This stems from something I've noticed in here and in TWP.

Since people are addressing emotional issues, they tend to go into detail and background that isn't needed to answer the question put forth, and may even make it difficult to understand the question.

This question was unanswerable in it's original form, then edited by me, then rolled back to a version that was more clear than the original, but just as much of a rant.

How to get my father back and open his eyes over his girlfriend?

Details such as who said what to who, how someone doesn't like music or the specifics of restless leg syndrome do not make the question easier to answer (from the question above).

Also, longer posts tend to get down-voted and closed, so leaving in unnecessary details does not help the OP or the group. In the example above, the OP included incident after incident that seem to be more geared towards showing how she is "right" than providing a background or context to the question.

Should we be more aggressive in our editing of posts like this?

  • 1
    "they tend to go into detail and background that isn't needed to answer the question put forth" this may ususally be true over at TWP, but on IPS this may still contain valuable information. Most questions do cover more complex issues. I would avoid editing out details, unless they really do violate site policy. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 18:44
  • @AnneDaunted a question doesn't have to violate policy to need editing. You edit for clarity, you edit to bring focus to the question at hand and you edit rewording from something like "should I" to "How do I".
    – user4548
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 19:07
  • I wrote "I would avoid editing out details" so why do you explain to me that [Y]ou edit for clarity, you edit to bring focus to the question at hand and you edit rewording from something like "should I" to "How do I""? None of this necessarily involves the editing out of details. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 19:09
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    @AnneDaunted Sorry, I misunderstood.
    – user4548
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 19:33
  • Yeah, I think we may be a tad different from the workplace... In general, we like gossip ;-) But if the 'details' are overbearing and hiding the good question, edit :) I agree with the edit of EmC, it leaves some details. But you were right in saying that the question should have been edited. It's all about finding a balance here :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 21:11
  • 2
    On the other hand, interpersonal.stackexchange.com/q/6753/1599 doesn't provide much detail on what is called xenophobic and is doing very well, because exactly the details were omitted...
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 21:12
  • 1
    @Tinkeringbell it's harder here than TWP because emotional states and some details are relevant, but overloading a post with them ruins it.
    – user4548
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 21:17
  • As I said, balance ;) I'll find some examples tomorrow and throw together an answer :)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 21:20
  • "and may even make it difficult to understand the question." also for those trying to edit it the way suggested here? Commented Nov 17, 2017 at 6:53

3 Answers 3


These are probably best handled on a case by case basis...

Sometimes trimming the fat off a question makes it much more disgestable, but sometimes the marbling makes for a much tastier question. Sorry for the carnivorous analogy, but as my old culinary school Chef said "The fat is where the flavor is."

We need sufficient context to answer questions well, but sometimes a question can be buried by too much context. So the best answer is probably going to be "Trim carefully."

If you think a question is buried bring it up on Meta or ask for clarification in comments. It may be better to lean toward trimming less rather than more, if you don't receive clear feedback.

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    I am vegetarian myself but the Lions on National Geographic Wild HD will agree and upvote your example @apaul! However, (except for statements in the question that are clearly violating site policy) it might be good etiquette for a member to discuss with OP and get their consensus before editing out details that the member considers non-essential, but OP may consider vital. Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 19:20

In this particular case, I edited it because I thought yours went too far. When I read that version, I found myself asking a lot of questions about the situation, but discovered the answers in previous revisions. For example, you removed almost every mention of the girlfriend attacking the OP - that's pretty significant! The fact that the father is planning to marry this woman is also something answers might want to take into consideration.

In the example above, the OP included incident after incident that seem to be more geared towards showing how she is "right" than providing a background or context to the question.

I disagree, I think the examples were extremely useful in illustrating why OP views the girlfriend that way.

In the past, we've had problems with people objecting to descriptors without anything to back it up. The highest-voted answer says essentially that instead of writing "My coworkers are [adjective]", to write "My coworkers do x, y, and z". Obviously people are still subjective in what they share, but having specific examples rather than generalizations help answerers make their own judgements.

If all we see is:

He is obviously blinded by love and it's isolating him from everyone.

We don't know why OP thinks that or if it's even reasonable to think that, which will affect answers.

But if we know:

She refused to let us talk face to face, she absolutely wanted to be here, and she finally insulted me of "Poor girl, you are a coward" when I left. Also, she told me to never set foot in her house.

Now we can judge the actions for ourselves. This can be the difference between saying "maybe you're just sad about your dad being with someone else, give her a chance" to "that's not okay, here's how to support someone in a potentially abusive relationship".

On top of all that, the OP objected to the extent of the edit in a comment, which I think is a good indicator the edit strayed from their intentions and should be reconsidered.

  • I didn't mean to come across as calling you out, because I don't disagree with your edit TOO much. I probably did cut a bit too deep. Still, if a post is too long and contains too many irrelevant details, it will get closed, downvoted, and/or deleted
    – user4548
    Commented Nov 15, 2017 at 21:16
  • No worries :) Just thought I should explain for this particular post, given that the other answer suggests it will be on a case-by-case basis.
    – Em C
    Commented Nov 16, 2017 at 13:10

We should edit down posts with too many details.

but we should be careful what we call too many:

  • We should decide which post has too many details on a case by case basis, and as we grow we'll hopefully get better at it.
  • We should look for a balance between leaving in enough so that people can understand why certain feelings come into play.
  • We shouldn't allow ranting or details that aren't necessary since these details will likely lead to comment threads discussing those details.

I played an interesting mind-game in chat about this:

Pretend you're a passing reader
With Many Opinions
But no special training/experience on the subject matter of the question.
You see a question... Can you answer it?
Will that answer touch on some area of your personal experience?
How do you determine these things?

Basically, this is the train of thought you have to keep in mind.

I'm a passing reader, no special experience, just many opinions.
I can answer every question here, that isn't impossible.
Those answers sadly won't touch an area of personal expertise, instead I will be using the site to soapbox my opinion about statements made in the question body.

I determine which question to answer based on experience as a user here on this site. A passing user with Many Opinions won't. They'll see statements that they have opinions about, and they will use the site to soapbox them.

To avoid questions attracting a lot of discussions, it's best to keep the facts and feelings to a bare minimum.

Feelings on a certain matter or details about what people were fighting about are important if we want to provide an OP with a good solution. I totally agree with the edit EmC did, that adds readability, tones down the ranting a little but essentially leaves enough information to determine that yep, this is a pretty serious situation.

This question was migrated from Parenting. It originally arrived in a very messy state, being not much more than a rant with 1 sentence that was fit for IPS: "How can I make clear that I'm not up to babysitting right now?'. The editing here is a good example of editing out unnecessary fluff and leaving a good question. It, just as the edit of EmC, hits the right balance.

Now, take a look at this one:

This is actually a good example of 'how many details are needed in this case'. Just mentioning things are perceived as xenophobic is enough. Of course there will be some comments trying to fish as to what was said. But the remarks themselves aren't needed to answer the question. So, OP left them out, and the question did pretty well.

To prove that some questions can do with a lot less detail, instead of adding more justifications for keeping them around:

Take a look. Then think. What would have happened when all those fears, accusations to the police etc. were trimmed down?

We should have left something in about the OP being afraid/creeped out by the guy, for sure. But 'Just the facts ma'am' leaves

  • I am a second-generation American of Middle Eastern/ South Asian origin working in a big city in the USA where there is a subway.
  • Usually someone is selling newspapers in the morning.
  • I find the vendor creepy, he goes up to people asking for high-fives.
  • I wasn't comfortable to say no, so I high-fived him reluctantly for about a year.
  • Then a few months ago I saw a video on computer security and the person presenting it said something interesting, "You are an adult, say no".
  • So the next day when I was in the subway and this person wanted a high-five I gave a thumbs up and said this is easy for me. Then he thought I am celebrating Ramadan, hence I am not giving high-five (I look Muslim, plus I wear long skirts). He asked if I am fasting for Ramadan and I said yes, just to end the conversation right then and there. (Although even this reads a little problematic, since it assumes a lot from the vendor about his reasons for asking the question)
  • Recently, he asked for a high five again. I politely said 'have a nice day'.
  • But really, I would prefer another method to communicate my lack of interest verbally OR avoid interacting with him at all and have a non-verbal solution to this.

This should have been done immediately to avoid a lot of discussions on meta.
This should have been edited, a comment should have been left and when the OP started editing stuff back in that wasn't relevant to the question, it should have been flagged as an edit war.

Right now, the OP is gone, and there is no answer to the question:

"He could be any other person I meet on the subway every day, and not necessarily a street vendor." and "I am really scared of random interactions with unknown people.". What are you really asking here? All the edits are making it confusing for me. Do you want our help in dismissing this street vendor (duplicate), or avoiding interactions with all random people you might encounter each day (too broad)? – Tinkeringbell Sep 27 at 8:17

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