The downvoting is surely encouraging for a person whose answer is not up to the mark because the comments from reputed authors here give good opportunity to learn and overcome misunderstanding, if any.

Nevertheless, for the person who downvotes an answer gets reduction in the reputation by a point or two. I din' understand that. The downvoter is fully aware of mistake and in fact, shows their knowledge by addressing the answer in doubt. Isn't it this act should be rewarded with increase in reputation as a critic?

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    Related: meta thread on this same topic.
    – J.R. Mod
    Nov 20, 2013 at 13:36
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    (opinion) Downvotes are an important part of the site, but I think we should try to concentrate on upvoting when possible. In particular, if you disagree with an answer that's already been voted down to a negative score, try to avoid piling on; at that point, the disagreement has already been made clear, and further downvotes only serve to make the poster feel bad. Instead, you might leave a comment explaining why you think they might have already been downvoted. In extreme cases (Not An Answer, Spam, Offensive, etc.) you can flag to have the answer removed rather than downvote.
    – user230
    Nov 20, 2013 at 18:16
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    You could argue that the downvoter should not lose any rep points, because they when they find a mistake, an inaccuracy, or a falsehood in a post their vote indicates this. That would be great if it were always true, because then people would leave comments explaining the downvotes (because there would be a real reason). Unfortunately that isn't always the case. Some users will downvote up to five answers a day and maybe leave one or two comments. If they were to receive bonus points they would downvote 20 or 30 a day and never leave any comments!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 20, 2013 at 23:30
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    @snailboat: You should use down-votes if an answer is, at least in your opinion, wrong in a fundamental way that can't be fixed by a minor edit and is likely to be unhelpful to a user. Upvoting on answers should be reserved for answers that are primarily right and are likely to help the user. For minor errors, you can also just edit the post yourself, and for bigger errors you can downvote, leave a comment and reverse the downvote if the author alters their post. Downvoting isn't a way to "punish" the other answers. It's a way to warn other people that answer might not be helpful
    – Matt
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:14
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    Sure, I agree with 90% of that. But I think in cases where an answer can be fixed, it's better to start with a comment and leave a downvote later if they don't fix it. More carrot, less stick. I say this because, regardless of how downvotes are intended, the large majority of users get defensive when you leave them. (Intention is largely irrelevant next to the actual effect of the downvote--as long as the vote is left in good faith.)
    – user230
    Nov 22, 2013 at 22:40

3 Answers 3


This is a Stack Exchange policy, not an ELL policy. You'll find this works the same way on all the other Stack Exchanges.

I'm pretty sure it's meant to discourage rampant downvoting, and encourage alternative ways to point out an error, such as a comment – or, in the case of a minor error, an edit instead.


It's not as bad as OP makes out. Firstly, because although it's not well-publicised, apparently you get the lost points back if the answers are subsequently deleted. Which they very often will be if the downvotes are justified (since there'll likely be other downvoters, leading to more pressure on the OP to edit/delete).

Secondly, one might suppose that on average people with higher rep have a better understanding of what's "wrong enough" to justify downvoting (because they'll tend to be more knowledgeable about both the site ethos and the English language). And people with higher rep can afford to lose a few points; mostly it's just not an issue to them.

Thirdly, I think that ELL in particular needs to be aware that quite a lot of users may mistakenly think they know something when in fact they don't. In many contexts non-native speakers use English as a lingua franca, and obviously in some cases this will mean they routinely hear/use non-standard or "incorrect" phrasing so often it seems "normal".

That final point doesn't imply that I think non-native speakers should be discouraged from voting (down or up). Even though most "successful" answers tend to come from native speakers, many other users are perfectly capable of recognising "right" and "wrong". And of course we particularly need the votes of non-native speakers because they're often better able to identify an answer as "enlightening" in the context of learning English. Native speakers may already know usages they don't understand, but ELL isn't primarily here to provide interesting background knowledge for competent speakers. A good answer is one that helps someone learn English; only a learner can really tell if an answer is doing that for him.

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    Non-native English can rub off on native speakers, too. I've caught myself mirroring the patterns of non-native speech from time to time...
    – user230
    Nov 30, 2013 at 8:34

If the downvoter posts a correct answer along with the wrong one, it more than repays for the downvote cost as it's sure to attract upvotes. It discourages slapping a minus on an answer you don't like, but that's "-1", while an upvote brings you "+10". That encourages positive contributions, and your downvote not associated with at least a comment what is wrong will be wasted, sunk under upvotes while you lose a point.

That's the normal operation, and it works well.

Now, thanks to that, when answers begin to compete for superiority... things get interesting.

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