I saw this question on MSE, which is about a question here on ELL!

This addition of useful images was rejected in the edit suggestion process.

Both of these rejections reasons don't really help the site!

This edit deviates from the original intent of the post. Even edits that must make drastic changes should strive to preserve the goals of the post's owner.

Yes, someone who didn't actually look at the images might think this is the case but if you actually see the image and understand it, you can see that it clearly illustrates exactly what the text describes. This was an incorrect rejection.

This reason is for edits that actually change the answer to something very different to what it was. For example, if someone originally said "The answer is A" and you changed it to say "The answer is not A, it's B"... that's bad, and that's a valid rejection using this reason.

You should first leave a comment to the author of the Q asking his permission. The author has not disappeared, so there's a good chance he will reply.

This is written by someone who doesn't seem to understand one of the purposes of editing and who sees the post as belonging to the author. There's no need to ask for permission. If the OP doesn't like the edit, it can be rolled back. Simple as pie.

There's no reason to clutter up the comments to ask permission to add images and it's sort of silly to say "Hey, this would be awesome with some illustrative images to make it more easy to understand. Would you consider adding that?"... if you're willing to do it yourself instead. If they don't want the images in their post, they can remove them.

Let's be a bit more welcoming and encouraging to new editors who are willing to really improve posts by approving their edits rather than inappropriately reigning them in!

I personally encourage this user to resubmit their edit for reconsideration.

  • I am the the author of the second reject reason. The edit, in my view, was a fairly substantial one, and if I am unsure whether the graph is appropriate or not I prefer to be safe than sorry, than take the risk someone's post being downvoted. We are not speaking about punctuation, simple grammar corrections or formatting a post for clarity. In those cases asking permission would be silly. Without the graphs the answer is still perfectly clear, legible, and comprehensive.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:19
  • Not that long ago I posted a link to an image, which I thought ilustrated perfectly the post, but before allowing myself to take the liberty of editing I asked the user, and I pointed out the image was not copyright bound, although I'm not 100% certain, the author refused. However, the answer was so well written to begin with, it didn't suffer. ell.stackexchange.com/questions/108010/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:34
  • The edit has been approved, but there is no way on heaven or earth I would call that "a minor edit or improvement". As suggested by the title: Need I ask permission to edit an answer to add a minor improvement?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:48
  • 2
    There is nothing about the edit process that requires suggested edits to be minor. I've seen edits that double the word count of the answer and they are often never rolled back because they are beneficial to the site and they genuinely improve the content. Don't get hung up on "minor".
    – Catija
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:53
  • 3
    If you can't tell if the image is a good fit or not, the correct action is to skip the review!
    – Catija
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    I did consider skipping the review but I believed the reason I gave for rejecting was fair, and I was not alone. Before someone decides to add images, graphs and lengthy edits, as the author of a post I want to be informed. Luckily, this type of substantial edit has never been suggested in an answer of mine.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 15:56
  • 1
    I haven't looked over the details of this instance yet, but edits shouldn't be rejected simply because someone didn't contact the author first. If I make a large edit, I will often leave a comment explaining it and how to reverse it if the author doesn't like it, but neither permission nor explanation are required in my opinion.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 21, 2016 at 18:04
  • 3
    @Mari-Lou The author is informed of edits when they're suggested. If you see a suggested edit approved by the community bot, that means the author was happy with the changes and unilaterally approved them. The edit comment is a much cleaner way to explain the edit than a comment under the post.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 21, 2016 at 18:42
  • Oh well, if my replies to ColleenV are going to be deleted when I was not rude, but let's say, heartily fed up, well I'm no longer participating in meta. It's ridiculous that mods, because only mods can delete comments, cherry pick which comments to delete and which to leave. It's outrageous, to say the least.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 22:26
  • Ah, yes, now I remember. I apologised for not being an eye doctor and not fully understanding the graphs (words to that effect) I think that observation can and should remain. If I am inexperienced in medicine and feel hesitant to approve an edit I will leave an explanatory explanation in that miniscule box. And I am entitled to my opinion.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 21, 2016 at 22:35
  • 4
    @Mari-LouA Those images have absolutely nothing to do with medicine.
    – Catija
    Nov 21, 2016 at 22:48
  • 2
    @Mari-LouA I didn't delete your replies (I was having a root canal at the time, so I have an alibi! :)) I don't think you did anything wrong by rejecting the edit. You used your judgement in good faith and what we're doing here is just discussing opinions. I didn't know if you were aware that authors were notified of suggested edits since your posts don't get edited like that. Maybe I misread your comment.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 21, 2016 at 22:50

2 Answers 2


So here is what I think we should take away from this:

  1. Authors are attached to what they write. Whether it is a suggested edit, a question, or an answer, if the author has put some effort into their writing we should take extra care with how we approach it.

    In this instance, the suggested edit included a friendly comment "An answer of my own didn't add anything more than the images. I hope you don't mind the hijack!", which I think was respectful of the author. I think that we should encourage folks that are acting in good faith and making an effort, so instead of rejecting the edit I might have approved it and followed up with a comment under the post if I felt the editor needed some guidance on how things work. (You can @ reply editors if the edit has been approved.)

  2. Editing is a fundamental part of the SE system, and good edits make community members more comfortable with the system. If someone wants to donate their time and effort toward making my post better so I can earn more reputation, why would I complain? :) No-one should "protect" other members from learning how to deal with other folks editing their posts. We're all big girls and boys here and can decide for ourselves if we're OK with it or want to roll it back.

    No community member can make an edit that can't be undone. If an edit isn't obviously vandalism and some effort has been put into it, I think it's OK to let the author decide if it helps or detracts from their post. It is more important to encourage participation from folks who are making an effort than to enforce a guideline or policy (if no real harm is being done).

  3. If you see something that you think the community could do better, let's talk about it on meta like we're doing right now. However, when a discussion is on meta, it's about figuring out how we as a community can improve assuming that we're all trying to do the right thing. We can disagree and still be friendly to one another, especially if we remember to think about what is important and not just what is correct. Even though something may absolutely be the correct thing to do, it can be the wrong thing if it is forced on people. We shouldn't enforce; we should persuade.

    No-one likes to feel like they're being criticized, especially when they actually thought about it and tried to do the right thing. Let's recognize that everyone involved in this particular instance was doing what they believed was the right thing for the site whether we agree with the particulars or not. The suggested edit has already been incorporated into the post, James has not been driven away from ELL, and the author of the answer doesn't seem upset. All-in-all, this wasn't a terrible thing and it is a good opportunity to talk a little bit about editing etiquette.


For the sake of balance and impartiality

Lets see what the folks at SE meta, who disagreed with the edit, had to say

  1. Adding images to a question, that were not provided by the author, isn't an edit that will be approved. Both reasons are legitimate reasons to not approve your edit— Ramhound
  2. @Catija The only exception to their total control over the actual content is that they can't vandalize their own post. Yes, editing is part of the moderation of the site but it doesn't remove ownership from the author of the post. It is still their post, that they own. Edits are there to improve the presentation of posts and help the original author's content be better understood by others, not to change that content — Servy
  3. @Servy but we're not arguing different things, we just think about it in slightly different ways. This edit did "improve the presentation of the post and help the original author's content be better understood"... which is what I was saying. – Catija
  4. @Catija So then say that, because you didn't say that. Rather than saying the author of the post can't object you you changing the content of the post, say that this edit doesn't change the content of the post. Don't say that the author doesn't own the post when they unambiguously own the post, as is specifically laid out in the terms of service. – Servy
  5. @JamesWebster And you're welcome to act as if you don't own your own posts. You're even welcome to legally give up your own ownership rights for your own posts and put them into the public domain. What you aren't allowed to do is act as if anyone else doesn't own their own posts, because they do.

and this answer by a user with 52k which earned five upvotes but eight downvotes

Edits, especially suggested edits, are for improving the format of a post, not the content. Say somebody tried to do a numbered list but it didn't work, or they had a giant wall of text and it should be split into paragraphs. Fixing spelling mistakes and grammar issues are also in the realm of suggested edit work. But fixing content is not. The first comment is generated when people reject your edit for this reason. You tried to change the content. Don't do that.

The second comment is from someone who believes (it's not site policy) that if you commented on the post offering to edit in some relevant content, and the post owner commented say "sure, thanks" that the edit would be approved. They aren't necessarily correct, because edit-reviewers don't always read comments, but I suppose anything can happen.

Learn the difference between the two kinds of improving and you'll be less frustrated by the suggested edit process. For content improvement, if it's so minor that you don't think an answer of your own is warranted, this is a great use for comments. I often edit my own answers after people leave extra information in comments. @Kate Gregory

Now, let's see the minor edit that was approved. And yes, I am hung up on the term "minor" because it is misleading.

enter image description here

The owner of the post accepted the edit, so everyone's happy. We can agree that the edit was not harmful, but I never said it was. We can agree that the images are relevant, but if the previous suggested edit had included a link, I most probably would have looked at the source and then have made a different decision. Please note that the editor added the source in a second and final edit.

If a similar edit as the one proposed above was submitted for approval, I'm not sure I would have approved. It is a substantial edit, there's enough new content to post it as a separate answer. A good third answer is preferable in my eyes than a well-meaning edit. That is my opinion.

The users on SE meta, and here on ELL believe I lack experience when it comes to approving helpful edits. Nothing is further from the truth. These are my statistics for Suggested Edits review on EL&U https://english.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/stats

enter image description here

  • The first suggested edit accidentally copy-n-pasted the entire paragraph above the 2nd picture. If it were me, I would have edited out the duplicated text and left a comment for the editor to include the source of the images. I think that the issue here isn't so much that the edit was rejected, which honestly is not a big deal. Suggested edits should be met with a little bit of suspicion. I think the problem is just the way the rejection was phrased to imply that we shouldn't edit without permission, which is not what I think you were trying to say.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 23, 2016 at 13:03
  • @ColleenV Well spotted, but that edit was approved nevertheless! And that double pasting is still there, just goes to show how people don't really pay that much attention to answers...
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 23, 2016 at 15:24
  • Reviewing is certainly a thankless task some times. Fortunately any oversights are easily corrected. I don't think we should get too worked up over a single occurrence.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 23, 2016 at 17:35
  • I went ahead and fixed the duplication. Your point that it was approved without enough scrutiny is still valid though.
    – ColleenV
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:07
  • Could you add a link to the source of these comments? I think it is a misunderstanding to say that "it is still their post, that they own [...] as is specifically laid out in the terms of service". My understanding is that users don't own posts on SE; they own content that they have contributed. For example, if someone edits your post to add some information, you don't own that information just because it's in "your" post.
    – sumelic
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:25
  • Oh, never mind, I see it's linked in the OP. Sorry
    – sumelic
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:26
  • 1
    I think it's a bit incorrect (and even deceptive) to use the approved edit in your argument. The added text was not present in the edit that you rejected. Only in the second version after the edit was rejected originally. That is not the edit that this post is about.
    – Catija
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:37
  • @Catija I said it clearly, the edit that was approved, but it was eagle eyed Colleen who spotted the copy and paste issue, and if the editor had included the source in the suggested edit, I would have looked at the source, and maybe I would have approved the edit. I don't make a habit of rejecting helpful edits, which is what you implied in the title.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 23, 2016 at 18:47
  • Just a note on the big green block of text. That only happened because after the first edit was rejected, I was encouraged to attempt it again. I simply copied the two images and the last paragraph from that original edit to make the changes. I naively thought the paragraph wouldn't show up as a change. I maintain that the edit was reasonably "minor", however I don't think it makes a difference to editing "permissions" overall. Nov 24, 2016 at 14:11
  • Though I've just noticed that I managed to duplicate the paragraph, not sure how I managed that! I thought I had just overwritten it with the same content. Nov 24, 2016 at 14:26

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