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Why can't we say thank you or leave other comments when someone edits our post (those that are done without approval) ?

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You can, actually, @replying to an editor works.

However, usually "thanks!" comments are discouraged as they leads to clutter and in most cases are better expressed by acceptance ticks or upvotes. However, if you feel that an edit was particularly helpful in improving your post, feel free to thank the editor.

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    $\begingroup$ Yep, and I would add that while thank-you comments are prone to deletion, you don't get in trouble for posting them from time to time. We (mods) just tend to delete such comments (when they come to our attention) after a couple days or so, simply to reduce clutter. $\endgroup$ – David Z Oct 27 '13 at 2:18

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