On various poorly written questions, I've edited to make clearer and better which can end up producing a better and well-written question. However, if the original question was poorly written, should you downvote because of that, or should you upvote because the question you have just edited to make better is better at that point?

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    I'll preface this by saying that you can vote however you wish within certain parameters, as previously stated. However, if you downvote a post based on an old version of it and then correct the reasons for the downvote but leave the downvote in place that isn't really sending the message that there's a benefit to fixing posts. Personally I tend to use my votes on more for if a post is interesting, well thought out, well written etc. The quality of the writing can always be improved (and should be by anyone who notices mistakes) but the core content of the post is always going to be the same.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jan 21, 2022 at 9:02
  • @TheLethalCarrot - There's also votes to he earned (or lost) for treating your fellow users with respect and making sure that you use at least a modicum of effort when writing your post. Do you, for example, see many other ppl using txt spk or not bothrinf to use spelchek?
    – Valorum
    Jan 21, 2022 at 10:57
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    @Valorum This is an international site, English isn't everyone's first language and not everyone has the same access to education.
    – TheLethalCarrot Mod
    Jan 21, 2022 at 11:06
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    @Valorum I stick to using my votes on the content of the post, not the user who wrote them. If the post is improved to the point it's useful it usually gets an upvote.
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Jan 21, 2022 at 12:33
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    @TheLethalCarrot - Everyone has access to a spell-checker, though.
    – Valorum
    Jan 21, 2022 at 12:44
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    @Valorum A spell checker dose note always warranty correct grammar or meaningful den tenses, though.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:07
  • @Randal'Thor - In the case that inspired this question, it would have picked up on protaginints, defedned, realted, specias, appricatied, i and havent. It would have also picked up on several grammar mistakes including the total absence of punctuation.
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:11
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    @Valorum I'm treating this meta post as a general query, not about a specific post.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:13
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    @Randal'Thor As well you should, the post provided by Valorum did inspire the question, but I am looking for a general answer, not just one for the question in concern Jan 22, 2022 at 20:31
  • Wonder how long SE will resist the urge to follow YouTube and hide downvotes in case it upsets people?
    – Mr. Boy
    Jan 24, 2022 at 17:13
  • Let's hope that never happens Jan 25, 2022 at 2:07
  • It's already a privilege to see vote breakdowns Jan 25, 2022 at 2:07
  • If we're going to ding folks for poor writing -- other than by asking them to clean up the question so folks are more inclined to read and answer it, or doing that cleanup for them -- than SE really ought to be building a spill chucker into the system. Don't just take points off; actively teach what is desired.
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2022 at 21:26

4 Answers 4


Vote on the final product

Nobody can stop you from voting how you want but the system has a number of features designed around people changing their votes in reaction to edits. This is why your vote unlocks after an edit and also one of the major driving forces behind the development of the follow feature.

In the end, the vote arrows are always next to the current post, and the older revisions are hidden away. Everyone else (or at least the overwhelming majority) is voting on what they see.

It doesn't matter that you were the one to make the edit. After you edit, vote on what you think the current post deserves.


The purpose of voting is to indicate the quality of a post, not as a reward/punishment for a user.

I agree with Laurel's answer, but the above maxim pretty much answers your question by itself.

If the purpose of Stack Exchange is to be a repository of information, then the purpose of vote scores is to indicate the quality and reliability of said information. An answer languishing on a negative score should be an answer that's wrong or not properly justified or otherwise considered low-quality; a question with a high positive score should be a question that's useful or interesting or otherwise considered valuable. From the help centre:

Voting up a question or answer signals to the rest of the community that a post is interesting, well-researched, and useful, while voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information.

It makes no sense, then, to vote on a post according to what the OP had originally written before edits. Voting sends a signal about the quality of a post, and if you downvote a post after editing it from bad to good, then you're sending the wrong signal about the now-good post. The only purpose of downvoting it would be as a way of "punishing" the OP for writing a bad post in the first place, but that's not what votes are for. The best way to deal with an OP who writes bad posts is to educate them on how to write good ones (e.g. by commenting or editing); if that fails, there are other tools available, up to and including suspensions for consistently low-quality contributions.

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    The '"Why Vote? page on the help explicitly states that voting is intended to reward the poster for the quality of their post - "...upvotes are a great way to thank the author of a good post for the time and effort put into writing it!"."
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:23
  • Note also that not everyone wants to get into the sort of confrontation that telling someone that their writing is poor would involve.
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:25
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    @Valorum Interesting that, to support your idea, you need to cherry-pick a parenthetical "not to mention" statement at the very end, which is tacked on to the main point "The more that people vote on a post, the more certain future visitors can be of the quality of information contained within that post" and which is only the converse of what you're trying to say (nowhere on that page does it advocate downvoting to punish people for low-effort posts). To your second comment, educating people on how to write good posts could take the form of editing to improve their posts.
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:36
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    I'm not sure that quoting directly from the main page that described why people should vote (labelled "Why vote?", no less) is my definition of 'cherry-picking'.
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:38
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    @Valorum If a page says "The purpose of voting is X, and by the way it also helps with Y", that doesn't support your claim that voting should be for Ỹ (the converse of Y).
    – Rand al'Thor Mod
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:40
  • Then why does downvoting exist? If a is a reward for having b, then surely c is a punishment for the absence of b.
    – Valorum
    Jan 22, 2022 at 10:46
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    @Valorum, it's in this answer: "voting down a post signals the opposite: that the post contains wrong information, is poorly researched, or fails to communicate information."
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Jan 23, 2022 at 21:26
  • @AncientSwordRage - well, indeed. And what better way to fail to communicate information than by writing badly?
    – Valorum
    Jan 23, 2022 at 21:34
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    @valorum it says those things about the post. Not the user who wrote it
    – AncientSwordRage Mod
    Jan 23, 2022 at 21:56

I've long thought that folks downvoting either questions or answers owed the author an explanation of what their objection was, and if appropriate a suggested fix. The system should at least encourage more useful feedback than blowing a raspberry. But I believe we've discussed that before and it got shot down.

Not My Problem, just my two cents.

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    One of the main issues with demanding that people highlight why they've downvoted is that the demanders aren't interested in fixing their posts, they're wanting to yell at the people who downvoted.
    – Valorum
    Feb 3, 2022 at 22:29
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    Not true, Valorum. Many of us value thoughtful feedback, and those who don't can learn. We could as easily say that those who downvote without explanation aren't interested in getting the posts fixed, they're just wanting to yell about not liking the post for some unfathomable reason; the sword can cut both ways.
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:08
  • Wanting feedback is fine. Insisting that people "owe" it to you is rarely a sign that you intend to have friendly discourse.
    – Valorum
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:14
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    By the rules, however much I dislike them, I agree that nobody is owed an explanation. Practically speaking, I don't feel that a downvote without one is actually useful for anything but venting spleen. YMMV.
    – keshlam
    Feb 3, 2022 at 23:26

Since your downvotes are (within reason) yours to use however you see fit, I can only really base an answer on my own experiences. Generally, I would downvote a question or answer where I perceive that the user has made insufficient effort to ensure that what they have written is in good or comprehensible English, even if I've since edited it into shape because I think it's worth salvaging.

This certainly doesn't mean penalising users for occasional spelling or grammar lapses but it does mean that those who really haven't bothered to use even the most simple of tools like spell-check or have decided to load their answers with stream-of-consciousness nonsense or l33tspeak should get some sort of warning that they're doing it wrong.

The FAQ advises us that...

"...upvotes are a great way to thank the author of a good post for the time and effort put into writing it!".

I'd argue that the converse is also true, that downvotes are a great way to advise the author that they've put in insufficient time and effort. On SE that means trying to make a reasonable effort with your posts (in terms of spelling, punctuation and grammar) and not treating other users with casual disrespect by expecting them to clean up your mess.

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