Context: https://askubuntu.com/posts/971884/revisions

I edited an answer of a user who got distracted and forgot the Markdown syntax, using 1) instead of 1. for writing an ordered list. Therefore the HTML code did not get generated correctly.

I could have left a comment instead, but it is obvious that when you spot a typo or a honest small mistake the quickest thing to do is just editing it. Especially after reaching the 2000 rep mark, so you do not clutter the revisions queue.

Now the user reverted my edit and the formatting is wrong again.

I would like to avoid an edit war. What is the best course of action?

  • 2
    You could leave a comment and ask the user to come into Ask Ubuntu Chat using the chat formatting tag [chat] and talk about it.
    – Videonauth
    Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 13:11
  • @Videonauth that sounds like an interesting option. Would you mind writing an answer? Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 22:31
  • 2
    Let's see what the OP does if 2 independent people make the same formatting edits for him. >:-)
    – Fabby
    Commented Nov 5, 2017 at 18:46
  • 3
    @Fabby that user is a known abuser of formatting
    – muru
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 5:34
  • 2
    @Fabby The author reverted your edit, which was to be expected, even aside from any of their previous post history. Considering the two numbered items could even appear in a single paragraph with their "1)" and "2)" markers--a style that, like the current style of the post, I dislike, but that I believe is actually considered acceptable even by some formal style guides--I think it's hard to justify the position that this particular case is important. But if anyone does care about making this change stick, I think the next step is to comment to ask if or why they object to the better style. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 5:40
  • 4
    Oh. That user. I try to avoid editing their posts even though many are formatted in a way I consider incorrect, because of early rollbacks and angry comments. What should I do when a user persistently insists on poor formatting and resists formatting improvements? But about this post I agree with @EliahKagan.
    – Zanna Mod
    Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 7:59
  • @Zanna I actually like your title better. Would you mind editing it in? :) Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 10:13
  • FTR I'm 1) and 1. challenged. I also can't remember rolling back edits anyone has made to my posts except perhaps 1 over 1 year. I think @AndreaLazzarotto and @Zanna are two of the most professional editors around here and greatly admire their work. I would encourage y'all to gang up on that person ;) Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:24
  • Having just seen Fabby's deleted answer I redact my phrase "gang up on that person". Also I read Ravery's answer and have this weird feeling people were ganging up on him 6 months ago or so and I up-voted him to balance the scales? Either way I just want to say All four of Ravery, Zanna, Andrea and Eliah I consider to be far superior to myself in this virtual community. Five counting Fabby whose answer got mod-nuked. That said reading deeper into this dotting the t's and crossing the i's is way over my head and I'll go back to converting Ubuntu bash scripts to WSL and Powershell. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 2:00

2 Answers 2


In this case I would suggest doing nothing, because the post is readable as it is. It would look prettier if its two list items were in an actual ordered list, but the 1), 2) formatting is readable here because both the list and the items in it are short. The formatting is only "wrong" if the actual goal is to cause HTML code for an ordered list to be generated. That the author undid that part of your edit suggests that they don't want this. Although authors don't have final say about the content of their posts against established policy or strong community consensus, I don't think there's an actual problem here that needs to be solved.

Note that this is specific to that particular post. I am not saying that all instances of authors undoing formatting improvements can or should be ignored. Unless it's already clear or there's some reason to think it would go badly, in cases where it actually matters I would suggest using a comment to ask the author (politely) why they've reverted the improvements. It would definitely be appropriate and acceptable to do that here. I just think in this case it doesn't matter all that much.

The biggest real problem with the post's original formatting wasn't the absence of ordered list formatting, but that everything was scrunched up together, with two trailing spaces used to create a line break rather than a paragraph break. It was somewhat hard to see where the list actually started. The original formatting used this Markdown:

14.04 is 3 1/2 years old, so two possibilities instantly come to mind.  
1) The software is no longer available.  
2) The software is no longer compatible with 14.04 because of updates. ie it depends on newer libraries.

Your formatting used this Markdown:

14.04 is 3 1/2 years old, so two possibilities instantly come to mind.

1. The software is no longer available.  
2. The software is no longer compatible with 14.04 because of updates. ie it depends on newer libraries.

Notice that you did not merely change 1) and 2) to 1. and 2.; you also added a blank line to separate them. You had to do this to make the list formatting work... but I would consider that blank line, rather than the list formatting itself, to have been the more important improvement in this case.

The current formatting is not actually a rollback. The blank line is retained:

14.04 is 3 1/2 years old, so two possibilities instantly come to mind.

1) The software is no longer available.  
2) The software is no longer compatible with 14.04 because of updates. ie it depends on newer libraries.

This is reflected in the way the post is displayed. The list is clearly separated from the sentence that introduces it. Thus your efforts have not actually been wasted.

As a final thought, if the post were edited more extensively--in some way that would be appropriate even if the current concern about formatting did not apply--I think it would be fine to reformat the list, too. But I wouldn't suggest anyone do that unless they were going to anyway.

  • 4
    Thanks for your answer but I find the first part really troublesome. The absence of a semantically correct HTML code is a real issue for people reading the website via screen readers or other tools, for instance visually impaired people. Formatting is not just "pretty", it serves a purpose. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:13
  • @AndreaLazzarotto Can you explain what you mean? Do most screen readers produce unacceptable output from text like "1) The software is no longer available"? Suppose no list were used at all, and that the text had instead said, "First, the software is no longer available. Second..." Or suppose it had been in a paragraph like "(a) The software is no longer available. (b) The software..." all without any line breaks. Would there be a problem in those situations? From your comment, it seems like your question doesn't mention any of your actual concerns. I suggest you edit it so that it does. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:35
  • 1
    Screen readers are just an example (but yeah, they say something if a list is present in the text). But providing semantically correct and formatted content should be a goal that is pursued regardless of screen reader issues. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 14:56
  • @AndreaLazzarotto So is there an actual problem here that affects people, or not? That screen readers "say something" when there's a list doesn't address the question of when lists should be used, nor if someone using a screen reader (or anyone else) is adversely affected by the post's current formatting. It makes sense that, however one reads text, one experiences the presence of HTML list formatting differently from its absence, but that does not speak to the question of when HTML list formatting should be used. Thus far, you haven't shown that anything in the post is actually incorrect. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 15:11
  • 1
    Yes. The main problem is that a edit that was improving the formatting has been basically undone. The secondary problem is that this act of reverting some modifications made the post slightly less readable. Meta is not the right place to explain the fact that semantic HTML is useful and sometimes necessary, there are plenty of resources on the subject, i.e. (1) (2) (3). Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 15:30
  • @AndreaLazzarotto Meta is the right place for you to explain why you want action to be taken on the site. That might touch on virtually any topic, in the specific ways that the topic applies to the action you are advocating for. In your question, you seem to frame the issue as minor by saying that one of the reasons you proceeded with your edit was that it would not clutter the suggested edits queue. The claim that "semantic HTML is useful and sometimes necessary" is wholly inadequate to justify the position that there is a significant actual problem in this case that is in need of fixing. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 15:37
  • 1
    I believe the question is pretty clear: a user reverted edits improving a post and I am asking how to handle this behavior without an edit war. I am not asking for other people to take action. I see you are in a mood for arguing, maybe you felt personally attacked or something. I actually like most parts of your answer, what I cannot agree on is that formatting properly is just aestethics or that a manually typed list does not constitute a problem. It doesn't look right if reading with your eyes and it doesn't read right if using a screen reader. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 16:06
  • @AndreaLazzarotto I don't think your question is unclear, I just think that it's not attempting to describe the existing situation in a way that would explain why it is an actual problem. I'm reasonably sure this is because it's not an actual problem, but perhaps it is and you have just not explained why. The behavior you want to "handle" is not actually a problem that needs handling. People get to edit their posts, even in ways you personally dislike. If you want to override that, the onus is on you to tell the community why the current state of the post should be considered unacceptable. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 16:13
  • Well, maybe I should change the title in "What to do when users intentionally degrade formatting of their posts?". Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 16:16
  • @AndreaLazzarotto The answer would be, "If editing is inappropriate, do nothing or explain why the change is bad." But if part of the issue is that it is difficult or unpleasant to read the post with a screen reader, then that's a major problem and it belongs in your question. You raised that topic, then seemed to indicate I shouldn't focus on it when I posed specific questions about what text is and isn't suitable for screen readers, which you didn't answer. This made me wonder if your concern for visually impaired people was genuine and relevant to this case, or just a rhetorical exercise. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 16:24
  • @AndreaLazzarotto But I have a thought about the difference in our perspectives. You said you you disagree that "formatting properly is just aestethics." Do you think I believe that? I didn't say it or anything like it. I said the advantage of list formatting in this case is that it's prettier. I even followed my entire first paragraph with a statement that its analysis doesn't generally apply. As for what may be a real disagreement about "a manually typed list," my first comment is about that. Lists sometimes don't need special formatting. If it is needed here, that should be explained. Commented Nov 4, 2017 at 17:05
  • 1
    This is a general question about a general problem. A specific example is provided for reference. As you said, it might not be the largest example, but still it's an example. After what has emerged in the comments I am wondering if I should make it even more general given that we are talking about a user doing constant abuse of formatting. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 10:18
  • Both of you are great hard working contributors to the community. I think the focus should be on what to do with users that persistently roll back edits out of vanity or some other knee-jerk-reaction reason. You guys seem to be arguing over the tree and ignoring the forest and it seems unbecoming of two such great people. Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 1:32

As can be seen from the following images, my formatting is not incorrect. The use of the parentheses is formally accepted. And since the text is less than one line, paragraph blocking is unnecessary and unwanted. Changing the parenthesis to a period makes no improvement to the post. The period does not noticeably separate the numbering from the text, and looks atrocious to me as a period is used in the 3rd sublevel iteration.

Now as Eliah stated in his answer, quit editing my posts frivolously.

  • 5
    As you can see, that's the formatting applied to a list. Doesn't matter what formatting you apply, Word sees it as a list internally. In Markdown, the dots create a proper HTML list, not parentheses. Then the CSS defines what formatting to apply. If you want parentheses, then create a user style and apply it on your browser instead of sticking your nonsense on the rest of us. As for paragraphs, you're one to talk. Most of your "paragraphs" have unnecessary line breaks in them.
    – muru
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:01
  • And it doesn't display any differently because the text is shorter than one line. thus the edit is useless.
    – ravery
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:06
  • Oh? i.sstatic.net/nGQh9.png
    – muru
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:08
  • indentation is not significant. the text is identical.
    – ravery
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:10
  • 3
    Yes, that's why you also do nonsensical formatting like askubuntu.com/a/932469/158442. Text alone doesn't matter, how it's presented also matters. The rest of us aren't and would like to read well-formatted posts. Maybe you should sit and read askubuntu.com/editing-help for a day or two before posting anything more.
    – muru
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 3:13
  • 1
    And this needs to stop. Your bickering is now annoying me and probably everyone else. Comment pruning will commence. Stop your arguing.
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:17
  • 9
    On a more serious note: Stick to the Stack Exchange format for lists. DO NOT attempt to imply your own 'acceptable' list style in a way that the system cannot properly format or handle it. There are many different ways to do lists, but only a few that're actually able to be handled/parsed by SE
    – Thomas Ward Mod
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 20:22

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