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I'm pretty sure this happens to someone out there now and then:

You've read a question, done the work with writing a pretty decent answer, at least you think you have, then you find some detail in the question, either edited in at a later time or maybe not clearly defined in the title or pointed out in the context in the first place, that makes your answer either get down-voted because it isn't the most accurate or relevant answer or just kinda misplaced because it answers what you thought was asked, but then again, meh...

So, it isn't directly wrong, but neither a good answer for the question when you realize that you misread the whole thing. Could be that something got lost in internal translation (like inside your head, for non-native English speaking folks) or just poorly written. Could be you rushed for a bounty, at 4 a.m after a couple of beers, whatever.

What is the best approach in such cases? Should I (or could I) delete my answer? What are the rules for if / when I can delete an answer? Come to think of it, I really don't know the rules for if / when I can delete my own questions either... Is this written somewhere?

Does deleting an answer impact anything other than what it sounds like, e.g. the answer is Poof! gone or does it cause any other reactions / rep changes? Is it considered bad practice to do so, if at all possible?

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    If I do something like that, I usually delete the answer and edit it out of sight until I think it's a good answer to the question. Then I undelete it. – Ollie Dec 26 '20 at 0:49
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There isn't a "one size fits all" answer here, and it depends on how far off the answer is and, frankly, on personal style.

This happened to me several times in the past, and I usually take one of two approaches to rectify the situation:

If I had a decent answer that became invalid due to a clarifying edit, I'd address it explicitly and add a paragraph explaining it, e.g.:

EDIT:
The answer above does not take into consideration the restriction of XYZ added to the question in edit (link). In order to address this restriction, you could do ABC.

If I find that my answer was completely off, I'd add a clarifying comment that explains I misunderstood the question, and delete the answer.

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    Thanks, this seems like a good approach. I'll mark it as the answer if it isn't topped by something that answers the part about the rules / etiquette / best practice for deleting questions and answers. Or if you know more about this and care to fill it in. – cseder Dec 26 '20 at 13:08
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Personally, I often delete answers when this sort of misunderstanding happens. It's generally the most straightforward way of dealing with the problem. But if you can find a way to fix the answer, then by all means do so.

Does deleting an answer impact anything other than what it sounds like, e.g. the answer is Poof! gone or does it cause any other reactions / rep changes? Is it considered bad practice to do so, if at all possible?

See generally this answer. In short, people with enough rep can still see your deleted content, and vote to undelete it (though deleted answers require more rep to undelete than to merely view). Deleted posts with a score of at least 3 and that have been visible for at least 60 days will continue to contribute to the author's rep; all other rep changes are nullified. Deleting a bad or wrong answer is never inappropriate, but if you have a lot of deleted answers and relatively few well-received (upvoted, not deleted) answers, you might get answer banned. If you find yourself deleting a lot of answers, you may want to try and salvage them instead of deleting them, in order to avoid this fate.

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  • Thanks! The links in this answer explains / discusses most of the things I asked for. – cseder Dec 27 '20 at 1:37

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