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I came across a good question the other day and I would like to answer it.

However, somebody else already answered it (and has received upvotes). However, the answer is very general and does not give specifics on what to do. It is correct and is the same as my method.

Should I add my own detailed and specific answer or just edit the existing answer?

I'm leaning more towards editing the existing answer, but I want to know if this is the right thing to do.

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If your proposed answer adds constructively to (and differs enough from) the existing content, either:

  • go ahead and post an answer, irrespective of whether the existing answer is upvoted, accepted, etc., or
  • ask the OP to add the things you'd like to have in the answer, and if they can't, or didn't after a reasonable time, add your answer.

What I'd do in such a case is comment first. I know editing to improve answers is the way of life in SE, but making large scale changes to another's answer makes me uncomfortable, especially since my edits won't go through review. If the OP then gives me the go-ahead, then I make the edit.

I should stress that this is an opinion. I have had some of answers go through substantial improvement, in one case by the poster of the question, improvement that I have welcomed. In some cases I have resisted change, if the resulting answer might become too unwieldy. I personally prefer different answers addressing different viewpoints, even if they present the same method.

@hbdgaf is spot-on in that minor changes should be edits.

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    I would add that if you are minimally adding to an answer with just a few details, that you could consider submitting an edit. However, if you are adding a significantly large amount of data, formatting, and pictures/screenshots, then it merits its own answer. – RobotHumans Oct 24 '14 at 12:43
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  • If the answer you would have given is substantially the same as an existing answer, vote that answer up.

  • If the answer you would have given would be similar to an existing answer but would contain substantially more detail, create your own answer.

  • If the answer you would have given is different to the existing answers, create your own answer.

I wouldn't normally edit someone else's answer to add more detail. I'd edit someone else's answer if they made a typo or formatting error, a linking error, or a small error of fact that can be easily corrected.

Note: this is not necessarily the same reasons I might edit a question.

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