Please bear with me: I am still a learner in this forum.

In a question such as this, where a correct answer (well, one I would have given) has been provided and the question seems interesting, is it ok to answer and expound on the comment, giving the person who commented credit of course. Or do people just comment at times because there is a quick answer to the question and they don't want to be downvoted?

  • 7
    I don't think John Lawler is afraid of being downvoted. People comment because they want to be helpful, but, for various reasons, do not have the time or inclination to provide what they consider is a full answer. Some users have very high standards for what is a full answer.
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 2:31
  • Thank you. Just to clarify, I didn't regard the comment as a full answer – and I wasn't meaning to single anyone out. I was just giving an example. Maybe I shouldn't have done that.
    – Livrecache
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 7:42
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    what you did was OK.
    – ab2
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 10:39
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    There are two very different main reasons why I often provide an answer in a 'comment' rather than an 'answer'. Sadly, the more usual one is because I've also close-voted the question as being not suitable for ELU. The other reason is the situation where I'm providing an attempt at an answer for which I can't discover what I'd accept as reasonable supporting evidence. (Or for the occasional related anecdote / pseudo-joke.) Giving these as an 'answer' would, I believe, contribute to site mediocrity / unreliability. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 16:02
  • @TimLymington – thank you for posting that link. It was most illuminating.It would seem that a version of my original post comes up periodically, and brings with it some diverse discussion.
    – Livrecache
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 23:12
  • @Livrecache Yep. These are frequently asked Qs. And there are duplicates all over the network, on various meta sites, asked multiple times.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 17, 2017 at 5:29
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    The question is not a duplicate: the other one (which has a number of duplicates) is principally about why people post answers as comments, while this one is about how these comments should be dealt with when they do get posted.
    – jsw29
    Commented Jan 13 at 19:54

3 Answers 3


I will not speak for others but some of why people do it is addressed in Why Do Some People Answer in Comments on the main Meta Stack Exchange (S.E.) Website. The matter is also addressed in a similar topic here on our local Meta in Why Are Answers Being Posted in the Comments on the Question.

As for the the matter regarding what to do has already been addressed on the main Meta S.E. website a few times times before. The canonical question there is What should be done with questions that have been resolved as a comment instead of an answer? The top rated answer there, by user Iain reads as follows:

We discussed this on meta.serverfault a short while ago and decided that you should Steal comments that answer the question and post them as an answer. You can always tick the Community Wiki box if you're not comfortable earning reputation for someone else's work.

The top rated answers on a meta post are supposed to set the policy, provided that something else doesn't superscede it. However the secondary answer raises the important point that it is not an excuse for plagiarism, so if you are directly quoting the comment, then you should follow our rules for referencing material written by others. Even though it may seem as if the original source should be obvious, it is still important since comments can become hidden if enough other comments are made, or disappear for no reason whatsoever.

You may also want to consider flagging the comment for deletion, if it really is an answer, because many website mechanisms are heavily predicated upon the premise that comments and answers serving a different scope, which is defined by our commentary guidelines. To closely paraphrase the relevant portions for your convenience:

Comments are for clarification, constructive criticism and minor or transient information, like a related link to a related question. They are not for answering the question, or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer, and an actual answer should be posted instead.

If you flag a good comment for deletion, you may want to post it as an answer first, because otherwise there is no retrieving it, if it is. I suggest considering using the community wiki tickbox if you post just the comment, so that others may expand upon it, if it does not suffice to stand as an answer on its own merits.

  • Thank you for taking the time to answer so comprehensively. As I said in my original post, I am a newcomer to this site and I'm trying to navigate it, and avoid treading on anyone's toes while being of assistance if I can – here and on ELL. I am very mindful of ascribing credit and identifying plagiarism as I have been a book editor for 18 years.
    – Livrecache
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 3:53
  • Here's an ELU Meta question regarding answers in comments. (Disclaimer: I posted an answer on that page.)
    – Lawrence
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 13:40

People leave partial answers in comments for various reasons. Regardless, if you see useful information or partial answers in the comments, you can use that to write a detailed answer yourself.

It'd be nice to give credit where it's due.

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    I'm not happy for people to use 'comments' I've not promoted to 'answers' for what I believe are sound reasons ([a] helping out an OP whose question is off-topic; [b] giving what is largely opinion / hopefully helpful but unsupported scraps of memory / anecdotes ... unless, of course supporting evidence is provided). Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 16:23
  • @EdwinAshworth Of course, which is what I meant by the use of "partial" vs "detailed" answers in my answer.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 16:24

Please bear with me: why do you care? :-) If you have information that might help someone who posted a question and got a mediocre or incomplete response, then post your advice. If someone posted anything you think is wrong, then voice it. If anyone downvotes you, who cares? He or she should have the courtesy to at least explain why. If not, well... that just means that he/she has no leg to stand on, or is just lazy.

  • Not sure I understand what you're conveying.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 16:59
  • Did I misread it? I thought the whole idea was regarding concern about second guessing people and then worrying about getting a downvoting hit? Was I off? Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 17:01
  • Oh, okay. I get it. Looks fine.
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 17:04
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    I care because it can become quite disorderly to sort out who is addressing what, and it defeats, circumvents, and/or abuses certain mechanisms of the website because the system is heavily predicated on the comments and the answers addressing different scopes.
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 2:36
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    I agree completely. Keeping within my scope, I avoid questions that are outside of mine. My approach and my responses are on-point, but casual. That said, I care too. I do. It's nice to know that you do as well. I'd like to think that we all have the same goal as writers. That is to communicate effectively and well... and to help out the people who post questions. From what I've read here from others, looks like we're doing quite alright. Again, your comment is spot on. Thanks for taking the time. Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 3:41
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    This doesn't answer the question. It seems directed at someone, but I don't know who.
    – AndyT
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 8:52
  • @ChristopherRyan I think it would help you get a better understanding of the site's workings if you stick around and answer a few different questions on the main site. That will help you write better answers on the meta site as well. Good luck! :)
    – NVZ Mod
    Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 9:01
  • To user: AndyT: Yep, it was directed to user: Tonepoet. It was just that and nothing more. My response to the question is above, looks like 22 hours ago.To: NVZ: Hi again. You're right. The more responses I read here, I am getting a better sense of the tone of voice to use. However, I'll still be colloquial and casual. But, I stay within the scope Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 15:12
  • (post cont.) The thing is, one cannot know, if not told in a posted question, the intended audience. Is it an ESL question? Is it technical writing? Is it a cover letter? I do appreciate the feedback. Thanks! Commented Oct 9, 2017 at 15:21

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