So I answered a question, and several hours later someone posts another answer which addresses the question differently but then also includes my own answer as an alternative.

Do you just let it go, edit the other answer to add "As xxx answered earlier..." or simply remove the plagiaristic paragraph?

  • 2
    Looking at that question and answers it's still difficult to see what exactly the timeline was (who edited what when). But editing someone else's answer like that, even if it reflects the truth, seems like it could go in a bad direction.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 13:51
  • 1
    It could have been a genuine mistake. You don't know that the OP saw your suggestion and then added it in their answer. But, next time, embolden your suggestion so it stands out more.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 13:51
  • True - I just assumed people would read the answers already there to avoid giving the same answer.
    – Steve Ives
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 13:53
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    If it is really plagiarising, flag for moderator attention rather than risk an edit war. However, if @Mitch's link is correct then I can 't see what you're referring to. There appears to be no other answer which includes words from yours.
    – Andrew Leach Mod
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 15:07
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    In addition to emboldening, it's always a good idea to explain a bit in your answer. A bare assertion of an obvious answer, without any support or explanation, might well be repeated and expanded upon (fairly, I think, especially if accidental). In this case, I think all of the slashes in your suggested phrase also made it harder to parse on a quick scan down the answers. A brief explanation would have let you leave out the slashes, and would have made it clearer that "My aunt/uncle and her/his family" is essentially the same thing as my aunt and her family or my aunt's family.
    – 1006a
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 16:35
  • This is from Stack Overflow's meta, but it seems like the same policy ought to apply here: When is using an other poster's content plagiarism. The person using content from another answer ought to provide attribution and a link if they knowingly incorporated another answer's content into their own, but as long as they do that, it doesn't seem to violate policy, and in my opinion, it facilitates providing the best information to visitors of the site. Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 17:10
  • OED: plagiaˈristic adj. characteristic of a plagiarist; relating to or characterized by plagiarism.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 1:33

2 Answers 2


You answered it first.

But yours lacked depth, details, and formatting, compared to hers.

People usually vote up beautifully formatted and detailed answers more.

Can't say she copied yours - maybe she did, but there's not enough evidence.

Don't go and edit hers.

  • 1
    +1 It's happened a few times where I've been spending a long time formulating an answer, and two seconds before I post it, another very similar one appears. It's one of those "what should I do?" situations, and probably the most effective way of mitigating conflict is to write a comment on the other answer telling them that they beat you to it.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 0:38
  • @DogLover sure, but don't make that comment appear as though you accuse them of copying yours.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 2:16
  • Of course not. After all, they can't have copied an answer in such a short amount of time.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 2:56
  • @DogLover In this case, there was enough time. Hours, I think.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 2:57
  • Yes. I was just making a sort of anecdote.
    – Dog Lover
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 3:30
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    I would have to partially agree but I side more towards it not being a copy. If the other answer had literally just provided the same answer, I might agree, but she provided much more detail plus very good formatting. I definitely agree that he should not edit the other's answer. Morale of the story, you can't just answer, you have to answer ;)
    – Hank
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:32
  • 1
    @Hank Uhm.. So which part of the answer do you partially disagree with?
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:52
  • @NVZ I remember now! I said partially because I don't necessarily think all he needed was bold letters to be comparable to the other answer, even if it did make him score slightly higher. That was the only part I was iffy on. So I guess "partially agree" was a little far. I do agree, but I add stuff lol.
    – Hank
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 14:54
  • 1
    @Hank Okay, I've rewritten it.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Jul 27, 2017 at 20:11

The purpose of editing is to clarify or otherwise improve a post. Feel free to add citations and attribution when it is clear what the probable sources are (e.g. a direct quote containing many words). The appropriate mechanisms for noting unproven but suspected plagiarism are comments to the suspected plagiariser and, if necessary, flags to moderators. You didn't specify which posts you were referring to, but if they are the ones quoted below, you might want to rethink your claim to priority.

Based on @Mitch's link, I gather that these are the sentences you're referring to, quoted verbatim except for line breaks and other formatting:

Yours: A better expressions would be "My aunt/uncle and her/his family" which implies my aunt or uncle and their immediate family. You could use "mother's family" or "father's family", although this could refer to their parent, grandparents etc..

Hers: On a second note, you might consider — my aunt and her family or my aunt's family. Personally, I like the former better: Today I toured around the city with my aunt and her family who came to visit me.

The question you were both answering was:

Word/phrase to unambiguously refer to “aunt, uncle, and cousins”?

The concept of naming a family member and tacking on "and family" is a good idea, but it's possible that she came up with the idea independently.

If you move your mouse over the post's date, a tool-tip appears with the time stamp. Based on this time stamp, we can see that your answer came earlier. However, the following quote from Mitch came even earlier than yours, and mentioned the same idea. Perhaps you should credit Mitch for the original idea.

Mitch: Right...it seems like a reasonably common concept, eg visiting the nuclear family of your aunt.

It would appear that all three of you came up with the same idea independently (and I saw at least another further down the comments to the question). It would be poor form to claim attribution in the later answer when you didn't attribute the earlier comment.

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