There are already many Q&A related to the improvement of a question by the original author. It is quite obvious and well documented how to proceed to improve the form of a question. However, I did not find guidelines or discussions about the case of poorly formulated questions that will probably be proposed for deletion but someone else could transform into good questions by adding a knowledge the OP is probably missing.

The Help Center says

Edits are expected to be substantial and to leave the post better than you found it. Common reasons for edits include:

To clarify the meaning of the post (without changing that meaning)

My question is about the reasonable limits of clarifying the meaning of the post. For example (but, please, take it just as an example, it is not the focus of my question), today I saw in the Close vote list this question.

I think that the OP should have used the comments to improve the question. However, he/she is new to the subject matter of the question, ii) and a newcomer to this site. As a consequence, no modification was done, and the question is going to be closed. What is the general feeling about the best behavior? Leaving the question in its original state or adding enough details to transform it into an acceptable question?

  • $\begingroup$ Just wanted to add you could also recommend them to go to this (new chatroom) chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/118530/constructive-feedback and have an amicable discussion there $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 8:20
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    $\begingroup$ Re "no modification was done": If they have only been exposed to forums, the whole concept of editing is completely foreign to them (the blame is on the forums (the software)). They may not even know what "edit" means. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ I am often annoyed by comments requesting the definition of absolutely standard terminology (and I can remember a few more from the same guy who wants a definition of a "4-fold axis"). Nobody here understands the whole of physics (and probably not even the whole of undergraduate physics). A comment which basically says "I don't know much about crystallography" is pointless, and likely to send a serious questioner somewhere else on the web where they might get an intelligent answer rather than content-free fluff. $\endgroup$
    – alephzero
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ @alephzero Since simple cubic lattices do have 4-fold axes, I assumed the OP meant something other than the usual definition or didn't understand it. What the OP was asking did not seem to make sense. You are correct that I am not an expert in crystallography. I’ve made 5894 comments so I am sure that there are many you don’t like. $\endgroup$
    – G. Smith
    Commented Jan 17, 2021 at 21:27
  • $\begingroup$ As I wrote, please, take the example as prototypic, I do not think that a discussion here about 4-fold axes would be consistent with my question. My point is that I think I understand, from the OP comments, that this question is coming from a conceptual mistake, quite frequent for beginners, It is also evident that the OP is completely unaware of it. In order to improve the question, the OP should probably be able to see his own mistake. But in this case, no question would have been asked. This kind of catch-22 situation has a counterpart in the editing process. I would say that, since ... $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ ... I see among the OP comments a way to improve the question, if I would edit accordingly, my action would be consistent with OP's intention with high probability. However, I feel a little uneasy with such a non-perturbative action and I wanted to have some other opinions, in particular from more experienced members of the community. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 18, 2021 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


In general, if the owner of a post has provided clear information in the comments under it, then I feel it is perfectly acceptable to incorporate that information into the post itself.

This assumes, of course, that (i) the post owner has provided a clear and unambiguous meaning for the post, and the edit is only to clarify it, without altering it; and (ii) that it's reasonably clear that the post owner won't do this on their own, either because they are new users or because of inactivity (say, as with an old answer).

In particular, if (as in your example) it is a new user, and the way the question has been presented is causing it to get a negative reception (be it downvotes or close votes), then I would say: absolutely, go ahead! edit the question before the thread gets further derailed, and help the new user learn the ropes by providing a good example.

(On the other hand, if the comment thread is dominated by users demanding for detailed explanations of terms that are standard in the field, then I would advise against incorporating those definitions into the text of the post. In those situations, it can be sufficient to e.g. simply incorporate suitable links to Wikipedia at the terms where points of contention have been raised.)


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