If you come across a question which has been answered correctly, but in a fashion that would require effectively a total rewrite to make it (in your opinion) understandable for the question-asker and who ever comes across the answer later, is it better to edit the answer (even though it's essentially a rewrite), or to post a new answer, with a clear statement of credit?

As this is meant to be a research level Q & A, I assume that we can expect the reader to do a bit of work, but there's also a point where an answer is opaque thanks to the style of the writer (as opposed to because the question is difficult). The situation may also be complicated by the answer being original research (though only a small chunk of course).

I guess an alternative formulation is whether it's more valued (in the context of the site) to recognise primacy or clarity (on the assumption that reputation will be siphoned one way or the other)?

This is kind of similar to this question, but beyond the point where a few suggestions would improve the answer, it really needs a total rewrite.

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    $\begingroup$ I fail to see the point of complete rewrite of other people’s answers. What benefit does it have, compared to posting a new answer? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:17
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    $\begingroup$ In the case I have in mind, proper attribution of an original idea. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:27
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    $\begingroup$ Please give a proper attribution in a new answer, as you suggested by yourself…. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 13:29
  • $\begingroup$ I think clarity helps a lot. and if you reference the previous answer and explain what you're doing, that's fine too. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ how about just cite the answer on the main site you want to "rewrite" for clarity & am sure the responses will be much more relevant...? doesnt this make more sense than referring to it all indirectly? $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ [nevermind found it] this is the Q/A vertex set of max size $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, that was the particular inspiration, I was just attempting (and probably failing) to make the question more general so that it was of lasting value to cstheory.SE. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2012 at 8:51

1 Answer 1


Whether a certain edit is a minor edit or a complete rewrite is not always black-and-white, but in general, I do not think that a complete rewrite of an answer posted by another user is accepted. A complete rewrite of a post might be viewed as putting words to the original author’s mouth. Please post a new answer, giving credit to the original answer as appropriate.

If you are worried about who receives up-votes and reputation points associated with them, it is nothing to worry about. If your new phrasing is very good, then you deserve up-votes and reputation points. If other people think that your new phrasing is not worth, then you will not receive up-votes and you may even receive down-votes, but that is what you deserve in that case.

Posting your rewritten version as a separate answer might decrease the number of up-votes which the original answer receives, and you may view this as a problem. But note that careful readers will also check the original answer and vote on it appropriately. I personally prefer to optimize my behavior for careful readers instead of optimizing it for careless readers.

  • $\begingroup$ ?? "if your rewriting is very good, you deserve upvotes & rep pts".. what pts does the rewriter receive? thought the rewriter does not receive any more pts than +2 for accepted edit.. acc to FAQ $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 22:09
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn: I rewrote that part for clarity. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2012 at 22:11
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    $\begingroup$ @vzn: By the way, it is impolite to write “??” when you do not understand something. If you want to be treated seriously, please behave appropriately. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ This was my opinion of the situation, but I thought it was both a useful question to clarify for other (relatively) new community members like myself, and my opinion could certainly be wrong! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ thought you might figure this out when politely pointed out-- apparently not, so will spell it out. the answer is not clearly written in the section cited, or possibly misleading. only the original writer of the question or answer gets pts for any votes. the rewriter gets +2 only once if the edit is approved by moderators. votes never apply to the rewriters rep. it is true that the question or answer voting could be affected by the rewrite but the original author is the recipient of all past/future votes on what they wrote even prior/subsequent to rewrites. [exception is "community-wiki".] $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:10
  • $\begingroup$ @vzn: I know what you wrote, but the second paragraph of my answer is about posting a new phrasing as a new answer, not about editing an existing answer. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ footnote-- this is my understanding from the FAQ & participation here on TCS etc. rep dynamics can be complicated and not spelled out exactly in stackexchange or forum FAQs because there are so many cases. some details arte available elsewhere in other stackexchange forums/answers. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:17
  • $\begingroup$ TI-- ok fine. but "complete rewrite" could either refer to a total rewrite of a question or answer through an edit [which afaik is allowed] or creation of a new answer that copies a prior one as a starting pt for modification. that is how the original question above is phrased. $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:19
  • $\begingroup$ ie answer is ambiguous to some degree & could be reasonably misunderstood/misconstrued. would edit it but edit button is dimmed out for me for some reason dont know :p $\endgroup$
    – vzn
    Commented Aug 19, 2012 at 15:46

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