If it's correcting a common spelling/grammar error (like "it's" where you meant "its"), that's worth noticing. (When I leave an edit message in such cases I tend to say something like "corrected typos" -- I try to avoid calling somebody out on "errors".) If it's just a style thing (like emdashes) then shrug; yes emdashes are better than double hyphens, no not everybody is going to do them (case in point), and if somebody who cares edits to change them, that's ok. We're an eclectic bunch, and whether you change your future posting habits is entirely up to you.

On the other hand, there are cases where two styles are equally valid, or where style is hotly debated, and an editor shouldn't impose his preferred style on a post that uses the other one. For example, British and American English are both welcome here; Americans shouldn't go changing "ou" to "o" and "ise" to "ize". For another example, gender-neutral pronouns are controversial; if somebody used neutral "he", people shouldn't edit to change to singular "they" or vice-versa.

Finally, edits that only change style can feel a little gratuitous; people shouldn't bump a post to the front page just for minor style changes. Minor style changes as part of a larger edit to improve readability, fix grammar, incorporate information from comments, and so on are fine; please keep doing that. If you're editing anyway, please try to make all the improvements you can.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "please try to make all the improvements you can". Of course, every once in a while, a small change is really meaningful. $\endgroup$ – user Jan 17 '16 at 19:33

Personally, I note that when I was using Firefox, the edit-reason bkank would remember a history list including common edits, making it easy to pick a descriptive well-written line. With Chrome mobile, that mechanism doesn't work so well and it can be more difficult to explain than to make an editorial/typography edit!

The #1 edit I make that's repeated is its for it's.

You certainly should be using the right dashes, when typesetting in a modern proportional font, just as you use commas and periods where needed. Wikipedia editing has a little button bar below for common characters including en and em dashes. If you use a dash as a punctuation mark — a fairly modern fad — your post would indeed be superior if you really did so and didn't substitute a similar-looking character or fake it with a sequence of tiny hyphens.

I notice a lot of posts don't use a mechanism for superscripts. I won't automatically fix that when I'm on a tablet because multiple MathJax sections in one post will slow down Chrome to the point of making it difficult to continue.

OTOH, on my desktop I can type em and en dashes (and other characters) trivially on my extra-row keyboard add-on.

  • $\begingroup$ Its OK, JD. Regarding the apostrophe, its not as if it's properties arent well known. (Wow, that was one of the most painful things I've written in my entire life. ;-) On a more serious note, it's worth noting that SE posts (with the exception of comments?) understand &emdash; just fine (as well as &endash; to separate ranges), so if you don't have fancy add-ons or other easy ways to type dashes and other characters, you can just type the character entity. $\endgroup$ – type_outcast Jan 17 '16 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the explanation! For those of us without the luxury of extended keyboards, I'm assuming meta stack exchange would be the best place to request an update to the editor to allow easy access to the preferred symbol, so that we don't have to remember the HTML code for it? $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 18 '16 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ I suppose. Or use greesemonkey and don't wait for them, or use an on-screen applet to type special chars, or edit in another program and then paste into the browser form. Input Shows my custom rig. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Jan 18 '16 at 11:02

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