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When posts are written in Latin (see Should all-Latin questions be permitted?), they are quite likely to contain serious errors – broken grammar, bad word choices, etc. – because the author isn’t a native speaker. Should we edit those posts to try and fix the errors, point them out in a comment, ignore them, or deal with them in any other way?

Consider that someone who has found an error isn’t a native speaker, either, and may be unsure how to correct it or even whether it actually is an error.

  • Hey, it seems like this particular question's been decided. Any chance you could accept the top-voted answer? – Fund Monica's Lawsuit Mar 24 '16 at 17:00
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Yes, we should.

Having posts with errors does readers a disservice. The audience of this site is people who are interested in Latin, and many readers will be specifically interested in improving their Latin. Showing them posts in broken Latin will result in them learning broken Latin. Broken Latin is worse than English for that part of the audience.

Latin Stack Exchange, like all other Stack Exchange sites, is collaboratively edited. Everyone (even people without an account on the site!) is invited to edit posts to improve them. The first item in the guidance for “When should I edit posts” is “correct grammar and spelling mistakes”. Do it!

Of course, that only applies to what the post is saying, not what the post is quoting (i.e. only the metalanguage, not the object language). Never correct quotes, or the topic of the question. If a question asks “is this sentence grammatically correct?”, don't change the sentence!

And of course, correcting means replacing something that's wrong by something that's correct. If you aren't sure that what you're writing is correct, don't edit. If what's written is already correct (but perhaps for a period or dialect that isn't your favorite one), don't change it.

  • Just a nitpick: “Never correct quotes” is a bit too rigid. We should, of course, not “correct” Ovid’s language (“Cicero wouldn’t have agreed with that construction!”), but still fix any mistakes the poster may have introduced when copying the quote. – chirlu Feb 26 '16 at 0:20
  • Primo, I believe editing small errors is discouraged or even against the policy of many SE sites, e.g. Seasoned Advice. The only site where I know it is encouraged is English. Secundo, it might help if you could address the concerns I mentioned in my post above. – Cerberus Feb 26 '16 at 1:02
  • @Cerberus What concerns? I see only two and they're misplaced. Refusing corrections because they might introduce other errors is silly: we're discussing corrections, not random edits. If people's egos are bruised because someone edits their posts, they shouldn't be posting on a collaboratively edited site. What else is there? – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 26 '16 at 13:26
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I would say no, unless you know this person doesn't mind or even appreciates it.

First, as you say, since Latin is hardly anyone's native language, there is a chance that the corrector is wrong, or at least that consensus cannot easily be reached as to whether the corrector was justified. This may lead to strife and discord.

Secondly, it may bruise people's egos. I don't think it's worth it.

When the question or the answer is in English, and there are errors that are unmistakable and consensual among native speakers, then I think it is worth it, especially if the errors seem to originate in sloppiness, such as i want to no what u think. Even for small typos, or especially then, I think it's worth it, because it looks so much neater, and it does not suggest that the poster lacks proficiency or skill or intelligence.

P.S. I don't mind if you correct my Latin, so long as I trust your proficiency.

  • If someone's ego is bruised because their post was edited, they shouldn't be participating on a collaboratively edited site. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 25 '16 at 23:47
  • @Gilles: If you want to build a strong community, good manners are paramount. And see my comment on your answer below. – Cerberus Feb 26 '16 at 1:05
  • @Cerberus That's a straw man argument. Editing someone's post is not bad manners. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 26 '16 at 13:27
  • @Gilles: Very well: etiquette is being nice to people. If you know a certain action might very well bruise someone's ego, then it's not a very nice thing to do. So you'd need a very good reason, in my opinion. – Cerberus Feb 26 '16 at 15:40
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Cerberus' answer raises a good point - what if those correcting errors are wrong? I think there is a simple solution to that, though—a new question! Questions about people's Latin in questions can have their own questions, thereby granting some sort of consensus among the (hopefully!) experts here.

If this is agreeable, then I strongly advocate for the correcting of people's Latin. This is a Q&A site. If someone's egos are bruised because they do not know how to correctly compose Latin, then they're also going to be bruised by potential downvotes. If they're the ones asking questions, then clearly they're coming here for help and guidance—why would they be upset?

I think agreeing to this is also boosted by mandatory English translations, so that the intent of the poster is unmistakable.

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    I definitely appreciate having my Latin corrected: I consider corrections a gift. And if the correction is doubtful and/or leads to a new question—so much the better, just as you say! However, are users notified when their posts are edited? I used to edit frequently on ELL until I was told that people aren't notified (if the edit is made by a user with high-enough reputation). In that case, corrections go unchecked and don't inform the learner. So, I wonder if commenting first, suggesting a correction or asking permission to correct, might be wisest. – Ben Kovitz Feb 25 '16 at 5:40
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    I'm not sure about notifications. I thought they were notified, but I would trust the ELL people over me. But having a process in place where users are notified (via comments) might be a good compromise. – C. M. Weimer Feb 25 '16 at 5:45
  • I was notified! – Cerberus Feb 25 '16 at 12:47
  • @BenKovitz Whether users are notified depends on how extensive the changes are. I don't know what the threshold is. – Gilles 'SO- stop being evil' Feb 25 '16 at 23:46
  • @Gilles I made two very small corrections to Cerberus' post and he (above) said he was notified, so I imagine the threshold isn't very great. – C. M. Weimer Feb 26 '16 at 0:08
  • @BenKovitz Not sure if you ever checked back, but see above. – C. M. Weimer Mar 3 '16 at 23:45

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