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How should one handle suggested edits that remove "thank you" sign offs from questions? Should sign offs be avoided in general?

Lots of questions are signed off with a general note like:

  • Thank you for your help.
  • Any help would be appreciated.
  • Many thanks for your time.

While these do not strictly improve the clarity of a question I personally don't mind them. Every now and then the suggested edits queue gets a lot of suggestions to remove those sign off statements.

So far I have been rejecting those edits on the basis that it is No improvement whatsoever to the question. However, it doesn't hurt the question either.

Should suggested edits removing thank you notes be approved or rejected?

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    It is a shame that "thank you" and other courtesies are thought of as "clutter". – Rudi Nov 16 '15 at 9:41
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    @Rudi Anywhere else I would agree, and I hope you will notice the care I take to try and say please in most comments I make here, and thank you in many. However, both SE questions and SE answers are wikis, and not personal communications, and I suspect that you would think seeing "thank you" at the bottom of a Wikipedia page somewhat bizarre. Question askers are already provided with 10 points that they can give to every answerer, and another 15 points they can bestow on the answer they like the best. A major part of why they are there is to say thank you (and yet are often not clicked). – PolyGeo Nov 19 '15 at 2:49
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There is an excellent Stack Exchange meta post on this subject: Should 'Hi', 'thanks,' taglines, and salutations be removed from posts?.

Salutations should be automatically detected by SE servers and deleted on the spot (source). Sign offs, on the other hand, are not automatically deleted. There is much controversy on meta as to whether or not these should be removed. Two schools of thought exist on this subject: 1) greetings/sign-offs detract from the quality of the post and introduce clutter and 2) greetings/sign-offs add a human dimension to the tech world and help create a positive community environment.

I use the following to determine what is appropriate and what is not:

  1. Does the greeting/sign-off contain multiple sentences or blank lines that detract from the succinctness of the post?
  2. Do the users include their name and/or e-mail address?
  3. Does it detract from the overall quality of the post?

If I can answer "yes" to any of these questions, I will delete the greeting/sign-off.

With this in mind, I usually do not delete simply sign-offs because the resulting edit unnecessarily bumps the question to the top of the active queue.

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I do delete sign offs but only if I'm editing the question for some other reason so as to avoid bumping it unnecessarily.

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I'm adding an answer to give some further criteria in addition to the answers of iant and Aaron, and address comments made elsewhere.

I personally would not edit out a thanks unless a) I can or am already doing something else or b) I'm reviewing a post in queue - be it first posts, late answers, or whatever.

When reviewing those suggested edits, I first look at whether or not anything else could be changed/improved when reviewing an edit that just removes thanks. The next thing I look at is the age of the post being edited. Within a couple of weeks, I would probably approve it. While I have no fixed time frame, if it's more than a couple of months and there's nothing else that can really be improved, I won't hesitate to reject the edit.

In part this comes from when I asked a very similar question a while back (which you may want to give a read): At what point, if ever, is an edit 'trivial' enough to warrant rejection? In particular I want to quote part of a particular answer.

As a moderator I lean towards approving any constructive efforts to improve our site, especially by newcomers, but I will not hesitate to reject a trivial edit on a months-old post proposed by a seasoned user, especially if that user seems to be embarked on systematically editing lots of old posts.

Recently I noted a huge influx of suggested edits removing thanks all coming from a single newer user. Some of them on posts that were years old. If I could improve the post at all, I did so. If not, I rejected every one of those edits (which was most). It was quite clear they were systematically editing posts to chase either reputation or a badge. After I recognized the pattern I was even more inclined to reject them outright, even if there were other things to be improved, because they were clearly ignoring everything else wrong with the post and just deleting thanks/signatures. Note I did/now have the option of Reject and Edit, where it used to be just Improve. It appears that same user is back after likely being prevented from suggesting edits due to too many rejections.

Once you reach a certain rep level, your edits are no longer reviewed (and you do not receive rep for them). That might be a more appropriate time to make such edits, when you aren't tying up the review queue (though the whole point of the review is to teach you what is and isn't a good edit, something both editors and reviewers should keep in mind). It does still bump the posts though, so per the advice of others here and the linked question, I believe if that's the only edit that can be made on an old post, it isn't worth it. Otherwise I would be very tempted to go through the 2,713 posts that result from searching on "thank" and remove that temptation for new users.

I wish that the system would check if the username or the string "thank" appeared in a post when it was submitted and popped up a warning that stated thanks and signatures were discouraged (as it states somewhat obliquely with 'chit-chat' in the Tour) to have the posted correct the issue. The system does do this with some other things, but unfortunately not 'thanks'.

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I have been seeing the same Suggested Edits, and while I would prefer to see more substantive edits made, and often choose to improve the edit, I approve them with little hesitation.

What drives me to do that is the philosophy that I have seen best espoused in a section headed You gotta get this to get us in Meta SE post We're working on a new stat to help convey the reach of your posts here

See, once you realize that it's not just about the one asker, or the four voters, but rather the fifteen thousand searchers with the same problem... Well, suddenly, a whole ton of things that seem prickly and self-important, like editing out "Thanks in advance!" aren't about being "a bunch of power-happy pedants," they're about helping all the people who will ever have that problem to find the best answers. And find 'em instant-like.

I think every "Thanks in advance" is wasteful of our users' and visitors' reading time and falls into the Do not use signature, taglines, or greetings category of which What kind of behavior is expected of users? says:

it will be removed to reduce noise in the questions and answers

We already have upvotes and acceptances available to say thanks with, so to me occasionally including them in temporary comments is sufficient to engender politeness between users.

However, I think they are best purged when found from the permanent legacy of wiki-style questions and answers that we are creating. These are not personal communications. It would be bizarre to see each, many or any Wikipedia page end with a thank you. I think this is the same point that is being made in Can we add a "No Thanks" part to the FAQ?

I think No Thanks, Damn It! on Meta SO is also worth a read, if you have not seen it, because we too do have posts with "thanks in advanced [sic]".

  • Am I right in assuming that this also applies to editing old posts, in which case: reducing clutter trumps the bumping of old posts to recent? – Kersten Nov 11 '15 at 12:17
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    @Kersten Yes - I don't think the age of a post matters - for me quality of Q&A trumps any angst about fresh eyes seeing a post and potentially improving it further or, if it is a question, then maybe answering or closing it instead. – PolyGeo Nov 11 '15 at 12:27
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    @PolyGeo, but it happens that the community is important in judging if a Q/A has quality, not only seeing if they are well written but also analysing their content and voting. There is a cost bumping too many posts with minor edits, which is to remove visibility from new answers. In my opinion this is bad, some of them will go through unnoticed, it could also discourage participation from potential answerers (if no one votes in their answers). So, I strongly disagree with this thinking that the age of a post does not matter when taking the decision to edit it. – Andre Silva Nov 11 '15 at 14:39
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    If the SE system had separate tabs for 'active', i.e, one for edited posts, other for new answers, I'd not mind having many edited posts with minor edits in a row. – Andre Silva Nov 11 '15 at 14:42
  • There's a Meta SE feature request to help with New Answer visibility: meta.stackexchange.com/q/235102/215590 but in the meantime clicking gis.stackexchange.com/search?tab=newest&q=is%3aanswer and saving it as a browser bookmark/favourite will do it. – PolyGeo Nov 11 '15 at 20:06

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