The practice of commenting with answers is ubiquitous practice on ELU, and the merits/flaws have been discussed at length. However, is it the case that the greater SE is trying to put a stop to this practice? This removed comment suggests to me that this might be the case.

(comments removed) If you have an answer, please post it below. Comments do not have the feature to properly vet whatever you say here so without activity like proper voting and wiki-style editing of content, answering here defeats the purpose of having this Stack Exchange site. – Robert Cartaino ♦

Edit: I'm not levelling judgement on the practice here, I'm just curious.


3 Answers 3


There is no new initiative to eliminate answers in comment. They have always been discouraged.

The purpose of Stack Exchange is to get expert, peer-reviewed answers to good questions out on search engines for the benefit of the asker and anyone else with a similar question. Answers in comments cannot be downvoted. Lacking full peer review, they are are really not so helpful to the author as you might think.

Answers in comment are also not indexed by search engines, so they don’t attract future visitors nearly as much as an actual answer post. And, while they might stick around for years, you never know when comments will be silently purged from a question. Comments are truly local and transient. So an answer in comment might never help anybody else.

This is why Robert Cartaino objected to the answers in comment on the post you linked.

Comment threads actually exist to let people

“request clarification from the author; leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post; [or] add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated”. ¹

The help page I’m quoting here goes on to say that “comments are not recommended for:

“… answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one)”

All this being said, it is also true that this site gets its share of off-topic questions that will soon get closed and deleted – questions which will never be helpful to future visitors anyway. Some of our experts will often post a quick comment on such a question, when they see an opportunity to informally help the author. This practice has always been tolerated, and I personally don’t see a reason to discourage it.

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    +1 Also, when I post partial answers in comments, it's that I hope other users can use that information and write their own detailed answers, which would then be subject to peer reviews.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:17
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    @NVZ It's also officially encouraged to post partial answers as answers so that the information you put out there can be peer reviewed.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:19
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    @NVZ For example in the help on writing a good answer a partial answer is specifically encouraged. Partial answers still help people.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:25
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    Ah, thanks for that hint. I was under the assumption that answers without enough backup are deleted. That is what I have seen happen for some time now.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:26
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    @NVZ I expect it will help to explain in a partial answer that it is a partial answer or a draft answer so that it won't get jumped on.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 17:50
  • I've noticed some users moving an aggregation of comment-answers into a community-wiki answer. Is this good practice? I'm not sure if this has already been discussed on Meta. I didn't see any mention of it here. Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 0:46
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    @MetaEd, like NVZ, I too have noticed a disparity between that policy and how it is enforced. It might be worth being more explicit about how to format the partial answer (such as you've suggested above) in the actual help center topic, as I'd imagine not many users are going to stumble upon it here.
    – vpn
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 2:58
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    Here's a test-balloon for whether partial answers are acceptable by the current ELU community. It's somewhat fuller than a pure answer-in-comments, but I don't consider it to fully answer the OP's question. If in comments, the 2 examples might have just been given as links.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 10:12
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    @Lawrence, if that's considered a partial answer, I'd hate to see what a full answer is.
    – vpn
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 15:44
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    Can you please make clear that you're not here endorsing the posting of unsupported/undersupported // conjectural responses as 'answers' (I hope that this is actually the case)? If this is the case, aren't 'comments' the natural place to give such responses, where it is found difficult to find supporting evidence? Commented Aug 5, 2017 at 13:42
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    @MetaEd I'm not as familiar with ELU's guidance as I am with StackOverflow's, but there the most common response seems to be "flag or downvote" ... and only occasionally with a "or both" thrown in.
    – TripeHound
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 9:44
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    @MetaEd it's that, when I find that something is flag-worthy, I usually don't care to vote on it as well. It's either 'flag' or 'vote' from me, and only in some rare cases, 'both'.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 2:39
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    @MetaEd: You say, “It’s also officially encouraged to post partial answers as answers so that the information you put out there can be peer reviewed.”  Do you have an official source for this?  It seems to contradict “We are looking for definitive answers written at an expert level, with explanation and context. Think along the lines of a short essay.” Answers with fewer than 200 words and three links routinely get ripped to shreds in the Low Quality Posts queue. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 4:18
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    And actually, comments are indexed by Google — you may be thinking of Stack Exchange’s search function, which is of very limited utility. Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 4:18
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    @aparente001 you may need to choose the "side-by-side markdown" option to see the significant amount of text in the answer that does not normally appear on the page due to the HTML tags surrounding it.
    – Hellion
    Commented Feb 2, 2018 at 22:27

I need to write this in an answer because — although it might be a comment — it needs an image and I can't decide what actually to add a comment to.

Please do not flag "for moderator attention" comments which you feel should really be answers. If a comment shouldn't be there, use the "chatty or otherwise unnecessary" flag type:

Comment dialog

Answering in comments is something the community can police for itself: if three users feel a comment should not be present and use this flag type, the system removes the comment. It really does not need moderators to do that.

Moderators do see these "no longer needed" flags, but the community can also help to deal with them. Answering in comments is not something that only moderators can deal with, which is what the last option is for.


The comment you linked in your question is for a site that is in public beta phase. When sites are in private beta phase, or public beta phase, it's normal for Stack Exchange staff, especially Community Coordinators, to chime in and close questions or remove comments. That is because, in those phases, a site doesn't normally have moderators, who are normally appointed later in the public beta phase.

The fact a Community Coordinator removed comments doesn't mean that suddenly comments are not welcome on Stack Exchange. As the privilege page for comment everywhere says, comments are temporary notes, which should be used for specific purposes:

  • Request clarification from the author
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated)

They should not be used for the following:

  • Suggesting corrections that don't fundamentally change the meaning of the post; instead, make or suggest an edit
  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one)
  • Compliments which do not add new information ("+1, great answer!")
  • Criticisms which do not add anything constructive ("-1, see previous comments you scallywag!")
  • Secondary discussion or debating a controversial point
  • Discussion of community behavior or site policies

In particular, long discussions trigger an automatic flag for moderators of the site (which, for a beta site, normally are Community Coordinators) who can remove the comments, or move them to a chat room, if they feel the comments should be preserved for a bit longer.

As for answers given as comments, Stack Exchange is not enforcing the no answers as comment policy. Clearly, in a Q&A site, the continuous use of comments to write an answer, especially when done from more users at the same time and for the same question, would be problematic, since:

  • Comments cannot be down-voted
  • Comments cannot be accepted
  • Comments are hard to read, especially when there are many comments

Stack Exchange aims to be a repository of knowledge. It would not be possible to achieve this if blatantly wrong answers are at the same level with other answers, and if the OP would not be able to accept an answer. So, yes, Stack Exchange doesn't like much answers given as comments.
That is also one of the reasons why users are able to comment on questions asked by other users much later than they are able to write an answer. They give the ability to write comments when users possibly understood when to use comments. In a site in beta phase, where the reputation necessary to comment and do other things is lower than in sites out of the beta phase.

That said, there are cases where you can see users writing answers in comments, probably because:

  • They don't have the time to write more complete answer, and they want to give a hint for somebody else to write a complete answer
  • They want to understand what exactly the OP is asking
  • They think the question should be closed, but they want to help a little the OP
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    I strongly endorse the policy 'don't write answers as comments.' When I see myself doing this I will either post it as an answer instead or simply delete my comment. Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 6:45
  • I normally don't see the need of Answers written as comments. If I want to be sure I understand what the OP wants, or found, I rather explicitly ask; if I think the question should be closed, I don't write an answer in any shape, or the OP could get the habit to ask bad questions; if I don't have the time to answer, I don't have the time to comment too. That doesn't mean I don't see any reason for users to write answers in comments, though.
    – apaderno
    Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 7:05
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    I fully agree with your reasons not to post answers as comments. There is one other incentive that reputation-minded members might keep in mind: answers can earn rep, unlike comments! Commented Aug 19, 2017 at 7:10
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    @EnglishStudent Yes, and many of us with high reps answer in comments to prevent further growth. Plus, most of the questions can be answered in a couple sentences, and most of those are just random errors that no one else will ever find or use. The idea of looking at ELU as "a repository of knowledge" is downright ludicrous. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 16:57
  • @JohnLawler If a question is about errors nobody else will make/find, the question can be closed.
    – apaderno
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 6:49

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