Sometimes a user will ask a question, receive some answers, and then edit his/her original question in response to the answers, in an attempt to provide clarity. (One example is found here.)

There are limits, of course, on the edits that an OP can make to his/her question. For example, the OP's edit shouldn't change the original meaning of a question, particularly after folks have spent time writing answers.

What is the appropriate action to take if I feel that the OP's edits have changed the question's meaning? Is it okay for me to edit the question and remove clarifying statements that the OP has added? Should I reach some sort of agreement with the OP (e.g., in the comments or in chat) before editing his/her question? What if the OP's edits are an egregious case and clearly change the question's meaning--is different action permissible in that case? Perhaps the correct response is to flag the question?

I'm thinking about edits 6 and 7 made here and wondering if they were appropriate, but I'm also wondering what the correct procedures are in a more general sense. If I disagree with the edits that someone else made to remove the OP's clarifying statements, is it appropriate for me to roll them back?

4 Answers 4


This question on Meta Stack Exchange is your best reference. Key from Monica's top answer:

As noted in this answer, rolling back the edit is usually a reasonable response. But if you're reluctant to do that or find yourself in an edit war with the OP, another thing you can do is to edit your answer to add something like "this answer addresses the question as of revision 4". That should fend off some of the "what are you talking about? that wasn't the question" reactions. I've done this with no ill effects.


In the very few cases where my answers have been invalidated by an edit to the question to such an extent that it would be onerous to edit my answer (basically if it required a full rewrite of my answer), I have merely edited in an explanation that my answer is appropriate for a previous version of the question, prior to editing, and left it at that.

I think there was one case where I simply deleted my answer. I'm happy to chase a question through one or two edits with edits to my answer, but substantial changes to a question do not create in me a feeling of obligation to substantially change my answer. Askers of such questions just won't get a complete answer from me. Perhaps a person coming along after all the edits will post an answer relevant to the latest version of the question.

  • explanation that my answer is appropriate for a previous version of the question That's OK, but I think it takes a lot of the clout out of your answer. You post a strong answer, then the OP undercuts you and you have to make your answer into sort of footnote or 'this could have been an answer if the OP didn't screw around...'
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 19:56
  • 1
    @Stinkfoot I've never felt a need for my answer to remain strong after an egregious amounts of edits to the question. If I want an answer to remain strong, i'll keep editing the answer to follow the question edits. Mar 12, 2018 at 20:06
  • I've never felt a need... Fair enough - you're saying you've done what you could and finished. I happen to get peeved if I put in the effort only to be undercut by an edit made to exclude my answer.Maybe I need to adopt your attitude.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 20:36

One thing I've noticed people doing that I think can be useful sometimes is making it clear that any major clarification to a post is an edit. I've seen this done by placing the clarification under a horizontal rule, at the bottom of the post, with the word 'edit'...

EDIT : like this.

it puts readers on alert that the goalposts may have shifted, easily allowing them to upvote and give credit for reasonable answers to what the question was before the edit without having to trawl through the edit history.

If a major edit is made - especially if it 'throws off' answers already given - perhaps re-editing the post to separate out the later clarifications might be useful.

  • I really dislike that style. It's very distracting from the post which edits shouldn't be and tries to replace the job of the edit history which already exists.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 12, 2018 at 13:00
  • @Dom fair enough! certainly drawing attention to the edit (even if that means distracting from the post) is the point of this style - it makes it obvious that answers may have been made in the context of a different version. And though it's true that it duplicates some of the functionality of the edit history, the reason we have this problem in the first place is that the edit history isn't very prominent. So it's just emphasising the edit. Mar 12, 2018 at 13:21
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    Just to let you know that there's a general discussion about this style on MSE: When is “EDIT”/“UPDATE” appropriate in a post?
    – Andrew T.
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:26
  • @AndrewT. thanks. The accepted answer there does indeed suggest putting in an inline warning if editing an (old) question invalidates answers... Mar 12, 2018 at 14:39
  • @Dom Am I wrong in thinking most lower rep users can't see the edit history? Mar 12, 2018 at 14:53
  • @topomorto that's really not the case here (since the question is less than a few days old) and the moral of the answer is "EDIT and UPDATE are rarely needed, nor helpful. ".
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:55
  • @ToddWilcox I think you just need an account. I don't see a specific privilege for it. I just checked and you can do it without an account.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 12, 2018 at 14:57
  • @Dom as we're re-examining the issue here though, why do you think the age of the question is particularly relevant? Mar 12, 2018 at 15:16
  • @topomorto because the whole point of that lined post was that this should be done with the one exception of invalidating many old longstanding answers to the post. This specific example is very live so that one exception doesn't make sense.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 12, 2018 at 16:38
  • @Dom as you know, i've read the post. I was asking YOUR opinion on why the "liveness" matters. Mar 12, 2018 at 16:46
  • @topomorto because posts have two stages of life. In the first little bit of the post there are a lot of methods to show users of the site the post including the HNQ, site newsletter, the new question tab, the active tab, the "community bump" if the question is unanswered ect. Because of this the question is far from stable and a lot of things change. Then, once the question is answers and the community gives it attention , even on bigger sites there's likely a long period of inactivity between edits, answers comments, ect. Since this question is so new, the first stage mentioned above.
    – Dom Mod
    Mar 13, 2018 at 1:49
  • @Dom I agree that there are these two stages of life. In the first stage, though the site ideally has 'no chit-chat', there often is a degree of dialogue as the question is clarified and answers are scoped out. What I'm thinking though is that making the evolution of posts obvious in the first stage is as worthwhile as in the second stage - especially on our site, where my perception (from votes received) is that questions get a lot more attention from readers (as well as editors) in that first stage. Mar 13, 2018 at 9:00

I put considerable effort and research into writing up two chunks of the answer only to find that the OP had changed the question, clearly in response to my answer!

The original question basically drew a line between Bach and "Everything Else" with no explanation of what's called pop. Based on the OP's frame of reference and language there was no reason to believe they might not be including jazz under "pop". Then they added in a comment they weren't talking about jazz - OK, fair enough. But they also changed to question to exclude jazz, which undercut my answer.

Same with half step modulations. No comment all - they just added it after I answered to exclude what I had answered. IMO that's a miserable way to do things and I rolled back those edits.

The place to do that is in a comment: OP did that with jazz, but then also changed the question.

After all is said and done, my answer and also @PeterSchilling 's answer addressed the question square on. ( @topomorto 's I'm not sure about because IDK if his example is included in "pop". )

I'll be interested to see if the OP accepts one of them...

As an aside: IMO the issue is between the OP and someone whose answer was affected by an edit. I generally reserve my power to edit to improving the language of poorly worded questions, except when an edit directly impacts an answer I posted.

I don't think it's appropriate for someone to use their power to edit in order to intervene in matters that don't concern them, simply because they have a particular opinion about the matter, or because for some reason they believe that OP should be held on the highest pedestal.

My understand is that the power to edit does not make you a moderator, roaming about freely and deciding which edits you like and which ones you don't.

  • 1
    Comments aren't permanent, and clarification gained in the comments is often best edited into the question/answers themselves. I think the crucial question here is whether the OP changed the meaning of his original question, not whether he responded directly to you. He doesn't say that "everything else" is pop--this was your interpretation. No matter what definition of pop we use, none of them really include jazz. The same thing happened with half step modulations. This was a clarification of what was previously written, but it didn't change the meaning.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 4:37
  • I agree that it undercuts the answer you spent a lot of time on, and perhaps it would make sense to edit your answer to say "I'm responding to version 3, before you explained that, by brutal modulations, you mean half step modulations."
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 4:40
  • @jdjazz - clear that the OP is not a native English speaker and based on their reference, "pop" could mean anything besides classical music, including jazz. But not so important, I see you put that part back and that's OK. The addition about half steps I think is impolite and unfair. I don't think it should stand.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 4:40
  • @jdjazz - see DrMayhem's answer: rolling back the edit is usually a reasonable response...or find yourself in an edit war with the OP - I rolled back the edit. The OP did not object. You intervened. That's the second time you've done that to me - it's not appreciated. When the OP doesn't involve themselves, IMO you should not be intervening - it's none of your business. Sorry, but that's how I see it: An "edit war" with the OP is one thing, but an "edit war" with a third party intervening in the name of "truth is justice" is just not appropriate.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 5:06
  • @DavidBowling Curation of the content...nobody wants an edit war - I admit to not knowing all the rules (this site has so many...) but as I said, I do my 'curating' by fixing up poorly worded questions, fixing typos etc. IMO a third party using edit powers to intervene might be 'legal' but it's a slippery slope - that's the role of moderator, not an editor. You can end up doing more harm than good quite easily. There was another incident where someone intervened and completely screwed something up, leading to some embarrassment to a very high rep member.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 19:49
  • @Stinkfoot, I know it's frustrating, and I know I'm being a pain, but I promise I am doing it in the interest of the community. I hate to do it to you because you contribute such awesome answers. The OP is a far less experienced user, and there are many reasons why they might not have rolled back the edits.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 21:33
  • Here are some reasons I can imagine which would explain why the OP's failure to roll back the edit might not indicate approval: (a) the OP feels intimidated, (b) the OP might not know about the rollback tool, (c) the OP might be worried about offending a high rep user like you who is an awesome contributor, (d) the OP might not have seen the edit, and (e) the OP might not have been back to the site since the edit was made. On a more philosophical level, I think it sets a dangerous precedent to allow other users to alter someone's content and then put the burden on the OP to roll them back.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 21:37
  • @Stinkfoot, the role of moderators is to do as little as possible and only intervene when major problems arise that can't fix themselves. If the roll back tool were intended to exist only for moderators and an OP, then it wouldn't be available to all users on the basis of rep. I think the community's role in curating is very high, and the burden is on all of us to keep normal operations within the spirit of the site.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 21:39
  • @Stinkfoot, I totally agree that the question wasn't clear. The OP placed waay too much faith in the word "brutal" to communicate half-step modulations. From a practical standpoint, I completely agree with you that you haven't really been treated fairly. But from a philosophical standpoint, I don't think an edit was warranted.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 21:45
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    @Stinkfoot, to me, the phrase "roaming about freely and deciding which edits you like and which ones you don't" suggests a whimsical and arbitrary judgment. There are reasons behind my decision to edit, and I've tried to communicate them clearly.
    – jdjazz
    Mar 12, 2018 at 21:47
  • @jdjazz - You want to be an interventionist? I suppose the rules allow it. Personally, I prefer not to involve myself in such matters. and IMO what you've done twice now is just not appropriate. I understand there are reasons - I just don't think they're the right ones. We have answer from Dr Mayhem - roll back the edit. I'm going to with that. I don't know much about 'philosophy'. I am a programmer and a musician - pragmatic, hands on stuff - I don't deal in the philosophical very much. IMO you are overthinking something that's really not very hard. Enjoy.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 12, 2018 at 23:03
  • @Stinkfoot, why are you ignoring the reasons I've mentioned?
    – jdjazz
    Mar 13, 2018 at 0:04
  • @jdjazz why are you ignoring the reasons I've mentioned? - Because I'm an old, opinionated SOB - I don't usually change my mind once my opinion has been formed - no need to belabor the point. My opinion has been clearly stated, as has yours. Continued dickering I find fruitless.
    – Stinkfoot
    Mar 13, 2018 at 7:48

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