I had a problem, so I searched for it on SO and found someone else had asked that question already. Several people answered incorrectly. One person answered correctly and solved my problem perfectly. The only problem is that they thought it necessary to also make fun of the other answers for being wrong. That answer got downvoted into the negative.

What should be done in such a case? For someone who comes to the question to learn something, it seems like the most correct answer should be upvoted to the top, because that is most instructive to the viewer. On the other hand, there should be some kind of "punishment" for the person being rude even if they are correct.

So what are you supposed to do when the best answer also happens to be rude, or otherwise breaks some site rule? Downvote? Upvote but flag? Upvote but leave a comment telling them to cut it out? Something else?

  • 12
    do you have a link to the answer? Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 13:38
  • 4
    @Gamecat, is it appropriate to name and shame like that? I don't want to make any drama.
    – lala
    Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 14:15
  • 2
    chances are that if you do, it'll end up edited to the point where you can feel comfortable up-voting it. That said, if it helped you I would up-vote it anyway...
    – Shog9
    Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 16:45
  • 8
    My personal rule of thumb is that a problem without examples isn't a problem we have to deal with, and I don't entirely trust the judgment of people I don't know. I'd prefer to see an example before I got concerned. Commented Dec 10, 2010 at 17:52
  • 6
    A Col. Shrapnel answer by any chance?
    – user229044
    Commented Dec 11, 2010 at 5:56

6 Answers 6


Your options are (as always):

  1. Ignore it.
  2. Add a comment pointing out the problem.
  3. Edit out the offending remarks.
  4. Down vote.
  5. Flag the post for moderator attention.

In your case it's slightly complicated as the answer helped.

In that case I'd be tempted to:

  1. Up vote (after all it was useful).
  2. Comment on the rudeness or flag for moderator attention depending on whether you want to risk the OP "getting back" at you in some way.

However, ultimately it's up to you what you do.


Assuming the answer has actual value that helped with the problem, my preference, in order, is:

  1. If I have enough rep, edit the post to clean it up. I think this gets the message across loud and clear, and I'd rather be proactive to show the user what is acceptable and what isn't. In this case, I will probably refrain from voting on the answer, unless it contains so much valuable or in-depth information that it truly deserves it.

  2. Neither upvote nor downvote, but add a comment stating that while the answer was helpful, it could have been delivered more eloquently. Reward with an upvote if/when the answer owner cleans up the content.


Now it is possible to suggest edits (see Suggested Edits and Edit Review on the blog).

So you should suggest an edit to remove the rudeness. (Or of course make the edit yourself if you have enough reputation.) If you feel the answer is valuable, consider upvoting despite the rudeness.


Decouple the tone from the content. The answer was correct and helpful.

  1. The answer was correct and helpful
  2. The tone was rude

  1. Deserves up votes and/or answer selection as this is helpful for anyone who just needs to solve a problem.
  2. Deserves flagging, edits, or both.

Perhaps you could post your own answer, taking the information that you learned from the rude answer, but presenting it in a more constructive manner.

I'm not entirely sure about this, since I don't think it is generally acceptable to just duplicate answers (at least, not for the purpose of gaining rep). On the other hand, it does seem to be useful to aggregate multiple half-way-correct answers into one complete answer, so that answer can be voted up, sit on top, and be most helpful to folks finding the question in the future. I feel like this would be similar to that case, so it would be appropriate to post a new answer.

  • Sounds kind of passive aggressive, which is a form of feeding the trolls.
    – djechlin
    Commented May 2, 2013 at 16:44

I had this exact conversation with Jeff about a rude but reasonable and valuable question. The community closed the question. Jeff said that the community gets to define itself and if closing was the choice of five people then it was -de facto- appropriate. When I suggested they could have edited the inflammatory words from the question, he refused to acknowledge that was necessary or appropriate to do instead of closing. If it's appropriate to eliminate valuable questions based on tone, it's clearly reasonable to eliminate valuable answers. Since answers can't be closed, every option should be on the table.

  • 1
    PHC fan, me thinks. I figured the tone would garner down votes. Everything I said is completely accurate. Perhaps offering suggestions on how to improve the response instead of my state of mind would be a good thing to follow a down vote. Are you saying it's unreasonable to eliminate a correct answer based on tone alone but is ok to close a valuable question? I'm confused on the meaning of the down vote. Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 20:34

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .