# Is a single rude remark inside an otherwise good answer grounds for deleting the whole answer?

I recently stumbled across this deleted answer (10k+ users only). It seems like a good enough answer to the question it was posted on, with a fair amount of detail, but was deleted by a moderator as rude/abusive purely for its opening remark:

You really need to work on your writing style. This sounds like the most arrogant question of all times.

This sort of remark has no place on Stack Exchange: it's unfriendly and unnecessary. Had I seen this answer prior to its deletion, I would have edited it out, and probably left a comment politely asking the user to refrain from making such remarks in the future. But I wouldn't have deleted the entire answer, because the rest of it was fine (albeit in need of some SPaG edits); it was just that one bit that needed removing.

My first thought was that the mod was being too harsh in deleting the answer entirely, instead of just removing the offending statement, but it's also possible that my approach is too lenient. So I thought it best to ask what the best practice is, especially since I'm currently running for pro-tem mod on another SE site.

If an answer contains a single rude/abusive remark but is otherwise a perfectly valid answer, is it acceptable to just remove the offending statement? Or should the whole thing be flagged as rude/abusive and deleted?

I will say that I do disagree with the deletion for reasons that many folks have articulated (though, as has also been acknowledged, the now-removed text was certainly over the line). Given that there seems like there's a fairly solid community consensus for undeleting the answer, I've gone ahead and done so.

I'd like to give a shoutout to both the folks who flagged the answer, as well as F1Krazy for doing a nice job of cleaning up the grammar and spelling - I think that really improved the post's presentation and certainly made it worth keeping.

• Thanks for helping @HDE226868. I can easily understand Monty's knee-jerk reaction and hope no one's holding any ill will toward him for it. Sep 21 '20 at 16:47
• Thank you. I'm changing my acceptance to this answer, as it's based on official moderator policy. Sep 21 '20 at 17:21

# NO

This is what the edit function is for.

I thought the comment was unnecessary and over the top, thought not actually "rude". I think it expressed a valid (if exasperated) position regarding the querent's present line of inquiry and mode of expression. If Monty Wild thought that the comment was rude, that's fair enough. You thought it was rude as well, which is also fair enough. We each have our opinions.

Which brings me to the point: Best practice in this kind of situation would have been to simply edit it out. The response, as you say, was otherwise meritorious and is of benefit to the querent and others considering similar fictional worlds.

As far as whether this was a good Moderator action or not: I'm not saying one way or the other. I will say, however, that I reviewed the respondent's answers. I find no hint of rudeness in any of them. The respondent does say he is German (and thus ESL, so SPaG edits ought to be welcome) and he seems to respond with what I'd consider, from an American perspective, characteristic German forthrightness. I believe the "rude" comment was perhaps nothing more than a single event extension of that forthrightness.

I have moderated worldbuilding forums for years, though never here. If I were a SE Mod, I would have edited out the comment, fixed the SPaGhetti all nice, and called it a day. I wouldn't have even left a comment asking him not to be rude, though I'd make a mental notation for future review. That's a Level 1a response. This is because, as a Moderator, you come to learn that there is a sliding scale of response.

Basically, as I see it, Monty went for the Level 3c response right away. This I think would have been the correct response if the post were nothing more than a diatribe against the querent's own person. The problem with immediate escalation, is that, as a Moderator, you can't deescalate next time there's a problem with a user. People will notice and will come to question the Moderator team's authority: why don't the Mod's administer justice fairly or mercifully? Why did they just edit that person's rude comment out, but they deleted my answer entirely? See how that goes? Really the only response levels beyond utterly eradicating someone's post is to suspend or remove the person from the forum. Neither action are warranted here.

Unfortunately, the community can't vote to undo the deletion, so there's no way to fix outside of Moderator intervention.

The takeaway lesson: always dispense Justice with liberal Mercy; Justice without Mercy is Tyranny.

• Monty seems to favor straight deletion always. That's just the second time this week. Sep 17 '20 at 16:08
• @Renan - So it is. Again, tempered justice is key. Again, that response should have simply been edited to remove the offence against NCNC. It's clearly a flag being used during (something akin to a) battle and thus answers the query perfectly. The gratuitous & potentially inflammatory political remark was unnecessary, given that this is not a soapbox for real life issues. Sep 17 '20 at 17:21
• Broadly agree but note we're not necessarily aware of the complete story in the specific case mentioned. Maybe there was more private communication by the moderators which went badly. Sep 17 '20 at 19:02
• @StephenG -- Indeed not; and I agree that we don't know what, if anything, went on behind the scenes. All I can say is we know the public facts, and that's what I based my response on. Monty can, if they wish, clarify, though from my perspective, I'd argue that their specific action is almost beside the point as there is also the greater issue of general applicability, not only here, but also for F1Krazy going forward in another SE community. Sep 18 '20 at 1:05
• I've been a much worse ass before around here before and I had civilized conversations in comments with Dutch and Monica in different instances, with them explaining to me why I was being an ass. I disagreed with Dutch but I admire his dedication to the community and I listen to him. In all cases either me or them fixed my posts and I respect and uphold their decisions. Seems like Monty was giving no chances to Willk (our most polite user!) and Erik though. Sep 18 '20 at 1:22
• Willk's answer got undeleted after it was edited, and it turns out I can still edit the deleted answer I linked to. I wonder whether I should just go ahead and edit it, and then flag it for undeletion. Sep 18 '20 at 14:11
• @F1Krazy -- Sounds like a plan! Sep 18 '20 at 17:26
• @elemtilas Done, and I'll accept this answer in the meantime. Sep 18 '20 at 17:33
• To back up elemtilas’ assertion of German forthrightness (and politeness in cultures generally) read this question and answer over on Travel. Sep 19 '20 at 6:56
• Hopefully the Answer in question will be undeleted and edited to accord with the community consensus. Sep 21 '20 at 13:54

# No.

First off, as @elemtilas has already pointed out, there's a reason we, as users, can edit posts.

I would also like to add that, while it is somewhat rude, it isn't overly offensive.

I could see deleting it if it said something like "you shouldn't be writing, you arrogant %^\$&! Stop polluting our site with your #$@\\$."

However, it doesn't. It seems to me that at worst it comes off as petulantly exasperated. Also, remember that WB.SE has members from many cultures; what's acceptable is not constant throughout the world. It isn't even constant in the U.S. For example, correcting someone else's child is permissible in Texas, but doing it in the Pacific Northwest is extremely offensive.

• And just to make a point about how important thick skins are and how much the perception of offense varies by area, here in the Pacific Inland Northwest, we think the folks of the Pacific Coastal Northwest are raising their kids to be monsters, that government is intrinsically evil, and that wheat solves all problems. All the love in the world, of course... We're sure everyone would agree with us if they just thought about it for a moment. :-) Sep 21 '20 at 16:54
• I used to live in the Pacific Inland Northwest, and I have to agree; those Coastal Northwesters can be pretty annoying sometimes :) Sep 21 '20 at 17:16

# YES...

and no...

Stack Exchange has become draconian. What was once a problem primarily on Stack Overflow has swung entirely to the other side and become a systemic and institutionalized problem in the corporation and that's infecting the user base.

Problem #1 is the Code of Conduct, which teaches us to hand-slap people instantly for not being perfect (or for not being politically aligned with Stack Exchange).

Problem #2 Flagging is highly encouraged, and one of the flags is to identify a post that's rude and abusive. The amount of rudeness and abusivity is not stated in the flag text — and considering that SE's behavior is that it's not tolerated, the apparently encouraged option is to delete.

Problem #3 is the culture on Worldbuilding to never, ever, ever, edit another person's post. This, despite SE's overall culture of encouraging editing so long as the meaning of the post is not changed.

It is therefore difficult to argue that Monty's use of the moderator hammer was wrong. We and SE have created the environment that permitted it. (I respect that F1Krazy's post is a legitimate effort to change WB's culture... but my own experience is that it won't get very far. Most of the new users aren't lifting a finger to understand the site, its culture, or its past at all anyway.)

For the record, it's as important to educate people about answering as it is to educate them about asking questions. Erik did need to know that his remark was unacceptable. Frankly, "rude" is frequently in the eye of the beholder. If Erik thinks that's the most arrogant question "of all times" (his own grammar isn't great), then he needs more experience. Then again, I've no doubt some will consider this answer to be the most arrogant post of all time.

• Monty should have edited the answer first, leaving a comment reminding Erik to "be nice." However, for all I know Monty had had a long day, too. And considering the moderating load — I'm in favor of thanking him, even when I occasionally think it could have been handled better.

Thanks, Monty! For moderating a site that's IMO harder to moderate than herding cats. Thanks. L.Dutch, HDE 226868... Thanks.

• I was never aware of problem #3. I edit other people's posts all the time, and removing noise and rude remarks is a thing I've done many times. Sep 20 '20 at 7:29
• I was never aware of Problem #3 either. I generally don't have issues with the moderation on SE, but this apparent trend of WB moderators deleting answers with no warning, instead of trying to fix them with an edit, is concerning. Sep 20 '20 at 8:27
• @Renan Over the years I've run into circumstances where people complained based on the idea that the site is artistic in nature and therefore edits pose a threat to the intent and meaning of the post. I'd have to dig through history to find examples, because I stopped editing save for new users who need help (e.g., walls of text type problems) due to the complaints. Sep 20 '20 at 16:37
• By in large, I agree about the issue being with Stack Exchange the Company. Frankly, I don't really care about their poorly written CoC. It's pretty useless. Golden Rule basically covers everything but the technical side. WB is just different in so many ways: as I've said many times before, our very nature and material is about as out of place on SE as it can get. Our rules are a little different and our expectations are as well. Just because SE "encourages" or "discourages" something doesn't mean we have to put up with it without good reason. (I.e. "flagging") Obviously, if something is ... Sep 20 '20 at 23:41
• (cont) egregious, yeah it needs flagging. Otherwise, just be an adult about it and leave a comment. (I think, if I recall right) you've so admonished me before! Mostly though, I think you brought up two excellent points: new users not wanting (or not caring) about the community they joined or learning its culture & history and also about teaching new users how to answer questions (as well as ask). I don't know how much of the WB Tour and Help center are ... Sep 20 '20 at 23:46
• (concld) ...editable, but those would be good starts. I think I've made a (perhaps small) start on the other issue with what WB is all about Sep 20 '20 at 23:46
• For the record, I've personally had a problem with #3; I, at least, edit all the time (for that matter, it's what I spend most of my time here doing). Sep 21 '20 at 12:32
• @TheDaleks -- I think what JBH is referring to, and I could be wrong!, is our culture of not "essentially altering" or not "pruning to the ground". If someone tells a little story as background, we tend to leave it be, even though, by the book, we could edit it down to the bare question and community functionality would be none the worse. Frankly, I quite happily edit other people's Qs & As! "Grammar Nazi" and "Spelling Police" are two of the most often used reasons for editing that show up in my dialogue box! I also edit for clarification, but only rarely edit out "fluff". Sep 21 '20 at 15:55
• @elemtilas You're right... but I believe the fear the people I've encountered have is that if the willingness to edit is loosened, then their posts will be changed (and in a creative post, that's actually an unintentional possibility). Worse, considering how the community tends to react to back stories, if it gets too loose we'll have people fixing the back stories. You're looking at this from a well-balanced middle point - the point everyone should be at. I'm not convinced the community is at that point. (*continued*) Sep 21 '20 at 16:43
• @elemtilas I'm going to put a bug in your ear, though, because it appears you have more time than I do right now. We could use a really really good meta post proposing (and eventually establishing) the site's rules & etiquette for editing. Then we can get the moderators to update the help center. No one may read it, but it least it would be something official we can point to. Sep 21 '20 at 16:45
• @JBH Challenge accepted (although I'm a little busy now too). Sep 21 '20 at 17:18
• Well, I'm definitely not terribly busy at the moment. @TheDaleks - Would you care to collaborate or compete mercilessly? ;) Sep 21 '20 at 20:36
• @JBH -- Concur. Well, every day there's new members, so every day there's a chance for unintended consequences to bloom like red algae. Sep 21 '20 at 20:39
• @TheDaleks My hope is that you'll collaborate with Elemtilas. He's been massively involved in the meta discussions for a very long time. His insight into the culture of the Stack and how it developed is surpassed by very few (and I'm not sure I'm among them). Note that the result of your collaboration will be a Meta post that other users can respond to for refinements (most notably the Moderators). It's the result of that refining process that will become a final Meta post stating policy. Sep 21 '20 at 20:49
• @JBH -- Don't sell yourself short! You're actually one of handful I look up to hereabouts! Sep 21 '20 at 20:54

In my opinion, that answer should not have been deleted.

As a moderator on another SE site, I simply edit out anything that will likely be construed as rude.

If it becomes a routine problem (exceptionally rare), I'll ask the community member to please be more kind.

It has never required any more intervention than that.

Overall, I work hard to value everyone's contributions, and never delete any content unless absolutely necessary.