Would you avoid downvoting an answer with a factual error, especially one that is central to the answer? Is it considered "rude" or something? Sure one can leave a comment noting the problem with the answer, but if you are noting that there is a key factual problem, why would you not also downvote? You can always change your vote after the answer is fixed. Of course then the person being downvoted might have a good guess that you were the one who did it.

It seems to me that if someone avoids downvoting for valid reasons, they just give more power to people who downvote for bad reasons.

I guess I'm trying to decide whether it makes the most sense to respond to factual errors (that are central to the whole point of an answer) in which of the following ways--

A) Leave a comment noting the problem, and downvote, because it's a bad answer, and the whole point of this site is to find good answers.

B) Downvote, because it's a bad answer, and the whole point of this site is to find good answers, but avoid commenting, because I don't want the answerer to guess that I'm the downvoter. (I don't like this choice. I'd only downvote with no comment if the issue were so glaring that anyone should be able to figure it out, or if the issue has already been addressed in regard to previous answers.)

C) Leave a comment noting the problem, but not downvote, because when you downvote answers with glaring key factual errors, someone eventually decides that you are not a positive person and starts downvoting all YOUR answers, so it's better just to decide that you will never downvote, ever, period, unless someone is being intentionally wrong or just is being incredibly negligent with finding the truth; otherwise leave downvoting to someone else.

D) Downvote, but only leave a comment if you think the person making the answer is likely to understand and agree with the comment and make an improvement to the answer. If you think he/ she will likely not understand or agree with the comment, don't bother commenting, because it will likely just tend to lead to an extended discussion in the comments, which is not the purpose of the comments. Particularly relevant to cases where the person has repeatedly disagreed w/ you in the past. (But, this can be avoided simply by not responding to their comment to your comment)

I see that some related discussion appears here-- Can we stop this "I dont know the answer therefore I downvote" thing?

Also extensively here-- Encouraging people to explain downvotes

The general trend seems to be that comments are encouraged . I suppose I will generally comment. Even if I know there is NO chance the person will agree with the comment and improve the answer, it's good to show other users what is wrong with the answer. (The fact that the originally poster of the answer won't likely agree with my comment, also means that there are likely other readers who wouldn't notice the problem if it weren't pointed out.) And I don't really care that much if someone decides to serially downvote all my answers for revenge.

Except of course in cases of just complete and utter negligence w/ discovering the facts-- then why bother comment as everyone else will understand the problem anyway.

Anyway-- thoughts of others?


4 Answers 4


Well, serial downvoting for revenge is clearly a violation of terms of service. That's a situation for mods to handle.

A factual error is a definite reason for a downvote. That's what makes good answers float to the top and poor answers sink to the bottom. If there's disagreement between you and the op, that's why each person only gets one vote. If others agree that it's wrong then the answer will go down.

It's more constructive to comment as to the reason for the DV, but it's not required. As Andrew T notes in comments, there's no reason to announce, "I downvoted because..." Suggesting an edit is less likely to seem confrontational. But if I really believe an answer is just plain wrong, that's what I think DV is there for. If you think a comment will be received poorly and won't be constructive, then DV and move on.

At least that's my take on it.

  • $\begingroup$ Recommended approach when commenting on downvote is to avoid declaring that you're the downvoter because it's just not constructive. Try to suggest the correction instead to avoid confrontation. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ A "factual error" does not make an answer, as the help center says, an egregiously sloppy, no-effort-expended post. Mistakes can be corrected if properly pointed out. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 11:15

I feel like a downvote is a little harsh for a first response. We all make mistakes, I'll try to leave a comment if something in the answer seems wrong. Especially for new users, it might be a bit off-putting to have their first answers downvoted right away. Even if I also leave a comment, a downvote may make someone read a comment more harshly than intended.

I try to save my downvotes for answers that I think are clearly wrong in some aspect and the author doesn't seem like they will be changing it. I'm not saying everyone should do this, it's just my philosophy.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ On the other hand, votes can be undo-ed/changed when the post is edited, so there's actually nothing wrong to downvote the wrong answer and to retract/upvote after the answer is fixed. $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Nov 9, 2018 at 8:36

I'm clearly for your option A.

Downvoting without explanation is rude in my eyes and only justified if the answer is of obviously poor quality. Most answers are the best effort of the person and it is a question of respect and politeness to point out why you see a downvote as a justified response.

Indeed, I avoid down voting and prefer to point out the error in the comments. Yes, this sometimes leads to a heated discussion and comments are too restricted to explain much, so the next step is to set up a new question. Downvoting is a last resort in my eyes.

I at least have initially been very upset by unexplained downvotes because I consider my answers for a long time and try to explain concepts as well as I can. Nevertheless, there are always some people who have a different belief (what I call the cult of winglets is a prime example) and downvote what doesn't fit their world view. I guess they see my answers as fake news.

I have grown used to that but am sure that some new users are put off by those unexplained downvotes.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ +1 just for Most answers are the best effort of the person. So true, so overlooked. $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 11:13

Would you avoid downvoting an answer with a factual error?

Me?, no, not for that reason. If it's a small site and my vote can help I'll add it. If it's only going to be one of many and the point is clearly made already there's no reason to pile-on.

As to your four scenarios, there at least a few more; it changes with the site, person, etc.

In theory people ought to vote correctly but whether they vote or not is their choice, as is the choice to comment. It's great when people vote correctly and if they downvote they offer constructive criticism and a link to a credible source offering proof of their position.

Sometimes the downvote is enough to cause the writer to re-examine their post and other times they're left guessing if it's a drive-by. It's kind, especially with new users, to only leave a comment if there's a small oversight; especially when it's confined to a small percentage of the entirety.

Some people admit that they only read a few words and skimmed the remainder, they are quite busy. But then they have time to offer a few comments and an answer of their own (all within a few minutes).

If you leave a polite comment explaining the error and can either point out an obvious mistake or offer a newer finding and a link then in theory the person should appreciate the help.

If it's you whom is wrong and respond with a downvote and a comment that isn't helpful then one ought to expect it won't be well received. If you aren't certain and can offer nothing constructive you can simply move on to somewhere that you can approve or improve.

If there's a lot wrong or an alternative not explored you can offer more by providing your own answer, or ask a better question that's not a duplicate.

I've agreed and disagreed with people of various levels whom I know and whom are strangers, there's a whole spectrum of reactions; usually it's positive if you are correct and polite.

See also:


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