In this answer, mod Yannis says:

invalidating existing good answers with a radical edit to the question is not... good.

The accepted answer on that question, as edited by Yannis, says:

If the edit makes the answer invalid/meaningless/incorrect, whereas it WAS valid/meaningful/correct for the old poor question, then such edit should not be made. I am unsure if it's against the official SE rules, but I agree with your concern that it is at best, poor etiquette towards the answerer.

And Yannis says here:

editing becomes less of an option when there are answers, as your edit might invalidate them.

Yet all of these meta posts are about making edits to someone else's question. Is this guidance meant to apply when OP edits his/her own question, because what they asked is not what they intended?

Editing one's own question to invalidate an existing answer can be defended with "My intent must not have been super clear, so I've clarified. That's what the edit button is for." (This is when the question as asked was reasonable, even if it might have fit better elsewhere like Law.SE.)

Are edits to one's own question, that invalidate one or more existing answers but change the question to be more like OP's intended question, encouraged, discouraged, or something else?

I give the repeated name so as to not be accused of presenting multiple quotes in a way that makes it seem like they're from a broader diversity of community perspectives than is accurate.

3 Answers 3


When one made a mistake in their question which leads to worthwhile answers which are not for the question they meant to ask but the question they accidentally asked, one should consider if it doesn't make sense to just let the question be and create a new one.


I want to know more about the political system of Australia. So I ask

How is the prime minister of Austria elected?

Damn auto-correct. But before I notice my typo, someone answers:

Austria doesn't have a prime-minister. Austria has a chancellor and a president and they are elected as follows... [detailed explanation]

So I have two options.

  1. Edit "Austria" to "Australia" in my question and make the answer invalid thus destroying someone's useful contribution to this website.
  2. I let the question be, because even though it's not what I am interested in it is a useful question for this website in its own right (but maybe edit "prime minister" to "chancellor and president" for better searchability). Then I create a new question asking what I actually wanted to ask. Now the website doesn't have one but two useful questions and one of them already got a useful answer.

It think the second option would be much better and not much more work for me.


There are a couple things we want to avoid.

  1. Invalidating good answers.
  2. Retaining unclear or invalid questions.

Sometimes avoiding these two pitfalls are at odds with each-other, and you have to make a judgement call as to what's appropriate.

So, if you ask a question incorrectly or people misunderstand it, and gave you an answer that you don't need, then there's a problem because we do not have a real answer for someone's real question. Instead, we have an answer to a question that nobody really had, and that's not very useful.

On the other hand, people do put time into an answer, and If your initial question looked clear enough to be answered, and the answers were valid, then it's not fair to the answers that you fundamentally change your question and invalidate their answers.

On Some Stack Exchanges, there are chameleon questions, which change every time they get answered. This happens because people get over one obstacle in their project only to find a new one, and instead of asking a new question, they change their original question to be a new question. Don't post chameleon questions. If you have a follow up question, you're always welcome to ask it as a brand new question.


This is only an issue if there are "existing good answers". A single answer with no upvotes submitted within 2 hours of the question being posted does not meet this bar.

You wouldn't radically edit a question with multiple upvoted answers, and especially one with an accepted answer.

As per this particular question, I strongly disagree that this qualifies as a radical edit. There was a small clarification of intent. The original wording is completely consistent with the current wording, but also allowed some additional interpretations.

  • "With no upvotes" is somewhat ensured if you edit the question within a few minutes of the answer being posted, so that what might otherwise be a good response to the question as originally posted no longer answers the question.
    – Burned
    Jul 14, 2016 at 21:29
  • @Burned Yes, I agree. That's why it was important to edit the question immediately, before it started getting upvotes and the question became locked in due to an "existing good answer". No rep is lost, and very little time is wasted. It was edited before anyone else posted an answer guilty of the same misreading. Again, the edited version narrowed the question to the original intent. I'm baffled by this response. Questions can and should be edited to be more clear after they are written. That's an important part of this whole SE model.
    – DCShannon
    Jul 14, 2016 at 21:43
  • Questions don't get locked due to an "existing good answer." If you need examples, head over to Puzzling.SE where questions are more frequently edited after answers have been posted, upvoted, and even accepted. It's just that for a lot of edits to questions made after answers to the original have been posted, those edits don't invalidate existing serious answers. In the specific example cited, I don't think I'm "guilty" of "misreading" the question you asked; I think I answered the question you asked reasonably well - even if that's not the question you intended to ask.
    – Burned
    Jul 14, 2016 at 21:55
  • @Burned They don't get 'locked' in the sense of the mod action, no, but editing them becomes more problematic. That's the whole point of this meta. I don't need to go look at puzzling for examples. Perhaps you're under the impression I'm a new user. Ignoring exchanges with 101 rep, you have 730 rep across 3 exchanges. I have 19850 across 18. I have some idea what I'm doing. I didn't phrase part of that comment well when I mentioned misreading. After re-reading my question, I could see how your interpretation was possible, if a bit odd.
    – DCShannon
    Jul 14, 2016 at 23:59
  • Well, "locked" does have a specific meaning on SE. It seems reasonable to assume that if you have that much experience you should be familiar with that specific term's meaning even if I don't assume that you fully understand just what set of actions trigger it. Given all that experience, I think your definition of a good answer (in terms of what you have no problem invalidating by edits) being based on votes, instead of a direct evaluation of answer quality (especially before there's been time for votes!), is problematic.
    – Burned
    Jul 15, 2016 at 2:05
  • @Burned At this point I really have no idea what you're trying to drive at, and I'm not sure that this discussion is going anywhere. When discussing policy regarding answers, a good answer is one with votes, as that represents the community opinion. When deciding for myself what to vote on, of course I would use other criteria. I never intended to refer to a mod locking a post, you've just seized on that word. Nothing unreasonable has occurred here, everything is fine.
    – DCShannon
    Jul 15, 2016 at 2:25
  • You wrote, "a good answer is one with votes, as that represents the community opinion." I don't think that's a valid measure to use to define "good answer" when the answer is only a couple minutes old.
    – Burned
    Jul 15, 2016 at 2:28
  • @Burned This is the last comment I'm posting in this thread. Each of us has wasted more time on this meta than you could have possibly spent on that answer. Let it go.
    – DCShannon
    Jul 15, 2016 at 2:30
  • That invalidating edit was my introduction to this community, and it carried a message that investing time to answer a question as asked (with citations to authoritative sources etc.) is not valued in this community (and may even be punished with downvotes, because the answer doesn't address a changed version of the question it answered). If what I experienced is the norm here, that really demotivates further contributions. It seems valuable to me to find out what the norms are on this site and understand them.
    – Burned
    Jul 15, 2016 at 2:41

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