I'll always edit formatting. But this isn't really an issue.
For an example, see Relative pronouns (where vs. which).
I'll try not to correct language in the body of the question. One of the reasons is straightforward and simple, as StoneyB (again) has pointed out: I usually have no way of knowing what the asker's intention is.
Furthermore I've rejected or improved several edits that try to change the phrasing of a question to make it "better", when it was completely comprehensible without the edits - these are usually a judgement on the style of a question, rather than grammatical corrections.
Grammatical corrections are fine, and style corrections are probably acceptable if they're made as part of an answer that answers the question (read: not an answer that explains the edit) and explained, or explained in a comment. Otherwise, all the user sees is that their post was edited, and has no idea why.
The idea behind graduated moderation privileges, on SE sites, I believe, is to distribute the workload. The reason moderators exist is to catch the exceptions, not to do all the work.
In addition to the 4 pro-tem moderators, there are 41 users with access to the
10k 2k moderator tools. I'm not sure how the tools they are afforded overlap, perhaps someone can enlighten me.
While I'm not sure whether the question:answer ratio is, as StoneyB suggests a symptom of our workload capacity.
It's certainly possible that it is an indication of the amount of work that we're able to take on, but I'm leaning toward the idea that questions are having answers accepted too quickly - for some reason, some users are less willing to answer questions that have accepted answers. I'm not privy to these kinds of statistics, and I'm not sure whether anyone else is, but I'd be interested to see whether questions receive fewer views from registered users after they have a question accepted.
I don't think that, if all 6,755 users were active and a quarter of them edited just one question a day, all ~7,647 of our questions would be fixed within a working week. Then it would just be up to the current core of fifty or so people to fix questions as they come in.
This isn't going to happen. I'd wager that less than one-sixth of our users have been active in the last four months, and that less than 300 of them have been active in the last month. At that rate, with each person editing one question a day, assuming there's no overlap, it'd take a little over a month, at the current rate, including new questions. A lot more work.
However, it is indisputable that attempting to enforce edits on every question would at the very best, be ignored by a sizable number of users, and at worst, would reduce output.
The community, as a whole, has decided against explicit proofreading, I've raised the issue about implied proofreading, if such a classifier can be used. There are many examples of users correcting content in their answers, so it's clear that we correct it.
This, hopefully, provides a couple of benefits:
- The asker is notified of the correction (in the form of a notification for the new answer);
- The original text of the question gets indexed by search engines, and this may inadvertently direct search traffic to the question. While they are usually quite good at correcting input language, if it slips through, we attract traffic in this way. The corrected language in the answer hopefully attracts searches for the answer content.
The second is a very minor benefit, if it can be considered one at all.
Proofreading the question really only benefits the asker (which is the immediate goal), but is likely to be too localised to assist any future visitors.
Another possibility is that allowing proofreading will attract homework questions with little to no effort to solve it independently - such questions are usually closed in any case.
I feel obliged to respond to StoneyB's piece on the personal preferences toward correcting answers.
In the not-too-distant past, I would have leapt at the opportunity to correct someone else's English. However, these days, I have much more of a laissez-faire attitude.
I think that correction is welcome when it's asked for, and grammar policing when it isn't. While it's arguable that every person asking a question on ELL is asking for a correction of their post, the explicit question is my focus, and as long as the body of the question is comprehensible, I'll let it be. If there's something glaringly erroneous, as mentioned, I'll mention it in the post.
I spend most of my time dealing with language, and it's real, raw language with slips and "mistakes" and non-standard utterances. By the time I jump onto ELL to unwind (and that's the word with the meaning closest to what I'm after, so it's an irony-free label), I can deal with pretty much anything.
Also, I'm definitely going to edit questions to Australian English grammaticality, and I'm sure the majority of users are going to come from, or aspire to, either BrE or AmE.
(On a slightly unrelated topic, computers seem to think I speak New Zealandish.)
The short version:
- Feel free to edit for formatting
- Beware of editing for style and playing "guess what's in your head" with the asker
- If you have the time and can guess what they're asking, edit away
- Don't feel obliged to proofread
- Computers think I speak New Zealandish