There have been at least once where someone wrote a good long answer, with one or two sentences that were highly objectionable. In the case I am thinking of, I left a comment along with other people, the post was down voted and then the poster removed the sentence. The down votes were removed and everything is fine.

I have since wondered if it would have been better to simply edit out the sentence and leave a good explanation of why.


5 Answers 5


The answer to What do you do about a single offensive sentence? as evidenced by the answers and comments is that are multiple options. None of the options given are "wrong" and none are better then the others. Some people prefer different approaches. Choosing any of the choices presented here, is fine (even the ones that I personally would not choose)

We are a community and no one person should feel they are responsible to make the "right" choice on behalf of the community. If your not a mod, the available options are all easily reversible. Even if you are a mod, most things you do can be easily reversed by the community.

  • Flag it for a moderator
  • Leave a polite comment
  • Edit the Post

All of these are valid options, if part of a post makes you think something needs to be done, do it. If others don't agree they have other options.

There are two things you should not do

  1. Do not: Have an edit war, if someone other than the OP edited the post in good faith, and you are not the OP, don't revert without a discussion in meta.
  2. Do not: Have a prolonged discussion in the comments, when you start getting those popups take it to chat or bring it to meta.

Act in good faith, don't respond in anger, and do the best you can.


The main advantage of just editing and fixing the problem is that it avoids the drama that comes with leaving comments. The person gets a note explaining why that sentence was removed and they can see what the editor did to fix the post. Hopefully, the poster keeps that in mind the next time.

Also the poster gets to save face, because while lots of people will read comments, very few will look through an edit history.

I have had this happen a few times to me where someone edited out a sentence or two and left a message, and I would prefer that to being called out in a comment, especially if it saved me some downvotes.


For even more completeness, my take would be to edit and leave a comment that you edited it. This seems to have worked pretty well on SE sites where I've used it (and where I'm way more active than here). Something along the lines of

This is a nice answer but I edited to remove a couple of sentences that I found inappropriate. Obviously, if you don't like my edit, you can roll it back but I would encourage you to rewrite that section.

I think a comment works better than just the edit summary because it's more likely to be noticed by the answer's author. On the down-side, it's also more likely to be noticed by others, but people seem to vote based on what the answer says at the time they voted, not on what it said in the past.

  • 2
    +1 Anytime, for whatever reason, I do a non-trivial edit, I leave a comment as a matter of politeness. (If it is just a spelling or grammar edit, that is different; why leave a comment calling attention to the OP's sloppiness?) I'd stop your comment at "...roll it back." The "encourage to rewrite..." sounds preachy.
    – ab2
    Dec 30, 2016 at 20:20
  • 1
    I would leave a comment if the person was new to the site explaining what I had done. If they had been around for a while, I would tend towards not leaving the comment. Dec 31, 2016 at 1:24

The problem with editing it directly is the person doesn't get a chance to rectify their behaviour. I always think give someone a chance to make the change themselves first. So I'd:

  1. Comment saying what you feel is inappropriate and why and ask them to edit their own post.
  2. If the user doesn't reply then possibly edit it out (maybe they won't come back)
  3. If the user does reply but refuses (and you feel it really is offensive) then flag it to the mods

If it really, really is offensive then you should probably flag it immediately.

  • 4
    I am down voting this answer. The time to fix something that is broken is when you notice. All of the points above can also be met with an immediate edit. I like to assume good faith on the part of all parties, and I would assume that the OP did not intend to post anything offensive. If they accidentally did, they should not be offended if I edit it out. If they did it on purpose and aren't coming back, there is no point in leaving until I remember to comeback and edit it. If I have missunderstood and it should not have been edited, the OP can revert my changes easily Dec 29, 2016 at 18:37

In general I completely agree with Charlie Brumbaugh's answer. The only time when I think we should move beyond his answer is when a user has a pattern of objectionable behavior. Once a person has developed a pattern of weaving in rude or offensive content I feel like they should be handled more harshly.

When this is the case I think we should edit out the offensive content. Next add a comment that states you've edited out content that was offensive. Then we should flag the post with a custom mod flag that explains we edited out offensive content, and ask the mods to consider taking further action. If this person truly is a repeat offender then they should already be on the mods radar. The mods may or may not pursue further action like a temporary ban but we've done our job at this point.

  • 1
    This is probably the case where I wouldn't edit it out, simply because I wouldn't want to come between the user and their well deserved consequences. I also think that a community response of downvotes and deletion, sends a much stronger message of it not being okay then a single moderator deleting the post. Jan 11, 2017 at 0:49

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