Is it in bad taste to substantially edit the wording of a question when the OP speaks English as a second language?

How to deal with different daily working hours in a software company?

In my humble opinion this question has the potential to create some very insightful answers. I personally find the topic fascinating, and I'm really eager to see some of the solutions that our community comes up with.

The only problem I can see with the question is the wording. The OP clearly speaks English as a second language, and the wording of the question could be substantially improved.

I clicked Edit and started in before my conscience gave me pause. I wondered to myself, and so now I pose the question to you all: Is it in bad taste to substantially edit the wording of a question when the OP speaks English as a second language?

  • meta.workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/2153/… This post talks about aggressive edits, but I feel like it misses the mark from what I'm talking about here. I don't want to change the content of the question in any significant way, only the language. – Lumberjack May 22 '16 at 14:02
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    FWIW, I speak English as my fifth language, and I have no problems if someone edits my posts substantially for the better. – Masked Man May 22 '16 at 16:15
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    Assuming you don't change the intent and meaning, then I don't think it's in bad taste. Which also assumes you have a way to understand the original intent despite the language issues. – Joe Strazzere May 22 '16 at 19:47
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    @JoeStrazzere It's definitely a balancing act. In my experience, if there's even a minor chance that you're misunderstanding the OP you should refrain from editing and leave a comment (and ideally a close vote) instead. A number of users never return to the site after submitting a hodgepodge of broken English. In those cases the editing (and guessing) required often isn't worth the effort. – Lilienthal May 23 '16 at 16:00

No, it's not bad taste. One huge advantage of Stack Exchange is the community as a whole can edit posts in order to make them more clear.

This happens in a few ways:

  • Fixing grammar/spelling mistakes
  • Organizing better (ie adding paragraphs)
  • Fixing markdown syntax to fix (bullet points and numbered lists)
  • Editing information responded in comments into the question
  • Adding relevant tags
  • Making post better

I would say go for it. I occasionally will do this in exactly the situation you describe.

I will add that when I make a significant edit I almost always make a comment along the lines of, "Hi, I made an edit to your post to help clarify what you were asking and make it more on topic - feel free to [edit] if that changed your intent too much!" or something like that. I often get thanks and to the best of my knowledge have never received a "screw you man why you change my post!" response.

  • +1 Pretty much my answer – The Wandering Dev Manager May 23 '16 at 5:21
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    One thing to add: aside from leaving a comment, which is a good practice if you've changed a lot (but kept the intent), make sure to fill in the edit reason. If you don't specify that you're only copyediting without changing the author's intent you risk an edit being rejected by hasty reviewers. This is mainly a problem for sub-2K rep users (who need to have edits approved) but it's a good practice for everyone to describe large edits. – Lilienthal May 23 '16 at 10:40

No I don't think it is so long as you keep the question and are just making it clearer.

I assume many people here don't have English as a first language including myself, and different localities have different idiosyncrasies with English, but most would have learnt formally. So correcting the post would be helpful for others who don't have English as a first language as well.


No, I do it myself as well.

I've dealt with many people where English was their second language, including many family friends and my own mother, so I have a knack for getting the gist of unclear translations. (let's not forget that sometimes people use google translate, et cetera)

IMO, it is fine to change anything but intent. A good deal many words don't translate well from one language to another, so the intent is more important than words. It's the thoughts and concepts you want to preserve in the translation.


Do not be afraid to edit a question to make it more readable.

If the OP has a problem with the way it was done they can modify it or roll back. But often times the wording of a question is the difference between it being ignored and becoming a great question.

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