There is a question that I answered. That answer was accepted, and got a decent amount of points. It is also the only answer to that question. I later realized that my answer is wrong. But I now have a new answer which I believe is correct. However, giving this new answer essentially requires an overhaul, so it cannot be done in a minor edit.

If I do this overhaul in an edit (replacing the old with the new), I will essentially turn my answer into a completely different answer. I would keep the points and the "accepted" mark, but they are arguably undeserved, because those upvotes were essentially given to a different answer.

Intuitively it feels like the right thing to do is to delete my current answer (taking the hit in points) and post my new answer. I'm worried, however, that this will confuse the people who already read my old answer and voted. They might wonder "what happened to the old answer? It seemed good," without ever knowing what was wrong with it. It also might be considered valuable information for people to see why this answer is wrong, because it seems like an intuitive answer to the question that others might come up with.

Another solution is to edit the "new" answer as an amendment to the old answer, keeping both in the same post. However, this will make the answer very long and cumbersome, forcing every new person to have to trudge through a wrong explanation before they get to what I believe is the correct one.

The only other solution I can think of is to keep my old (wrong) answer, with a minor edit that informs people that it's wrong (and why), and then post the new answer as an entirely new post. However this feels like cheating, because I'm keeping the points for the old wrong answer and possibly getting more points for the new one.

What is the best thing to do in this case? Also, suppose I was in the same position but I didn't have a new answer that I believed was correct. What would be the best thing to do in that case?


1 Answer 1


It is not possible to delete an answer that is accepted. So this is not an option.

Next, I would argue that the priority should be not to confuse future readers. This means that the correct answer should be seen first and not after the wrong answer. This means that posting a new answer is a bad option.

This leaves only one option: edit the existing answer. I would suggest the following rules to alleviate potential shortcomings:

  1. Put a short disclaimer in the beginning, something along the lines of "This answer as originally posted was wrong. I have provided the correct solution in Jan 2018." (Maybe in bold or in italics).

  2. Then post the NEW answer. Otherwise the readers will have "to trudge through a wrong explanation before they get to the correct one" which is exactly what you don't want.

  3. Then, if space allows, you can put a horizontal bar, make a title # The original (wrong!) answer and leave your original answer below. If space does not allow, cut it out. Anybody will be able to look in the edit history to see your original answer.

PS., If the OP is still active, I would leave a comment under the question to notify them that the answer has substantially changed. Otherwise they might never notice.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ +1 An alternative if space is short is to give a one-sentence summary of the gist of the original, but as you note, it's not strictly necessary since the edit history can be inspected. $\endgroup$
    – Glen_b
    Jan 19, 2018 at 0:57
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thank you for the answer. I think keeping the original answer will make the post very long and cumbersome, so I would prefer to cut it out and let people look in the search history. Actually, I like Glen_b's suggestion of keeping just a short summary of the original, as well as an accompanying explanation of why it's wrong. (I feel like I owe that explanation, because people actually upvoted and accepted it.) $\endgroup$ Jan 19, 2018 at 13:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b Further, if you're feeling especially generous/transparent, it is possible to give a link to the appropriate part of the history. Not everybody realises the edit history is there, and even those who do may not end up looking at the version of the answer you intend if there have been several edits made to it. $\endgroup$
    – Silverfish
    Jan 23, 2018 at 16:33

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