I don't know the answer to this question. I'm torn on the abilities I now have and know I can edit an answer, flag an answer, and downvote an answer (or ignore).

I don't really want to flag improperly, and yet, answers that seem to be of the type of:

Well, in my own world, I don't use that word, but use this word.


Really? That's the word? No way, it really should be this word.

These seem more like comments. So as I'm able to vote on delete as well, I'm trying to figure out the proper way to wield the hammer without seeming to be too overbearing on this. It seems contrary to the intent of SE to leave highly downvoted/poor quality answers as answers in the list.

Should one delete his answer if it's found to be poor is a good point on the other (submitter) side.

So, what's the best way to handle this? Move to delete, flag, downvote or ignore?

  • 5
    Have you found the general guidelines on flagging? Not an answer is for, well, posts which do not attempt to answer the question at hand. Anything which could conceivably be an answer is an answer, and you should vote on it, not flag it.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 14:20
  • 2
    But to Andrew's point, if it's much more like a comment than an answer, then flag as not an answer (the mods will then decide, but not necessarily move it to a comment).
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 14:32
  • @Andrew: I think there's a strong argument for allowing this question to stand, because it very specifically addresses one particular type of "potentially flagable" answer which isn't all that well covered by the more general guidelines. Personally, I tend to just downvote (and comment to explain myself) rather than flag an "answer" which effectively "sidesteps" the question. By which I mean something like Lost traveller: "How do I get to [my intended destination]? Useless answer: If I wanted to go there, I wouldn't start from here!" Commented Nov 5, 2014 at 18:44
  • 2
    For the single-word-for-phrase question, I don't see why those answers are invalid. Also for the "dialect" questions about where in the world people use this turn of phrase.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Nov 6, 2014 at 1:03

1 Answer 1


This has been touched on before, but a brief walk through the low-quality review queue history this morning has shown me that we need to revisit it.

The remedy for a wrong answer is downvoting, not deletion.

Note that answers that are clear and address the question at least a little, but are fundamentally wrong, should be downvoted, not deleted. A wrong answer still “looks good”.

That last part hurts, I know. Clicking “Looks Good” for an answer you know for an absolute fact to be wrong is almost physically painful. If it were up to me, I'd rename it to something that doesn't inspire life-threatening cognitive dissonance. But it's what we have, and it should be used as intended.

The important thing to remember is that bad answers can be helpful too, by showing people what not to do. That goes for not only wrong answers, but answers that address the question but are insufficiently supported, or even just plain useless.

Here's an answer with four votes to delete. Why? Because the poster pulled it out of his ass? So downvote it and explain why. If this answer sits around with a negative score and comments explaining why it's not a good answer, might it not help observant people understand that the road to success here does not involve pulling things out of your ass? And if that prevents even one prospective answerer from making the same mistake in the future, doesn't that justify keeping it around as an example of an anti-pattern?

By contrast, a deleted answer doesn't teach anybody anything, which is why deletion should be reserved for the truly hopeless cases: spam, complete gibberish, comments posted as answers, etc.

  • 1
    Arrgh! Stop raising reasonable and useful points! While (in agreement) it took me a while to learn the difference between not an answer and a very poor or a completely wrong answer (still an answer), my reasoning is that after a certain amount of time, the really horrid stuff will not teach anyone anything. Also, it's trying to comment on poor answers (even politely) only to be met with defensiveness. If this is the model we should follow (and I'm not certain it is), why do we have a badge for deleting our own downvoted answer? Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 8:11
  • 2
    Perhaps it's because that's the user deleting their own post, having learnt what's good and what's bad. Deleting posts for users doesn't teach them anything. They get given rep (get given it back) and don't have to ask where it came from.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 20:28
  • Well, I learned something useful today. Thank you both! Commented Dec 1, 2014 at 22:11

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