My personal four guidelines for suggested edits:
- objectively improve the post
- fix all problems at once
- do not change the meaning of the post
- leave a clear edit summary
Objectively improve the post
This generally means fixing the stuff that is mentioned in the help center on editing:
- To fix grammar and spelling mistakes
- To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)
- To include additional information only found in comments, so all of the information relevant to the post is contained in one place
- To correct minor mistakes or add updates as the post ages
- To add related resources or hyperlinks
Anyone who takes the time to read your suggested edit in context of the comments and with the clear edit summary should think it is a no-brainer improvement. This means I strongly advise against making changes that primarily affect:
- changing capitalization to your preferences (I Don't Care How Much You Hate Title Case, or randomly Capitalized Words in an otherwise normal sentence)
- changing punctuation to your preferences (face it; nobody knows how to use a semi-colon)
- changing type of emphasis (some people use
code blocks for emphasis, which is silly, but that doesn't mean changing it to code blocks is a substantive change)
Fix all problems at once
If you're going to edit the post, do it right. Someone has to review your edit, and if you only fixed half the problems that means they are torn between rejecting (and losing some stuff), accepting (and still having the post need more work), or editing to correct the stuff you missed (and taking up time they may not have wanted to spend on copy editing when they did a review).
The more other stuff you fix in a post, the more leeway you have with switching cosmetic things the way you like them. For instance, if you come across a post like this:
[URGENT]!!! HELP NEEDED NOW PLZ
thx for accespting question. im uplying to job with job descript: must be good with language but dont know how to list language on resume. right now my details are speaking mant diferent languages and very good speaker in aall but dont know how to put on resume docuemtn as requested. requested for languages of english, british english, australian english, new zealand english, and canadian english eh? thx in advance.
Now this has the core of a good question so it's definitely in our best interest to edit it. But there are just so many problems from spelling to capitalization to clarity (and just about everything else).
If you are willing to go through the trouble to edit all the mistakes and make it coherent, I will happily give you carte blanche to make it look however you feel it should. If you just change an its to it's, and then make 10 times the volume of changes in formatting, you're focusing less on improving the content, and more on peccadilloes. Which ain't great.
Do not change the meaning of the post
I'm a huge believer in the power of an aggressive edit, but they are probably beyond the scope of a suggested edit as they are incredibly difficult to handle for a reviewer (who may or may not share my enthusiasm with that type of edit).
Clarifying the post with comments (particularly those by the author, but from other users if they have deciphered abbreviations or jargon that is unfamiliar to you) is all good and doesn't fall under the changing the meaning thing. But it isn't cool if you change a question that is asking, "How do I foo the bar?" to "How do I bar the foo?" without some sort of indication that was what the person really meant.
Leave a clear summary
What was the goal of your edit? The more minor your change, the more important it is to be clear about what it is that you've actually done. Many changes can seem incredibly minor if the person reviewing has it in markup mode rather than display mode, or vice versa (sorry palacsint!!!), so a simple 'fix formatting' may end up rejected as too minor when it really was a great change if you were looking at it in a different mode.
Yes, this is more work, but it's less work that confusing the reviewers and ending up with a couple rollbacks that could have been prevented with a slightly more verbose comment. And the goal is to get the change put in, right? Clear summaries build character (or so I'm told).