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I answered a question recently and then realized I needed to add material to provide a full answer, which I did. (I did this after the answer had received an upvote. I don't know if that's an issue.) I marked the new material with the heading "Edit" as I have seen elsewhere.

Now that I have thought about the question and my answer even more, I would like to completely rewrite my answer in order to both generalize and clarify. Is that okay? If not, what are the alternatives?

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It's good to improve your answers. I think you just have to use common sense to decide when things that have happened since you wrote an answer (comments, references in other answers, up-votes) militate against changing it too much. And remember edits can always be rolled back.

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    $\begingroup$ Strongly agree. It's a major feature of SE that later thoughts can be added and mistakes or infelicities corrected or improved. As clearly implied, it is good to consider which comments or cross-references are rendered incorrect or meaningless by major edits. At the same time, posting comments implies that the poster deems them dispensable or secondary, or is deliberately just encouraging a fix or an extension. I've often been happy to delete my comments when the answer was improved (and unhappy not to delete my comments when the poster walked away from the thread). $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Mar 3 '16 at 17:18
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As a general rule, I think there is a difference between a full new write-up and making substantial changes.

Adding is extra material, citations, graphs, etc. is fine; I find it rather welcome actually! It shows that the author cared about his/her answer. On occasion I have upvoted answers that I originally thought to be "mundane" exactly because the OP took the time to make them better.

Completely rewriting an answer is a bit odd especially in the case people have already down/upvoted a post. I would suggest to: A. add this full rewriting as a new post and/or B. just delete the previous post and write a new one. The votes/comments around a post were given for that particular answer or at least the general gist of it; not for the complete rewrite up of it.

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Given that

  • it is acceptable to:

    - post more than one answer,

    - delete an answer you deem no longer adequate,

    and that

  • a complete rewrite is essentially identical (in the experience of an ordinary user) to deleting an inadequate answer and then posting a second better answer,

then I can't see any major issue in simply completely rewriting, as long as the question and other answers still all make sense by doing so.

However, if some parts of other questions or answers (and to some extent, substantive comments) would look odd thereby, then it would be best to at least mention your answer changed substantially (indeed, I think it's usually a good idea in any case).

Further if any part of the question, other answers or comments led you to change your answer, you should acknowledge that contribution.

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