I answered my first answer on this site here. It was downvoted. (It has since been edited so it doesn't get misunderstood.)

I was wondering why. Was it "not useful" (the caption on the downvote button), or was it misunderstood (Readers thought I was saying that that person is bad at their job.), or perhaps I just don't understand this site yet (possible. I'm new here.)?

  • I edited this question for tone, see if it doesn't get a better reception now, if not roll it back to it's previous revision. Mar 5, 2019 at 20:53
  • I also went and edited your answer a bit. I think part of it is that with large bold font and all caps, it comes across as yelling, which never gets received well.
    – David K
    Mar 5, 2019 at 21:05
  • Someone may downvote if they believe no-one would follow that line of thinking (or it would happen negligibly often). This site is, as far as I'm aware, considered to be about the real world, which means listing a pure hypothetical (for the sake of completeness?) could be seen as not useful, and even actively harmful. One could extend this line of thinking to argue the question itself is off topic, but I digress. Since we should vote on content, it shouldn't matter if it's you saying something or you're saying someone else might say it (in theory, anyway - in practice it very much does matter) Mar 6, 2019 at 7:54
  • @Dukeling a pure hypothetical + the question itself is off topic - And yet someone asked a question based on the assumption that a long time at the same job is a bad thing. (And got more than 50,000 views in one week!)
    – ispiro
    Mar 6, 2019 at 18:16
  • @ispiro The problem with the question is that it invites hypotheticals and speculation, not that it itself is hypothetical. Mar 6, 2019 at 20:30

6 Answers 6


When you have the lead of your answer "They are obviously bad at their job", that's what people are going to think you mean. I can see no other way to interpret it, and you were pretty clear about it.

A better way of phrasing it as "It could be seen as them being bad at their job".

It took me six times to get your actual meaning.


Adding to the other general advice here. People down-vote for numerous reasons.

  • They don't like the content your answer
  • They don't like you
  • They don't think you structured your answer effectively.
  • For the lulz

Don't take it personally, I've had controvertial posts where I've ben up-voted AND down-voted by scores of votes.

As I said in my other post, your answer came across as harsh. Tone is hard to convey across the internet, and people will read intent into what you post that you did not mean to convey.

So, while it takes a bit of effort, be as explicit in your answers as possible, and leave few things for people to assume. The whole "They are obviously bad at their job" in bold letters pretty much screams an accusation at people. When you post something strong, you can get a strong reaction to it.

Now, strong messages attract up-votes as well as down-votes, so it's up to you if you want to go that route.

If you're going to post in the tone of what you assume others would think, then you should phrase it with lead-ins like

  • Well, it could be seen as..
  • People may assume that...
  • Some may think that...
  • While I wouldn't take it this way, others might...

In other words, if this is not your viewpoint, disown the viewpoint by an intro to it. Take care to make sure that your tone isn't misunderstood or your intent.

By the way, I have HUGE problems with this myself, which is why I'm going into a bit of detail. Experience keeps a dear school.

  • Thanks. I originally expected people to have read the question (which would have made it clear that OP is not looking for correct reasons), or at least to have read the answer (including its ending). Looking back, the comments and some of the answers should have tipped me off... :)
    – ispiro
    Mar 6, 2019 at 18:20
  • @ispiro don't worry, you get used to it. :D Mar 6, 2019 at 18:32

I agree with Richard's answer, but I also want to add that a single downvote just means that one person on the internet didn't like your answer. We can't force people to explain their vote, so it's always guesswork unless the voter comes forward. I wouldn't worry too much about one downvote, unless you start to get a bunch of them. All of us get them at some point, and they don't always make sense.

In the meantime, since you mention you're new here, I recommend taking a look at our Tour and Help Center. If you need any help you can always ask another question here on Meta, or pop into the Water Cooler chatroom to see who's around. Welcome to The Workplace, and good luck!


Looking at the first revision of the answer I find myself agreeing with Richard U - additionally I would say the footnote about "if people disagree they should read the question" comes off a little.. aggressively. The current revision is perfectly fine IMO.

You're currently at one downvote and two upvotes so broadly speaking you're doing okay - I wouldn't worry about the odd downvote, you can't please everyone everytime!

Welcome to the site by the way!

  • Thanks. I'll point out, though, that that's not exactly what I wrote. a) I wrote "reread" so as to make it clear that the reader has read the question already, just not carefully enough. b) I didn't refer to people disagreeing with my answer, which is fine, of course. I referred to people disagreeing with the logic mentioned in it, and referred them (back) to the question so they'll see that OP was not looking for correct logic, and therefore disagreeing with the logic does not mean that my answer is wrong, since that is not my logic, but rather what someone might say.
    – ispiro
    Mar 6, 2019 at 18:27
  • I'll also mention that it seems like 3 people already either misunderstood my answer or disagree. The latter is just part of "forum-life", the former - not (or rather - shouldn't be).
    – ispiro
    Mar 6, 2019 at 18:29

I downvoted your answer because someone else had answered using your logic before you posted. Your answer was more like a duplicate.

  • I assume you're referring to Twyxz's point 2. I think it's quite different. But you have the right to disagree, of course. I'll just assume you also downvoted those other answers there which were completely not answers to the question asked...
    – ispiro
    Mar 6, 2019 at 19:10

Looking at your original answer, I might be inclined to downvote it myself. I would probably not read any more than the initial heading ("They are obviously bad at their job") before downvoting and moving on. There is no rule that someone must read and carefully consider the entire answer before downvoting (and certainly not read a footnote).

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