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On Writers Stack Exchange, I wrote about whether or not it was plagiarism to heavily borrow from a single nonfiction writer when you write a piece of fiction. I was quickly corrected and told I should use "copyright violation" instead of "plagiarism." That's fine and I probably would have left the question alone at that.

But I didn't quite get the answers I was looking for. I was hoping to hear about ethics and intellectual property. As I reflected on this, I realized my concern was was cultural appropriation instead of copyright violation.

I'm not going into it here why I was concerned about it at the time. I just want to know what's the proper thing to do when you realize that you asked the wrong question? Do you edit the original question? Do you copy and paste it, changing nothing but replace the problem words with the correct ones? Should you just totally write an original new question that has the idea, but isn't so familiar that people who frequent the forum recognize it as a duplicate?

What would Emily Post do?

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If you've gotten answers, definitely do not edit the question to change it like this. This is generally considered rude; it can completely wipe out all the work that people spent answering the question. Minor edits are fine, but if someone would have to substantially rewrite their answer to suit the new question, that's not okay.

In this case, I would recommend keeping the current version and posting the revised version question as a new question. Stack Exchange has filters that don't let you repost identical or extremely similar questions, or at least they did when last I checked. You should rewrite it such that the emphasis is clear: You're talking about something related but different.

As a rule, if the revision would invalidate the answers, then it can most likely be asked separately and not get closed as a duplicate.

  • Perfect answer. Thank you. – Keobooks Jan 21 '16 at 2:30

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