I recently (more than once) misinterpreted a certain question (sometimes partially because the question itself was not so clear) and answered it in my way, only to later discover that the asker meant something slightly different and my answer is not relevant in this exact case, even though it may be relevant in a similar situation.

In such a case, should I delete the answer entirely or just let it be (of course subjective to how relevant it really is)?

PS: I'll love to have some opinion from any of the moderators.

  • Just keep in mind that every question and every answer you submit, counts towards your ability to ask a new question or submit a new answer, so it's a good idea to always submit the best material you can. This means you should seek clarification, before submitting an answer, to a question could stand for some clarification.
    – Ramhound
    Feb 1, 2017 at 19:30

4 Answers 4


Depends on the question and the answer.

I'm going to break it down into a few different things.

  1. If the question is unclear feel free to comment asking for clarifications

  2. If its so unclear that dosen't help, vote or flag for closure.

If the answers are slightly off the mark, you can edit. If its totally off, then yeah it might be worth considering either rewriting the answer, or deleting. It would totally depend on the answer, and its worth reading into how the community reacts to it when deciding what to do.

Upvotes might indicate its a helpful answer, for example. Downvotes may not. You can always add to an existing answer too.

I'd note its perfectly fine to improve on answers if you don't think its good enough.

  • 3
    I'd usually take the up and down votes as a pretty good indication of whether the answer is worth leaving up there - assuming the question gets enough attention to attract votes. Feb 6, 2017 at 2:00

It's fine to leave them.

One thing that the Stack Exchange network holds high is that the questions and answers are supposed to be part of a general-purpose reference work which should be one of the first results when searching a problem. This is similar to how other services try to be the first result when searching for something they know about, like Wikipedia, IMDB, TV Tropes, etc.

As a part of that, people who search a similar problem as an existing one, but not QUITE the same problem, might end up on this question, and still be helped by it because their problem is resolved by an answer that doesn't fully answer the original problem.

Not being the accepted answer is not a problem. What works for the person who asked the question might not work for the next person with this problem. What works for you, might not work for the next person. And vice versa, what doesn't work for you, might work for the next person.

  • 6
    Yeah, it's a matter of degree. If other people are likely to interpret the question similar to how you did, by all means, leave the answer. If you realize you totally misread the question and the answer isn't relevant, delete it. However, if it's a good answer that you think will help more people than just that OP, look for another existing question for which it's an answer and repost it there. Or ask your own question and post it as a self answer..
    – fixer1234
    Feb 1, 2017 at 17:33

If you misinterpreted the question, and then answered that question, then what you have is a real answer to a real question: it's just that the question hasn't actually been asked. So ask it.

As I said elsewhere,

You wrote your answer in response to a real question, albeit a question which hadn't actually been asked. So ask that question. (Ask it properly, avoiding the temptation to skimp on question quality.) Then repost your answer on that new question, and delete it from its current spot. You may be able to take the opportunity to polish up your answer while you're about it.


I'd delete them.

When I use superuser I always start from searching questions and read the solutions for the question most close to my issue.
I will not read not relevant answers posted there. Also likely I'll not find answers posted to the wrong place.

And I think also others do it in a similar way.

If you think your answer is a good quality one, and you just misunderstood the question, then you're fine to post the right question and move your answer there.

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