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You see an answer, it has some problems. It makes incorrect assertions, it makes assumptions, it isn't logical, it doesn't have quotes, there are some other issues.

How can you communicate problems with an answer without implying that you are disagreeing with the poster?

It doesn't make sense to me to say "I agree with your answer but it is not logical." It feels a lot more natural to say "I disagree with your answer because it is not logical."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To clarify, is this for cases where you agree with an answer's conclusions, but disagree with the logic behind those conclusions? \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Oct 21 at 0:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeQ If I don't find the logic passable then, regardless of my opinion on the conclusion, I don't think it is valid. If you think those 2 cases are significantly different then include it in your answer, I appreciate your help. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 0:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Your additional question has made this too broad for a single meta. This is called "moving the goalposts" you asked a question, got an answer then changed the question. It is better if you instead ask your follow-up question as its own question. I encourage you to ask it separately though, as it is a fair question if you are confused about it. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 21 at 7:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am adding an additional "goal" while explicitly saying it resulted from the answer. I will make a separate question though if that is your recommendation :) \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 7:25
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You have a few options

The stack has two main methods for communicating suggestions for improvement; commenting and editing. When and how to use these tools is a skill that improves with practice but I'll try to give you a quick overview. You also have the option of posting your own answer.

Commenting

Comments are the main method for providing feedback on a post (other than voting). It is worth reading the comment everywhere privilege information for official guidance on what they are and how to use them. Also check out my answer on How to write a stack exchange comment? for some general advice.

I'll give some specific examples of comments you can use for the situation in your question.

When an answer is mostly good but mis-quotes a rule or misses a key fact, you can comment something like:

  • Most of this answer is good, but you might have overlooked X...

  • Then go on to explain more details if required. If possible link to a source to support your point.

When an answer is correct but the structure is making their main point difficult to find:

  • You might want to highlight your point about Y. I think it's great and important to the answer but is currently being lost.

  • You can also suggest re-ordering their answer or adding a clearer title.

When you know an answer is correct but it is lacking support:

  • I believe this answer is correct, but it could benefit from adding additional support. Can you edit in some rules or citations to support Z?

  • If you know the source they need you might like to link to it (or edit it in yourself).

A similar case is when the answer might be correct but you can't tell because it is lacking support:

  • Can you please provide some support for this answer? Why does X work that way? Editing in some rules or other citation would be beneficial.

  • You can also flag these posts for moderators to add the "citation needed" banner if it is particularly problematic.

If the answer has lots of problems but makes some good points and you feel like you could fix it but don't feel comfortable making that large an edit, you can ask for permission:

  • I think this is a good answer that could be improved with a few changes. Do you mind if a make a major edit to focus this on your best points?

  • Alternatively you could make the edit and then ask them to rollback if they disagree.
  • This is often best if you are dealing with a new user and think it may be difficult to communicate exactly what is wrong with the post in a way they will understand.
  • I usually use this after one or two other comments have failed to get the point across.

When an answer has an incorrect assumption that leads to an incorrect conclusion.

  • Answer says "X, Y, Z therefore A" but Y is incorrect. Leave a comment like:

    I think you've got Y wrong (here's the link to why) which makes the answer B, not A. Please take a look again.

  • The upvotes on your comment will likely indicate if you are correct. If you see a comment with more votes than the answer it is on, that's often a sign that something is/was missing from the answer.

If the OP edits their post to address your concerns, or if they make a logical argument as a refusal to do so, it can be a good idea to then remove your comments if they are no longer relevant. This helps clean up the site and make it easier for everyone.

Editing

The editing of posts is a key part of our model. Anyone is capable of suggesting edits to posts. However you don't want to completely re-write someone's post, particularly if you are correcting something you believe is wrong.

Editing for formatting and grammar:

  • You are always encouraged to edit for formatting and grammar.
  • We encourage the use of proper headers # over bold for accessibility reasons.
  • Fix spelling and typos, except for regional spelling differences (don't change s to z if used consistently in a post).
  • Edit game terms to match style from source books. Using consistent style makes it easier for people familar with the system to understand. For example check out V2Blast's excellent 5e style guide.

Editing for logical consistency:

  • If you believe you can improve a post editing is encouraged.
  • Try to preserve the original intent, don't completely change their point to be correct.
  • Edit the whole post, don't fix one part and leave errors or typos in another.
  • Make it a cohesive post, don't signal edits.
  • Leave a comment explaining why you made your changes and asking them to rollback if they disagree. Alternatively use Nitsua60's excellent suggestion:
    • Go ahead and make the (possibly quite large) edit that you think makes the most easily-followed version of the argument being presented. Then immediately roll back your own edit and leave a comment saying "I think your answer's good but hard to follow. I went ahead and gave it a rewrite which you can find as version N-1. If you think that is better go ahead and roll back to that version, and I'm glad to have helped you make your answer better.

Write your own answer

If situations where answers make good points you think are important but are otherwise poor answers, it might be worth extracting those points into your own answer. When adding an answer to the question keep a few things in mind:

  • Write a complete answer, you need to address the entire question an be a complete answer without requiring readers to read the other answer.
  • Give credit if you feel it is due but don't feel like you have to.
    • If you think someone made a great point and should get credit for it, include a link to their post in your answer.
    • This isn't a rule and you are free not to do it, but some people do consider it polite.
  • Add something new.
    • If you are simply restating what is already there then you need to make sure it is a significantly better presented answer.
    • If you can, add some additional information or context as well as improved structure.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is a great answer and it's is very comprehensive, but itdoesn't cover the case of "It is unclear if the answer is correct/the answer is wrong because it has problems". \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 1:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ Would it be possible for you to expand your information about editing with something about etiquette? In my experience people are extremely defensive about their answers, I have not been confident to edit them for logical consistency because even pointing out the problem leads to a confrontation.How does this interact with opinion based answers? \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 1:03
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn The header formatting is actually in the visual editor, it is the button after bulleted list, or can be used with Ctrl + H. One # will give you a 1st level header, 2 for a second and 3 for a third. = is also perfectly fine, so long as you are using header rather than bold or italics for headings. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 21 at 1:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @linksassin thanks for the info! That button seems to show paragraphs so I thought it was a <br> or something :) I never would have guessed! \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 1:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn in the case that you're tempted to edit for logical consistency, I'd like to suggest one route I've taken before and learned from others taking it with me: go ahead and make the (possibly quite large) edit that you think makes the most easily-followed version of the argument being presented. Then immediately roll back your own edit and leave a comment saying "I think your answer's good but hard to follow. I went ahead and gave it a rewrite which you can find as version N-1. If you think that is better go ahead and roll back to that version, and I'm glad to have... [1/2] \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 21 at 1:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ helped you make your answer better." (This, of course, assumes that you think all the necessary pieces are there, but that a rearrangement or different presentation would help. If that's not the case you probably shouldn't be editing but, rather, should post your own answer that does have all the parts you feel are necessary.) [2/2] \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 21 at 1:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @nitsua60 Thanks for the recommendation. I often see logical problems on questions that then go on to make questionable conclusions. Do you have any advice for this situation? I guess I also don't really know how pointing out problems doesn't imply disagreement. \$\endgroup\$ – jgn Oct 21 at 1:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Downvote things you think are not useful, upvote those you think are, write your own answers when you can? That's the 100-level curriculum. Getting into 200-level, you can interact enough in ways that authors appreciate/like so that you've got some social capital to spend saying "you know, I think this misses some really key things; I'm in [chat] if you want to ping me about it, 'cause I'd like to help." \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 21 at 1:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn One thing I like to make clear in my comments is that I only disagree with particular sections, not their answer as a whole. If you disagree with the whole answer just downvote, they are unlikely to completely change their answer unless you have a compelling source that proves your point. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 21 at 1:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ Reading that last comment I'd say the most you should do vis-a-vis the existing post is comment to say "I think you've got Y wrong (here's the link to why) which makes the answer B, not A. Please take a look again." And, again, feel free to write your own answer that's better. If your ultimate motivation is that the readers are aware, provide them with the correct (as you understand it) interpretation, and trust that voting will surface it. \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 Oct 21 at 2:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ Disagreement is allowed (and often expected). Just be polite and explain the disagreement. Clarify what points or statements seem incorrect. Maybe provide links for evidence, if necessary. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ Oct 21 at 2:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jgn Hmm... I'm sorry I haven't had the same experience so I don't really know what happened there. Take this advice on board and if it reoccurs bring it to meta with the example. Or link this meta and ask them to explain it here. Perhaps trying to phrase things as "I think it would be better if..." rather than "this doesn't make sense because..." might get more positive responses. Good luck, I'm sorry you've had this problem. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Oct 21 at 3:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ 1) Comments are for improving posts. You can comment on any answer saying you disagree with it. That doesn't improve the post though so will likely be deleted (you should simply downvote instead). 2) If you comment a disagreement and also include a reason why you disagree then that may allow an answer to be improved, so it is less likely to be deleted. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Oct 24 at 9:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ 3) However, it's possible that when OP reads your post they may disagree with your disagreement and see no need to change their answer as a consequence. In this case you comment is not going to be useful for improving the post - so once again it may be deleted. If OP doesn't want to accept your suggestion and you still disagree with their answer as it is, then downvote and write your own answer. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Oct 24 at 9:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ As an answerer, when someone comments a suggested change on one of my answers I will either make the suggested change and then flag the comment for deletion, as it is no longer needed; or, if I don't want to make the suggested change, I will flag the comment for deletion acknowledging it but stating it is not useful to me. Both of these responses are the comment system working as intended. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Oct 24 at 9:16

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