It occurred to me that when we edit questions for punctuation or use of capitals or lower-case letters, and also make minor usage corrections (prepositions or verb tense), it might be useful to put the latter (usage corrections) in bold so the OP sees the correction.

Of course, I am not referring to completely changing the idea of the question.

For example: He has came at school late yesterday. That would become: He #came to# school late yesterday. (The example may not be the best but it is illustrative of the kind of mistake I am referring to.)

I removed the bold since most people seemed to think that was my idea here. My idea is not to use bold. It's to use some mechanism or other to show a grammatical correction in the question and its content. And not in EDITS.

3 Answers 3


While this might help the OP, I don't think it would make sense to anyone else who reads the question. Bolding carries meaning in itself, so some people would be trying to figure out what it meant. Others would realize it's meaningless (at least to them) and be annoyed. (Using some other symbol instead of bold doesn't really fix this problem.)

Actually, I'm not sure how much the bolding would even help the OP, since they might not realize what you're trying to signal with it. Does anyone even reread their question after it's posted? Would you even remember something like what preposition you used if you're not great with choosing the right preposition in the first place? I wouldn't. And if I did realize that you were trying to emphasize my mistakes (even if you fixed them), I would probably see it as being passive aggressive or angry instead of helpful, regardless of your intentions.

And adding a line to the post to describe what changes you made is essentially a faux pas. It's not information anyone other than OP needs to know, and it will distract from the actual question.

However, I do like the idea of helping people learn English through edits. Instead, I'd suggest making changes like normal (preferably with a good edit summary) and leaving a comment for the OP about what you changed. (It's important to note that small edits don't trigger a notification by themselves.) If you don't think they'll be able to figure out how to see the revision history, you can either link to the page or tell them how to get there.

  • Obviously, it is something that has to be explained. There could be any number of ways for that to happen such as editing triggering an bottom-of-the-post asterisk with an explanatory. Frankly, to say it might help the OP is somewhat shortsighted. How can proper editing fail to help someone who makes basic mistakes? Everyone around here was so hopped up about how questions are posed but they don't seem to care about the content of questions? That's very odd.
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2018 at 12:21
  • @Lambie there's "edit summary" that you can use for anything, including explaining the mistake. Regarding comments, well... comments might be okay, but they could be removed as "no longer needed" anytime. And yes, italics & bolds are supposedly used for emphasizing on SE, please don't (ab)use that because it can make other readers & potential answerers confused.
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 21, 2018 at 17:51
  • @AndrewT Why are you resisting what I suggested? Other things could be used. I did not suggest comments. I am suggesting in-question editing. Any number of methods could be used.
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:19
  • 1
    @AndrewT. Actually the fact that they can be removed at any time as no longer needed seems like a good thing. The OP can flag it after they’ve read it.
    – Laurel Mod
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:25
  • @Lambie because SE focuses more on future readers rather than the asker. Unless you're asking for a new feature request to only show the message to the asker (which I doubt it will be greenlit), I can't really see how the edit in question would be helpful/related to future readers. Of course, the alternative is to use HTML comment on the question which is hidden by default and can only be seen by checking the markdown...
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:27
  • 1
    @Laurel I agree that comments might be the simplest solution for this.
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:33
  • @AndrewT Future readers? Future readers are other ELLers....Everyone spent so much time on the issue of how to write a good question title, I guess no one cares about its content. So be it. Sometimes I think this place is really loony. Not to help ELLers really, but to make site creators and other avatars feel good. It's all so moralistic.
    – Lambie
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:34
  • 1
    @Lambie I honestly think maybe I'm missing something? You ask about editing and fixing mistakes on a question (that's great!), then you want to remark the mistake on the question itself. If it's related to the topic asked, then I guess it's okay, but if it's unrelated? Let's say the title/topic is about "pronoun", but the fix/bold is on "verb tense", will the bold be helpful for future ELLers, that is tangential to the topic they're interested in? (really, honest question, but feel free to ignore this)
    – Andrew T.
    Oct 21, 2018 at 19:44

I agree with Laurel's post. I wanted to provide an example to make some of Laurel and Andrew T.'s points clearer and add a little bit of my own commentary.

In the comments, you also said, "There could be any number of ways for that to happen such as editing triggering an bottom-of-the-post asterisk with an explanatory."

Here is a made-up question:

What it means by would in following sentence:

Yes, I would be willing to do that.

i check dictionary but can't find appropriate definition. What it means by would?

For the sake of this example, I "corrected" everything. Then your proposed solution is something like:

What does it mean by "would" in the following sentence:

Yes, I would be willing to do that.

I checked the dictionary, but I couldn't find an appropriate definition. What does it mean by "would"?

*Errors were corrected in this post. Please click for an explanation.
*Here were your mistakes: mistake 1, explanation 1; mistake 2, explanation 2; mistake 3, explanation 3; mistake 4, explanation 4...

  1. Like the others said, all this additional boldface is confusing and distracting. Boldface is also used to change the stress of a word. If I were to see all this bold text and didn't know the reason, I would ask OP to review the usage of boldface.

  2. Providing a list of corrections and explanations in the original post would not be relevant in understanding the question and answering it. In that sense, it's a distraction, and part of the philosophy on SE is that questions are supposed to be presented clearly, without distractions, for the benefit of all visitors. Yes, the corrections are useful for the asker, but it would not belong in the OP.

  3. Changes you make are already preserved and highlighted in the revision history (see point 4). So making corrections in bold seems redundant.

  4. Your idea of an "asterisk" is already available, somewhat.

    When you edit a post, a link to the revision history is clearly displayed at the bottom. I made an edit to your post as an example. Right now, it says "edited [time] ago", but eventually it will say something like

    edited Oct 21 '18 at 3:43

    When you make the edits, you get a chance to explain yourself using the "Edit Summary". That summary and the highlighted corrections are visible in the revision history.

    enter image description here

    Edit Summary: Minor edits for answer example
    enter image description here

    Well, the Edit Summary is usually used to summarize your changes, but I don't think anyone would object to a brief explanation of the corrections made, e.g. "The first word of a sentence/title should be capitalized".

I agree so far that with the features we currently have, leaving a comment with a reference to the revision history is a good option. The changes are clearly outlined there and if you want to write a brief explanation, you can do so in the "Edit Summary".

As a side note, I'll admit, I don't worry too much about telling the user that I corrected their grammar. I think it's because finding the link to the edits and seeing the corrections doesn't seem too difficult. Indeed, we occasionally get questions from learners that ask about other users' corrections to their posts. I always imagined this to be the "natural" way to learn about their mistakes and the corrections. If they're curious or don't understand, they'll just ask.

  • It does not have to be bold face; it can be any number of things. And I will say this:When you do an edit, the OP does not see it. I was just trying to suggest a way to emphasize the correction for/to the OP. And I really do not think that my asking this question deserves a dv. As I learned my four other languages besides English, I was always grateful that any of my mistakes were pointed out to me. I wasn't aware that OPs generally clicked on Edits to see them. They are not, however, learner friendly, really. I will be sure never to suggest anything else ever again,that's for sure.
    – Lambie
    Oct 23, 2018 at 17:51
  • @Lambie - I believe that all OPs get notified when their post has been edited. As for the dv, remember that downvotes on meta are used to voice disagreement with an idea – but that doesn't mean the question shouldn't have been asked. Personally, I don't like the idea of bolding edits (for the reasons Laurel cited), but I still think it's worth considering ways to make edits a helpful learning aid.
    – J.R. Mod
    Oct 23, 2018 at 20:39
  • @J.R. Well, I guess I never posed a question so I have never seen that. And allow me to repeat again: I used bolding but said very clearly, it could be any other mechanism. I thought downvotes on "questions" meant: the question is silly or irrelevant or no good.
    – Lambie
    Oct 23, 2018 at 20:44
  • @Lambie You did not make the fact that it does not have to be boldface clear in your first version. That's why we were focusing on the boldface.
    – Em.
    Oct 24, 2018 at 9:43
  • @Lambie In your post, what do you mean by "not in EDITS"? Do you mean the revision history?
    – Em.
    Oct 24, 2018 at 9:43
  • @Lambie I don't understand why you're complaining about the downvote under my post. If you think I DV'd you, I can assure you that I didn't. Complaints about DVs on your post are not relevant to users' answers. If you would like to alert users of your objection to the DV, or request suggestions, you should comment under your own post.
    – Em.
    Oct 24, 2018 at 9:43
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    @Lambie As J.R. said, edits to questions do trigger a notification, but not always. Users are notified when the edits are "substantive". Also, as J.R. was saying, downvotes signal "low-quality" or "not useful" on the main site. On Meta sites, they generally mean "I disagree", "no", or some similar sentiment. Whoever downvoted is likely saying "I disagree with your suggestion" and not "this question/post is not useful/has no merit".
    – Em.
    Oct 24, 2018 at 9:44

In the past, we've concluded that edits to questions need to avoid covering up relatively minor mistakes that can serve as clues to the OP's skill level. This is a well-established policy, and I don't think it's worthwhile to abandon that principle.

The question here suggests using some typographic convention to fix problems without completely eliminating the traces. As such, that doesn't conflict with existing policy, but finding a convention that will do the job is difficult at best. We would need something that:

  • makes it reasonably clear to readers what happened
  • … or at least doesn't give them incorrect ideas
  • leaves the question easier to read than the original

Bolding fails the first two criteria. Using some symbols surrounding modified text usually passes the second criterion and can, in some simple cases, pass the third as well. But if the corrections are at all complicated, the welter of crossing pound signs or asterisks is likely to make the question very hard to read indeed.

I don't think it's possible to have a typographic convention that clarifies the nature of the corrections (to pass the first criterion) without a) being distracting and b) still being somewhat unclear to readers who are unfamiliar with it. The closest you could get would be the strikethrough/underlining of standard HTML del/ins elements, which are not directly supported in SE's Markdown dialect (and underlining isn't supported at all without Unicode hacks).

  • It was my understanding that in the past, the idea was to go ahead and edit minor mistakes whereas major mistakes should be left in. Anyway, why not put the corrected version under the faulty one?
    – Lambie
    Oct 24, 2018 at 21:08
  • @Lambie: Why would we edit minor mistakes but leave the only ones that can actually make the question seriously hard to understand? Oct 25, 2018 at 5:57
  • I don't know why. I guess so the major mistakes could be edited in comments? I actually never understood it and remember thinking how odd it was....maybe it was: edit minor mistakes when the rest was pretty much OK. Not sure now.
    – Lambie
    Oct 25, 2018 at 16:50

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