A recent, (IMO) otherwise non-sequitur comment claims that “we don’t allow edits that invalidate answers that have already been posted,” but I’ve never heard of a policy like this.

What I have seen which this is reminiscent of, is another recent comment by a certain user objecting to such a practice, but anyway in both cases I see it differently: when an answer is posted that demonstrates that there was a disconnect in (at least) what the asker had meant to ask (if not very possibly as well what they actually did ask), and what the answerer evidently understood them to have asked, it can be helpful to edit the answer to clarify the essence of the actually intended question.

This divergence perhaps reflects a dichotomy between what I see as the genetic ethos of stock exchange (people helping each other solving problems and answer their questions) to a different ethos that I gather prevails a bit more on law than on other stacks which is a more robotic, less empathic, more pedantic literalist attitude that only (ostensibly) engages with the exact objective text of a post as it is literally written, without regard for the fact that we are ultimately all people with intentions that the posts are but devices for exchanging.

For example, many users will ask what jurisdiction an asker is wondering about before answering if it is unspecified, while some will just answer for their most familiar jurisdiction without regard for what the asker was looking for. Others still will answer for the jurisdiction they are most qualified in while at least recognising that it isn’t what was asked while offering some brief note as to it’s likely degree of applicability to the jurisdiction requested.

While technically there are policies that taken literally clearly state that answers for any jurisdiction are allowed, I don’t think this is really in the intended spirit of them.

Alas I digress but is there any literal policy about edits clarifying the intended essence of a question following answers posted under them?

2 Answers 2


Change to question invalidates my answer, what to do?

In general, that's not allowed - the OP of the question should not change his/her question in a way that invalidates existing answers

See also: How to deal with questions that change


Yes, there is a policy

It is a general Stack Exchange policy, not specific to law.

Editing questions to clarify or illustrate the problem are fine, but not if they invalidate already existing answers. The reason for this is that the answer that was initially “right” is now “wrong” and that leads to a number of problems. First, if the answer has already attracted a positive reputation, it may mislead people who come upon it later. Second, being “wrong” it may now attract downvotes and that’s unfair to the user who posted it. Third, the user may not appreciate the OP invalidating the effort they went to in answering.

One of the objectives of SE is so that OPs can have the question that they have in mind answered, but there are others. To create a corpus of knowledge on the subject that serves as a general resource for future visitors - think of how many times a Google search has led you to a SE post; that’s why we don’t allow duplicate questions. And, it’s a social media site where answerers get rewarded with reputation.

While allowing these types of edits might support the first objective, it’s counter to the others.

Plus, there’s a simple workaround: in light of the answers, ask a more focused question. We don’t charge per post.

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