I have a certain writing style.
It can be rather conversational at times.

I can spell [usually]. I can even find my way through some rather tortuous grammar & syntax on occasion, without my being caught out by a low-hanging gerund.
On other occasions I'll throw caution to the wind.

I will break things up into short chunks [dropping vaguely relevant details into square brackets] then return to my main point.

I will often without even thinking link idea & concepts, from fish & chips to Laurel & Hardy.

Once I've done this, carefully plotting how I'll make each point, coming back to tweak & add, branching off into other thoughts & ideas...
Sometimes with no overall plot in mind initially,
sometimes breaking small offshoots of ideas off into small lines, for emphasis or just to break the wall-of-text that can be off-putting to many...

... then I see five minutes later that I've - yet again - been "edited for style" with no comment or apology.
My line-breaks have been removed; my ampersands have been changed to formal 'and's.

Can we stop doing this?
It is absolutely infuriating.
So much so it actually makes me want to simply delete the answer.

The name of this stack is
Movies & TV

The irony is eye-watering.


2 Answers 2


I'm afraid we cannot throw away all considerations for proper form

This site isn't your personal creative blog for experiments in text structure and poetry. You're not writing poems, you're writing proper answers. SE has always thrived on the community editing posts into shape to create a coherent and readable source of information. To quote the help center:

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.

Yes, sometimes a specific style can contribute to an answer's impression if used judiciously. But we're not a place for you to dump a stream of consciousness or a weird poem if that doesn't add anything to the answer itself. On SE authorial control is often enough inferior to other goals, like proper formatting or having valuable content exist.

In the same way we also fix new users' posts when they lack any and all punctuation or linebreaks, when they miss to put quotes into quote markup, when they use code formatting for emphasis,... It's not expected that anyone automatically knows all the intricacies of SE markdown formatting. That's why we have community editing. The top-most priority here is that your answers stay readable and properly formatted, after that comes some degree of personal style.

But there's indeed various degrees to that and various degrees of freedom your expression has on SE.

Ampersands are an absolute no-go in proper flowtext

We have never and will never propagate l33tsp34k, emojis or any other symbology in place of actual written text, in the same way as we don't really write sentence fragments in place of proper flowtext unless extraordinary circumstances ask for a more unconventional style. You'll also notice that the logo you cite is, well, a logo, not a proper sentence in a bigger chunk of flowtext. So taking that as example is a bit of a red herring and only ironic in the sense that it quite emphasises this difference between logos/titles/fragments and proper flowtext.

Frankly, I find it, maybe not "infuritating", but at least baffling how typing three letters is more difficult than typing a special symbol and how after years and hundreds of posts of experience and practical learning ground I still have to fix these ampersands in some users' posts each and every time.

However, I acknowledge that it's not always too easy to get rid of such habits, especially in times of internet communication. It also hasn't always proven fruitful to try and reason with those users, sometimes inciting rather spiteful and annoyed reactions. So in order to keep the site going as smoothly as possible and avoid having things escalate over silly things like punctuation, I just have to bite the bullet and fix the posts again and again and again, making peace with the fact that some users just won't change. The alternative of leaving the posts in a sub-par shape is of course entirely out of the question. Fixing spelling mistakes is a primary purpose of edits.

But that's the good thing about SE's collaborative editing. You don't have to necessarily adapt your way of writing, even if inappropriate for SE. People will usually chime in with helpful edits to fix it anyway. It's not a reprimand or a humiliation to have someone edit your post, neither does it require an apology from the editor for touching it nor is it asking for you to change your ways. Other users edit your posts into shape so that you don't have to worry about it. Not wanting to double check everything you post is a reason to embrace collaborative editing since you have an entire community to do this for you, absolutely for free.

Yes, it might feel sometimes exhausting to have to fix something for the umpteenth time. But whatever, we brush it off and carry on and if neither you nor I nor that guy over there are in the mood to fix something today, maybe someone else will tomorrow. If we didn't think it's worth doing for making the site look better, we wouldn't do these edits.

Mixing linebreaks with paragraph breaks is confusing, but there's some leeway

Having proper pragraph breaks and then having the paragraph suddenly employ individual linebreaks can be quite off-putting and distracting. It's best to decide for one or the other (and SE has practically made the decision for pragraph breaks already) rather than mixing them wildly without any apparent purpose. If the purpose of some random style decision isn't apparent, the assumption is that the author is just throwing stuff out as it comes and having the rest of the community worry about formatting, which then will helpfully jump in to fix it.

However, this is less of a clear matter than ampersands, so I won't go out of my way to edit them out. Usually I fix linebreaks once, especially when there's other stuff to fix, and when the original author changes them back, it's a sign that he is committed and conscious enough about this styling to assume at least he knows what he's doing there. You could say it's just an additional barrier to make such unfortunate formatting, if not impossible, then at least a little harder to do.

What is quite a bit more off is the way you drive this in this meta question (but it's acknowledged that this is for the purpose of satire here and I haven't yet seen any of your genuine answers in such an utter mess). Breaking lines mid-sentence is not proper formatting and will be fixed unless there's an extraordinary reason directly related to the essence of the post's content.

  • 2
    So you are saying that you will continue to change the author's intent. Then I shall no longer author. Simple fix.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:04
  • 5
    @Tetsujin As said, author's intent isn't and has never been the nonplusultra on SE. That's just how these sties work.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:05
  • 1
    @Tetsujin As personal compromise for everyone's practical santiy, decoupled from the general nature of this meta discussion, I'd be willing to offer the compromise that I leave your linebreaks alone if you stop giving me other reasons to edit your posts by employing ampersands. But those have to be fixed since SE just doesn't do l33tsp34k. If an ampersand is reason for you to quit the site altogether is your decision, but it would be very sad to lose you over something that silly.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:07
  • 6
    This is the only one that does it. More to the point, you are the only one that does it. I just give up. I obviously can't fight city hall, so I shan't. I don't do leetspeak & your comparison is insulting. I'm gone, I'm done.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:07
  • 1
    @Tetsujin Actually, I am not. Lately I've also seen others fix your ampersands (or maybe other users') and I was very glad to see I'm not the only one committed to proper formatting. I could equally say you're the only one constantly doing this and complaining about others fixing it. But this doesn't lead anywhere either. The fact that we care about this issue doesn't make our points less valid, on the contrary so.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:09
  • 5
    @Tetsujin Again, I implore you to rethink this. You're a highly valuable contributor here. But... the site's structural integrity isn't going to be held hostage by you either.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 1, 2019 at 14:11
  • 4
    I checked back on the edits this year. One incorrectly assigning a quote where it was my original statement. I left that rather than roll it back. One to 'fix' an abbreviation to all-caps, two to 'fix' square brackets to round. One to [again incorrectly] correct 'in-situ' to 'in-situation'. The rest were even more trivial. If they'd been made by a new member they'd have been dismissed out of hand as 'not making the post easier to read'. You are on a one-man crusade & I'm done with it. I am not holding anything hostage, I'm asking to be left alone.
    – Tetsujin
    Jul 1, 2019 at 17:13
  • 4
    @Tetsujin And that's the problem. We're not going "leave you alone" just because you don't like people touching your stuff. If there's edits to be made that need to be made, then they are going to be made. And yes, saying "don't touch my stuff or I'll leave" is trying to pressure people into not editing your posts. That's not going to fly. As to the edits you bring up, I don't rememeber them but I'm also not going to debate individual edits from 5 months ago here. I already explained why specifically the ampersand and the linebreak stuff you bring up in the question is problematic.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 1, 2019 at 17:28
  • I am guilty of using & instead of and for almost all of my post I think. I noticed that you were editing almost all of them. I thought it was your OCD but now I know it's SE policy. Using & for and is just my habit for a long time now on Twitter and Reddit. So most of the time I couldn't help it. It's just reflex on the keyboard. I will be mindful of this in the future. A few might still slip through Jul 2, 2019 at 7:08
  • 1
    And that's okay. People will edit it for you anyway, for free even. But a word on the general trend of calling corrections (possibly minor corrections, but corrections nevertheless) out as psychological disorders. If you don't care about something or don't find something important, that's okay. But that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't important and that anyone who cares is suffering some kind of disorder or tries to bother you for the fun of it. This entire site is built on a community of engaged users, some engaged more than others and some engaged in different aspects than others.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 2, 2019 at 12:26
  • 9
    I think it's a bit misleading to correlate an ampersand with leetspeak. They are quite different things. & is widely known to mean "and"; so it's completely logical to me that some people would use them interchangeably without recognizing the issue. "3" on the other hand is not a widely recognized English symbol for the letter "e". Equating using "&" as "and" to using "1337" as "leet" seems to muddy the point.
    – JMac
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:09
  • 2
    Granted. The motivation for using either might be largely different. I wasn't making the connection based on why you would write thus or how concious you might be about it, rather than what place it has in formal flowtext, as part of other related examples.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:15

I hope this post will remain for posterity & not be summarily swept aside as most of the comment thread already has, to make me look like some kind of delicate melting snowflake throwing a tantrum.

Plainly put, I have been chased from this site by pedantic edits & misguided micro-management.
It is the death of a thousand tiny cuts, of pecks from a myriad angry budgies.
It is three grains of sand in the gear-box; at first glance it doesn't seem like much, but after a while it will grind you down.

That this attitude is unrelenting, unapologetic & attempts to make the case that "there is no room for any style but mine", then shows just how out of proportion that attitude is by stating, in bold,

Ampersands are an absolute no-go to proper written text

I really ought to edit that to add the full stop at the end of the sentence.
Maybe I should correct 'proper' to an adverb too; perhaps it was intended to be a noun phrase; or should it be hyphenated?
Perhaps we ought to change 'to' to 'in', whilst we're at it.

No, I'll leave it. I'll assume the author intended it that way, & no edit I make to it would improve the clarity, meaning or intent of the statement.

A mote in the eye.

Regarding the ampersand... I left higher education more than 40 years ago - long before anyone was expected to be able to type. In the past 25 years I have taught myself to type almost as quickly as I can speak. That this self-education makes me reach for the single ampersand rather than three alternative letters is far too ingrained for me to change now. Am I going to go back through every post once I think I've finished it, on just this one stack that insists on it? No, I am not. Search & replace finds two instances on the site itself, plus two for every occurrence in the text body, one in the edit pane & another in the preview. So, I shall post what I've written, warts & all.

To touch briefly on the other claims...
I am not writing a blog, or poetry.
I never threatened to delete my posts.
I did not say I was uncomfortable with collaborative editing.
I don't use 1337spk, emojis or 'other symbology'.
You don't need to threaten me with suspension over punctuation - & was that a proportionate response?
You accuse me of being "too stubborn". I shall accuse you of being too pedantic.
I am not 'holding anything hostage', I am protesting heavy-handed, unilateral micro-management & the disproportionate response to my complaint over it.
My examples of specific edits were the only ones done by anyone else.

Finally, I am not leaving over an ampersand.
I am leaving over management style, not linguistic style.

To everyone else... I've enjoyed my time here. I hope some of my contributions brought useful information or at least just some amusement value. This is not an angry rage-quit, I just fear for my sanity in the face of management policy here. That my protest over this was met with an authoritarian 'you shall do what we say' with actual threats rather than any hint of an apology over the rough-shod treatment was simply the last straw. I'm actually very sad to be leaving. I may return after a breather, I may not. Time will tell. I'll re-associate my profile if I do.
I wish you all well.

  • 1
    You seem to have mistaken my answer as saying that any and all personal style is disallowed on SE, which...it doesn't. I don't understand why you have to go an uncompromising all-or-nothing route here. Some things are more strict than others, of course. And there's still a ton of creative freedom left to express yourself in the confines of proper flowtext.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:31
  • 3
    Also, and this doesn't seem to come clearly out of my answer either, you can definitely type however you want here, that's why we have collaborative editing. If you can't bring yourself to type "and", that's not a problem and people have and will fix it for you anyway without you even needing to worry about it. An edit is not a reprimand and noone writes perfectly. Nor is there a requirement to quadruple check everything you write, you have a whole community that does that for you for free.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:31
  • But I've rephrased parts of my answer a little. I agree that things like calling users stubborn might have been over the line a little and I want to apologize for that. I also wasn't trying to threaten suspensions over this issue. I was merely trying to say that editing is preferable over escalating things. I also want to apologize if that came across as a threat.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:40
  • In general, I want to apologize if my tone here hasn't shown the moderators from their best side to you. When you try to make the site look good and get called out for that as having ulterior motives, it puts you on the defensive. But I should have kept those feelings out of general meta posts, which I hopefully do a little better now.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 2, 2019 at 11:52
  • 2
    You've been here nearly four years. You have over 22,000 rep. Why now? Admittedly, I barely know you, but you seem to have been putting up with this quite well up until now.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 2, 2019 at 12:31
  • 2
    I'm not saying your feelings aren't valid, of course. But if you've been feeling this way all this time, you could (and perhaps should) have brought it up to Meta before. Perhaps we could have talked this all out before it ever got to this point.
    – F1Krazy
    Jul 2, 2019 at 15:39
  • 8
    @NapoleonWilson In fairness, this "& is wrong and must be replaced by and" thing is more a pet peeve of yours than some kind of grammatical or Stack Exchange rule. The symbol "&" does mean "and", and it's used as such on other SE sites in well-written posts without issue - indeed, ironically, even in the official name of this very site! Your view on this has always seemed a little ... extreme, to me as an outside observer (and language pedant!) who doesn't personally use "&" much. Jul 3, 2019 at 17:56
  • 3
    @Randal'Thor I've never seen it used in any remotely formal context, because it isn't. Also, the difference between logos and proper flowtext has been explained already, too.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 3, 2019 at 19:15
  • 3
    @NapoleonWilson I have seen plenty of examples. Take Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type, a specialized book on typography uses it in the title and in text. Not everywhere. But certainly uses.
    – Anton
    Jul 4, 2019 at 6:35
  • 4
    @Randal'Thor To be fair, I thought it was a completely moot point to bring up; but it does seem like it's fairly well established by style and usage guides that "&" is not a direct substitute for "and". english.stackexchange.com/questions/3127/… Even EL&U seems to agree that it shouldn't be used, and they use it in their title.
    – JMac
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:15
  • @NapoleonWilson What is "flowtext"? I've seen you use the word multiple times, but I cannot find any meaning of it in the way you seem to be using it here.
    – JMac
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:16
  • @JMac A running sentence as part of a proper text block or article, as contrasted to e.g. a text fragment, or name/logo. The dictionary told me the word exists, but I might be wrong.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:18
  • 2
    I don't know Tetsujin personally, but I've seen his contributions to this community, I'm a rather new comer compared to everyone above(I think). So I really think we should've talked over this in more calm manner and putting out authoritative figures and power poses. I'm really sad to see him/her go. We really should take some precautions so this kind of thing never happen again...
    – Vishwa
    Jul 12, 2019 at 5:39
  • The way you shout into a forest is the way it echoes out, though. But yes, approaching this whole situation with less frustration and resentment on every side would have been preferable. Noone wants avid and valued contributors leaving over menial disagreements. But other than the general advice not to ask and answer questions in overly resentful and frustrated ways, which is always a good advice, it's unclear what specific "precautions" you have in mind.
    – Napoleon Wilson Mod
    Jul 12, 2019 at 8:07

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