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I've come across a question where the querent has some facts majorly wrong, and they seem to be a substantial cause of the problem they're describing.

I know that we refrain from answering in comments, and I could imagine pointing out those corrections in an answer.

How should I handle pointing out these errors and correcting them? At what point should I point out the corrections in a comment (basically suggesting an improvement), or at what point does that become an answer-in-comments I should instead post an answer for?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I was under the impression that a down vote means that a question is not well researched. A follow up comment on that down vote (you need to look up some facts before you ask a question) is more helpful than just VtC or just down voting. We spend significant time here helping new users, medium users, and even long time users Improve Their Questions for a noble purpose: posterity. Usefulness over time to people who have similar concerns/questions/problems. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 16 '17 at 19:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Badly written questions are not good for our model, nor for our users in the present and in the future. Helping people edit/refine/focus their questions so that they address their problem, and be both in scope and on topic, is a core community competency. Being accused by a diamond mod (not you) of answering in comments while engaging in that community action is counter productive. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 16 '17 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Korvin Be that as it may that we may downvote questions that are poorly researched, people can wind up confused and incorrectly informed by the very process of doing research -- the games that make up the majority of our questions are complex and confusing. Whether a question is well or poorly written doesn't affect whether it has factual inaccuracies either. As I'm trying to clarify here, there's a line to draw where attempts to improve questions' inaccuracies become attempts to answer and solve the problem. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 16 '17 at 20:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Make sure you draw that line with a nice thick brush, not a micro filament. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 16 '17 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I've already shared my perspective in an answer below; you're free to respond to it or request clarity if you feel it's needed. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener May 16 '17 at 21:28
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I suggest the guideline of asking yourself this question: to what extent is correcting the errors itself solving the problem they're facing?

  • If you're substantially solving their problem by correcting them, then post an answer and include the corrections as part of that answer. (Make sure you answer the question independently. Answers that solve just a little part of the problem don't get well received.)
  • If you're not solving their problem and the factual inaccuracies are tangential to their problem, please do leave a comment suggesting improvements. If you feel it's appropriate (use your judgement) you can also try to edit it.

For our general guidelines on handling questions where simply being mistaken or confused is a substantial part of the querent's problem, see here: How do we handle it when the asker's problem is just that they're confused?

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I'll contribute my thought - there's not one right answer.

It's a matter of degree. If it's a short thing, put it in a comment, as it certainly improves the question to correct a clear error in it.

If it requires a bunch of explanation or would be a long back and forth, it's better to add it as an answer.

A downvote to the question can be performed in either case if you feel it's merited.

Sometimes you'll choose wrong and the comment thread will spin out of control or the answer will get flak. C'est la vie, there's no perfect answer, just do your best.

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