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When I answer a question and later I discover that my original was wrong or incomplete. What is proper to do?

  • edit my own answer and change its meaning; or
  • create a new answer and perhaps downvote my previous answer.

And if editing is the proper way, when I edit my own answers/questions should I mark the changes in meaning or does this only clutter them?

I know that the guidelines state that edits should only correct spelling, clarify, etc. and not change the meaning of a question/answer. Does this hold for editing your own posts as well or is this guideline only about editing posts from others?

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I think the only etiquette to be followed is "don't look sneaky about it." –  Won't Jun 15 '12 at 15:09

1 Answer 1

up vote 7 down vote accepted

For incomplete answers

Just edit it.

For wrong answers that require radical changes:

You can't downvote your own answers, for one.

If your answer doesn't have any votes (upvotes are fine, I guess{*}), then just edit it in and notify the OP. You can also hat it with something specifying that you found out that your original answer was incorrect and you fixed it.

If your answer is downvoted, feel free to post a new answer (and possibly delete the old one). The downvotes are for the post, and they shouldn't mark a now-correct answer as wrong/bad.

I know that the guidelines state that edits should only correct spelling, clarify, etc. and not change the meaning of a question/answer. Does this hold for editing your own posts as well or is this guideline only about editing posts from others?

Actually, changing the meaning (though not about-turning it) is OK as well for questions. Many times a question that is/will be closed can be edited into a related, better question (which encompasses the original one). For answers, this is to be avoided if you are editing someone else's post.

Feel free about editing your own answers with major changes. Just never replace a correct/good answer (with upvotes and/or acceptance) with a bad one. Improvements of any sort are always welcome.

*The votes are for the post, and they sort out good post-bad post. If you make a radical change that completely changes the meaning of the post, then, ideally, it belongs in a new post, regardless of votes. If the post has no votes (at the time of submitting the edit), it's pretty OK to edit and fix, since the votes haven't changed. If it has upvotes, and if you feel it is wrong, IMO you ought to delete it, but replacing an upvoted wrong answer with a correct one is OK as well--you sneakily get to transfer the upvotes to the correct answer-- a good thing. But for upvoted posts I guess you can either edit-and-fix or post a new answer; either way is fine. If the post has downvotes, editing it would transfer the "this is wrong/bad" certification(i.e. downvotes) to a correct answer. Not a good thing.


Few more things (sparked off by Anna's comments, parts copied from there)

My above guidelines are based on what it ought to be policy-wise. Remember, we are about posts, not users, so filling the body of an already-downvoted wrong post with a good answer means that the good answer got a bunch of downvotes for something that wasn't its "fault".

But that's policy. In practicality, deleting and reposting may come across as "avoiding downvotes", and will just get you more downvotes from irate users. So be careful here, and, as Won't said, "don't be too sneaky about it".

A good guideline:

Yeah, it's a tricky balancing act. If there's only a downvote or two, it's probably safe to edit. If there's more, deleting and reposting a clearly different answer may be better.

But it's more of a per-case thing.

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