I would like to suggest forming an easy guide to earning downvotes.

I'm not super familiar with meta, but I'll give one answer and hopefully others have some too.

  • 2
    This is interesting — and amusing. :) I think it could be a helpful go-to post if the default help topics aren't enough. In time though, it would be nice to have a dedicated wiki area if we can't integrate them there. Maybe we can co-opt the tag wiki's... :P
    – stoicfury
    Aug 8, 2014 at 4:50
  • How about : "I've found an error in a famous mathematical proof, but no mathematician will believe me." There was one of these recently that accumulated a good number of up votes!
    – nwr
    Aug 21, 2014 at 22:10

7 Answers 7


Purposely resist a non-substantive change suggested in comments that removes an invective or suggests adding a qualifier.

Of course, all people who disagree with me are morons

Suggestion: remove this part of your answer and it will be great

Response: extended argument in chat.


Atheism is the null hypothesis

Suggestion: explain that this is one form of atheism and the answer looks great.

Response: extended argument in chat.


Overstating a claim through the use of universal or superlative language:

No philosopher believes ... [followed by view held by many philosophers]


It is never unethical ... [followed by highly debatable claim]


All atheists believe ... [definition not integrally tied to atheism]


The "Science" Punt

Quantum mechanics is a vast and interesting field of physics... which is subject to multiple competing interpretations and by itself tells us nothing.

These are going to be judgment call ones but one of the easiest ways to say something wrong is to begin your sentence with "quantum mechanics tells us ..." and to make the predicate some philosophical claim.

I've seen in recent memory, just for QM:

(a) that everything is determined.

(b) that we have substantial freedom.

(c) that Kant's understanding of human knowledge is wrong.

(d) something about the truth of Buddhism or Taoism or "Eastern Thought"

If you're going to claims science tells us -- connect the dots for us -- and you'll often discover it doesn't tell you as much as you think it does.

  • I'd like to see some examples of (d). Can you refer some?
    – Ooker
    May 29, 2018 at 15:53
  • @Ooker there's a user who posts that to every open-ended question... been around for a long time doesn't have that high of a rating.
    – virmaior
    May 30, 2018 at 0:51

Ignoring the use of punctuation as well as good grammar and spelling.

Questions or answers that are walls of text that drone on, even if they are correct, will at the very least not gain any upvotes because no one will read them. If they contain grossly malformed sentences, excessive bad spelling and/or grammar, they will likely also be downvoted.

It's okay to not be great at English, but take the time to use the built-in spell check in most browsers, and form coherent sentences. Non-native speakers should consider using Google translate to check their work — for many common languages the translation is actually pretty good these days (it is at least understandable)

  • To my mind, this falls in the 'content over form' category. If I can understand you, you have communicated. If having to work at it makes me surly, I am just lazy. (Not that I am not lazy, or surly, but I am well disposed toward the inarticulate.)
    – user9166
    Nov 2, 2014 at 18:42

Quote dump a religious text or its equivalent as an answer:

Genesis 4:12 says ....


Ayn Rand answers this question ...


Richard Dawkins in the Selfish Gene

followed by generally tangential block quote

None of these sources are automatically wrong to include in answer but a mere quote does not constitute an answer -- especially if it is not directly relevant.


Always answer the question you wish the OP had asked. Especially make sure to explicitly ignore the cases the OP states as covered and rules out.

This makes it really boring for the OP and everyone else to read your answers. And it makes the OP's responses that you actual agree with him, but don't know it, look silly. It is always a really good idea to make the OP look silly, so that other people are not encouraged to think well.

It also discourages people asking subtle or complex questions. Boring or polarizing questions make it easy to downvote both the questions themselves, and their answers. So you are improving everyone's odds of downvotes in the future. Share the (lack of) wealth!


When something doesn't make sense to you, be sure to diagnose it rather than decoding it, and tell the source what they meant by what they said. Everyone has already seen the arguments on all relevant sides of most questions, after all. If they don't seem to fall into an acknowledged camp, they must not be thinking very clearly. You know what they really meant, and if they cant put it perfectly, it is your duty to just shut them down.

After all, when you happen to write badly, it is definitely better to have named fallacies attributed to you than to have anyone ask any real questions. And, as an answer-writer, if you continue not to understand complaints about your answer, make sure that later reiterations or edits incorporate none of the clarifications folks might have given you in their original comments.

  • 2
    I don't understand the first paragraph. Can you check whether you wrote what you intended to write?
    – stoicfury
    Nov 3, 2014 at 4:40
  • I often give highly idiosyncratic answers to things. People tell me what I mean in comments, and they miss by a wide margin. The same thing happens to questioners -- people diagnose the question, and they are just wrong, but they won't be told they lack imagination. It just kills me.
    – user9166
    Nov 3, 2014 at 14:27
  • Roger, the reword helps, thanks. :)
    – stoicfury
    Nov 4, 2014 at 1:40

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