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I've heard there's a way to get questions reopened by doing something called a heroic edit.

What is it, how can I do it properly, and how does it help?

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What's a heroic edit?

A heroic edit is any edits, or set of edits, that goes beyond the normal call of duty to help save a post from itself. They generally substantially revise a post to extract and make clear what, exactly, is so special about the post.

What's the point?

To maintain the quality and scope of a site, routine closures are a part of Stack Exchange. Closures are a way to signal from the community that a question has problems that must be addressed before it can accept new answers.

Stack Exchange is not a homogeneous community, and people do disagree. If a person disagrees that there's a problem with a question, they can vote to reopen the question (if they have enough rep) and/or convince other members of the community to vote to reopen. If 5 members of the community or one moderator is convinced, the question will be reopened.

If or when that fails, that's when the heroic edit comes in. By addressing the problems already identified by the closure, people will be more likely to be convinced that the question should be reopened.

But I don't think there's anything wrong with the post!

Fair enough: you can try to keep looking for people who agree with your assessment, and can vote to reopen the question, to do so. But by taking other people's concerns with the question seriously and addressing them, you're likely to convince more people about the value of the post faster.

Can I just do some minor copyediting and be done with it?

Copyediting is a relatively minor issue, and it's almost never the reason why a question gets closed. While improving the copy helps any post, it's unlikely to be enough to get a question reopened.

So what do I need to do?

Posts can be closed for a variety of reasons: there is no single type of heroic edit that'll work for all cases. The goal is to address why the post was closed, so understanding why others closed the question is essential.

Start by looking at the close reason:

  • Exact duplicate: people have determined the question duplicates the content of another one, or has enough overlap that there is no point in rehashing the topic. Try to revise the question to avoid as much overlap with the earlier question as possible.
  • Off topic: people have determined the question does not fit within the site's scope. Try to think about the audience of the site and whether or not they have the unique expertise to answer the question. Revise the question to more clearly ask something about the subject the audience is an expert in.
  • Not constructive: people have determined that, while potentially on-topic, the question and answer pair is not a good fit for the Stack Exchange style of Q&A: it's not a practical problem, it's an open-ended question, it's a list, or it's a discussion. Review "Real Questions Have Answers" and "Good Subjective, Bad Subjective", identify how the question as it is now fails the guidance there, and address it.
  • Not a real question: people have determined that it's not clear the post is actually a question, what the question is asking for, or that the question is way too broad to be answered in the Stack Exchange format. Revise the question to tease out the potential you see between the lines.
  • Too localized: people have determined the problem is so local to the user it's not going to help anyone in the future. Revise the question to generalize the problem and make it clear it's common other programmers face the same issue.

Then check the comments on the question, or check the meta-discussion site to see what people have said about it. Try to address those concerns as well in your revisions.

Finally, talk to the people who closed the question: they can explain what reservations they had with the question and help you address their concerns in your edits.

Your advice for heroically editing questions closed as "not constructive" is weak. What specifically can I do?

Not constructive covers a lot of issues. While talking with the people who closed the question can make the problems specific, there's some general advice:

  • The question has a ton of answers, many of them short: The question and answer pair has become a list, so it needs to be revised to not be one anymore. Ping a moderator in chat to work with them to help remove duplicate answers and consolidate answers into one canonical answer.
  • The question is a rant or inflammatory: Try to identify the legitimate problem the asker has and rewrite the question from a neutral point of view.
  • The answers have dismissed the question and answered a different one: If all the answers have addressed a different question because the question asked something unanswerable, revise the question to match the answers received.
  • Many of the answers have dismissed the question by providing non-answers: Flag non-answers, no matter how upvoted they are, for deletion. Xkcd, Dilbert, clichés, and one-line adages are not answers.

Okay, so I've made my heroic edit. What now?

Most really good heroic edits will attract reopen votes quickly and automatically. You can also flag it for moderator review or post the question in chat to see if you can get others to reopen the question.

I made all these edits, but it's still not reopened.

Not all questions can be saved, even with the most heroic of edits. Other times, people still aren't convinced the issues have been addressed. If you think the question should be reopened and talking to individual people hasn't made that happen, open up a question on meta to discuss what—if anything—can be done to get the question reopened.

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