I asked whether you should use edits to fix an answer that is incorrect, and the consensus was that you should not:
should you use edits to change the conclusion of an answer, or should you post a new answer in that case?

OK. In that case, can we add that information to the text that appears above the "edit" box? The text currently says:
"Your edit will be placed in a queue until it is peer reviewed. We welcome all constructive edits, but please make them substantial. Avoid trivial edits unless absolutely necessary."

We could add a sentence which says:
"On the other hand, do not use edits to fix an answer that you believe is wrong (or, more generally, to substantially change the conclusion of the answer). In this case you should submit your own answer."

This would have helped me at the beginning, since I did not know this, and it's far from obvious.

(That text might be a default template that can be customized by sites like chemistry SE, but in that case I'm suggesting an edit to the default template.)


When I click on the edit link, this is what I see appear at the top-right of the screen:

How to Edit

► fix grammatical or spelling errors

► clarify meaning without changing it

► correct minor mistakes

► add related resources or links

► always respect the original author

The prohibition against changing a conclusion would seem to be covered by the points about clarifying meaning without changing it, correcting minor mistakes, and respecting the original author.

I don't think it would be useful to change the existing above-the-edit-box text to include what you're saying—at least not without also adding a whole bunch of other things that could be considered important by other people: in other words, the text at the top-right of the screen.

Having said that, I do think that it might be useful to add something short along the lines of: "Please review the text that just appeared at the top-right of the screen." ;) Or something else that points to a more in-depth discussion.

Honestly, I hadn't even noticed that top-right information before. Not until I read this question, wondered if anything else appeared than the text that you quoted, and deliberately looked at the rest of the screen. (It's only now in hindsight that it seems obvious.) So, drawing specific attention to it in the highlighted text that is noticeable could be helpful.

In addition to that, I can't see how it could hurt to add a bullet point that says "do not change a conclusion" or, perhaps, "do not change statements or conclusions."

  • Only conclusions are off-limits. Changing wording is fine as long as the basic meaning is the same (and indeed, even completely rewriting the concluding paragraphs of an answer could be legitimate if the rewrite expresses the same essential thoughts in a clearer or more cohesive way.) – Nathan Tuggy Jun 7 '18 at 8:59
  • @NathanTuggy Really? What if an argument is presented with a conclusion that only follows from three premises (which are also provided)—and one of the premises is edited to change it, thereby invalidating the conclusion? Reading the bullet points I quoted would seem to imply that they apply to everything about an answer . . . – Jason Bassford Jun 7 '18 at 9:01
  • ... then... the editor clearly messed up the conclusion? It's that simple. If the post as a whole still says essentially the same things, except better, it's a good edit. If it doesn't say the same thing, or if it says it worse, then it's a bad one. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 7 '18 at 9:03
  • @NathanTuggy I think we're saying the same thing. The rules that are given, if applied, would not result in a "bad" edit. The problem, as expressed in the question, is that the rules are not immediately obvious to everyone. – Jason Bassford Jun 7 '18 at 9:05
  • Right; the difference I was trying to express is just that, while it's usually good to maintain all sentences essentially the same, what's actually crucial is only to ensure that the post's meaning as a whole is unchanged. – Nathan Tuggy Jun 7 '18 at 9:11
  • But I don't think we should think of it like a disclaimer, as in, "Hey, we put it somewhere, so we're covered." Rather, I think the question is, "Will a new user, seeing this page for the first time, see the direction and understand what they're supposed to do?" I think with the existing layout, probably not. If you add the proposed text to the pop-up above the edit box, then they would. – Bennett Jun 9 '18 at 7:26
  • Also, even if the user sees the words "clarify meaning without changing it", a new user is likely to think, "Well, if the existing answer is wrong, surely that rule is superseded by the importance of fixing a wrong answer to make it right." It's less likely to occur to them to post a new answer instead, unless the directions specifically say to do that. – Bennett Jun 9 '18 at 7:27

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