# fix or explain?

When I encounter an unformatted or badly formatted post, I usually leave a comment such as this one explaining how to fix the problems rather than fixing them myself. This is not just because I don't want to spend my time fixing other people's formatting, but also because I think that it's better that they learn to do it themselves rather than having it done for them, which often seems to result in their next post being just as badly formatted and having to be fixed by someone else again.

Recently two recipients of such comments thanked me for the information (here and here). However, it seems that most people are taking a different approach and just editing posts to fix the formatting without leaving a comment. That made me wonder, on the one hand, whether my approach might be seen as annoying by some, as it results in lengthy extra-mathematical comments that distract from the math, and, on the other hand, whether we might get fewer badly formatted posts if more people took my approach.

What do you think?

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In my experience, most of the time I see a question, it has already been edited, making your question moot. My rule of thumb is to do the LaTeX-ifying myself on short and simple questions. For questions where the question involves complicated changes I'll either edit it myself and leave a comment like yours, along with a link to one of our tutorials, or just leave a link. My response is partially dictated by my sense of whether or not I think this is a "drive-by" question. If I have any reason to believe that the questioner might ask another question, I'll omit the edits and leave a link. YMMV –  Rick Decker Sep 22 '12 at 18:19
I was one of the people that edited the post you linked at the start. At the time, I didn't have the reputation to add a comment, so I just performed the edit. Commenting no longer an issue for me, but what would the ideal action be in that sort of situation? –  Michael Dyrud Sep 22 '12 at 19:00
I am conflicted about whether to edit this post to capitalize "fix" or simply mention it in a comment here. What to do? ;-) (+1) –  cardinal Sep 22 '12 at 19:33
I routinely add $\LaTeX$ and improve formatting enough to make the question reasonably easy to read. I agree in principle that it’s better for people to learn how to do it themselves, but in practice I prefer to make the question itself more usable. And having done that, I’d rather spend my time explaining mathematics. –  Brian M. Scott Sep 26 '12 at 6:16
I am new here and i don't mind it when someone edits something for me but my first couple questions no one ever posted HOW to find out how to add the needed text. i found that much more helpful then going back to previous questions and cannibalizing stuff from the edits :) –  Faust7 Feb 7 '13 at 13:33