I've felt that encouraging alternate answers that are helpful, but not necessarily definitive, addresses some of the concerns with 'answers in comments' meta-discussions. Very often there is more to add to another answer than fits in comments, and really those longer comments should be vetted too by other users... confusing to do when a point is not included in the answer added to.

Sometimes, however, a useful addition might be helpful, but include one or two words that move it from helpful to'wrong'.

In this answer ( https://english.stackexchange.com/a/447948/213359 ) the author starts with:

The best way to clarify the statement is to use direct speech instead of indirect speech.

IMO, the 'answer' or perhaps 'approach' isn't dead wrong and could be a good work-around. As an answer, it allows comments on its merits or shortcomings

Unfortunately "best" is an unnecessary contention - and makes it "wrong" (we have voting for that anyway)

Is editing a "best" contention fair/good/polite practice ? Say from

  • "The best way"


  • "One way"

I think down-votes discourage alternative answers, AND 'best' reinforce the idea that there needs to be a "winner" . Clearly BAD approaches still deserve a down-vote and occasional gaming to down-vote a mediocre answer that is appearing above what someone feels is a far better answer might occasionally be justifiable.

Anyway, just curious on others' thoughts.

  • 1
    The user with their workaround has earned six upvotes, against two downvotes. This is a pretty good score. The answer is a solution but it doesn't address the specific question, which might explain the DVs. You're going to get DVs even when the answer is well-researched and supported (which this one isn't) if a member believes that the question is too simple for a site of linguists and etymologists (I'm roughly quoting) or just plain off-topic.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 10, 2018 at 10:16
  • I edited the question to correct a couple of errors in possessive pronouns.
    – Xanne
    Jun 12, 2018 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


Minor improvements in general: yes, please! Like typos. However, the big caveat is: only change something if you feel confident that the poster would agree that it is an improvement, or if it is truly objectively an improvement (such as a typo).

In this case, while I understand where you're coming from, I am absolutely not convinced that the poster will necessarily agree with your change, so I would strongly recommend that you should not apply it. The best (hah!) approach would probably be to make a suggestion in a comment, or just let it be.

  • yes. I cannot be sure on this one, but it is a little close. I didn't change it because, the user did seem to mean it when they typed it.
    – Tom22
    Jun 10, 2018 at 0:22
  • @Tom22: Exactly! Jun 10, 2018 at 1:08

Making minor improvements of some sorts, such as fixing typos is why we have the ability to edit other people's posts in the first place. However the golden rule of editing another person's post is to respect the intentions of the author, which you can only suppose from the way they express their sentiments. Changing that sentiment should be avoided. Stack Exchange usually has more emphasis on individual post ownership than a website like Wikipedia.

If there are so many improvements to add to an existing answer that you can not reasonably suggest a fix in the comments, I would instead advise writing your own better version of the answer which incorporates all of the requisite improvements. It should be distinct enough to not be confused for an identical answer if there are that many suggestions to make.

However, this does not seem to be the case in your example. You only seem to take minor issue with the wording. If I felt the same way you do, I might write a comment like this:

"I agree that this is a way to do it, and perhaps it is a good suggestion but your answer does not convince that it is necessarily the best way to do it, so claiming that it is makes the answer seem too opinionated for the Stack Exchange format. Would you please add some explanation regarding why you think it is the best way, or at least revise the statement to make it less opinionated?"

Once all of the proofs are furnished, you can then judge whether or not the answer changes your persuasions, and vote based upon that.

Moreover, you can do so in good conscience, because Once somebody receives this sort of complaint, that person can know that that there are issues other than proposing an alternative solution that might cause votes against the answer, and be less quick to blame that one possible cause.

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