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If I post an answer to a question that isn't a great answer in some way, and a downvote brings it to my attention, what should I do? My instinct would be to delete the old answer and post a new one instead of editing.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

No, by all means that is the last thing you should do.

Downvote means someone think the answer is wrong or not helpful. If you know what you done wrong and can fix it, improve the existing answer - that's the proper way of action.

Even if the downvoter already went away and won't come back to check and undo the downvote, editing bumps the question to the top, other users will see your improved answer and upvote. Usually you'll have +1/-1 meaning +8 points, and if your edit made it a good answer you might even get more.

Worst case you would lose some points - really not the end of the world.

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I guess the reasoning is that if I had some small mistake that made the answer wrong and I fix it, there's no way to tell that the downvote was on the previous "version" of the answer. (and that it's been fixed). –  Dustin Aug 1 '12 at 18:51
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You can add comment telling what you fixed then the downvoter(s) can undo the vote if coming back to check. Deleting a post is a "last resort" meant to be used if the post is plain useless or wrong and can't be salvaged. Little off topic, note that many posts with negative score are roaming around - sometimes it's also useful to know what is the wrong way. –  Shadow Wizard Aug 1 '12 at 18:58
    
editing bumps the question to the top. On the top of what? –  juergen d Aug 1 '12 at 19:10
    
@juergend to the front page of stack overflow (or whatever stack exchange site the question is on) –  amanaP lanaC A nalP A naM A Aug 1 '12 at 19:12
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@juergend what Neal said is true, editing changes the "last active" timestamp of the question and this timestamp is used in the default tab of each site. (called interesting on Stack Overflow and active on all others) –  Shadow Wizard Aug 1 '12 at 19:14

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