I found these answers from the same user that essentially suggest the same word.
Does it make sense to write two answers to say the same thing, and if so, when? What is the purpose of writing a different answer, instead of editing the first answer?

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    What I find most irritating about the particular example is that I can't see anything at all in the later answer that's not in the earlier one anyway. Actually, it's not that in itself I'm irritated by - it's the fact that someone upvoted the second answer! Were they just "rooting for the underdog"? Jun 4, 2011 at 1:57

3 Answers 3


SE sites where answers are generally highly objective -- technical and science topics, mostly -- answering the same question twice doesn't make a lot of sense since your second answer should invalidate your first.

EL&U has some questions where there is a sufficiently agreed upon right answer, making others wrong and a second answer inappropriate, particularly those about grammar or spelling. Many questions here though, possibly even most, can be pretty subjective; this is especially true of those with tags like word-choice, single-word-requests, and politeness, and to a somewhat lesser extent differences, idioms, and word-usage.

While providing multiple options in a single answer is common, it can make future research via the site much less useful. If I want help picking a word, find that it's been asked about before, and see that the accepted answer (or one with the most upvotes) has 3 different options, how do I know what the OP actually accepted or what people were voting for? Sometimes comments help narrow it down, but often there are none or the ones that are there are misleading, e.g. 10 upvotes that are invisibly for the first suggested option in the answer and one comment that says that the first option is bad.

I propose that for questions with a large degree of subjectivity, not only are multiple answers by the same person acceptable, they should even be encouraged.

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    You know from the answer. The Answerer specifies which of those options it the main one, the other ones are alternatives. If not, they are all equally acceptable. Furthermore, questions with a large degree of subjectivity shouldn't encourage more answers but rather they should be closed as subjective and argumentative.
    – Alenanno
    May 31, 2011 at 11:29
  • @Alenanno Except when the answserer doesn't specify which is the main one, which happens all the time. On subjectivity, there are plenty of perfectly good questions here where there is not one, single correct answer, that they are matter of opinion, particularly in the tags I noted in my answer. Do you really think they should all be closed? May 31, 2011 at 12:34
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    @Matthew: Well it's the policy of the Stack Exchange sites, no? If the question is subjective, it should be closed, if the answer is subjective, it should be down-voted.
    – Alenanno
    May 31, 2011 at 12:38
  • @Alenanno I suspect that EL&U has to have it's own rules about subjectivity unless the direction of the site is to substantially change: the first two on-topic items in the FAQ are usage and word choice, which are subjective by nature. May 31, 2011 at 19:51
  • @Matthew: By subjective I mean questions like "What do you think of...?" or questions where the answer entirely or mostly depends on the answerer's own choice/opinion/taste. Usage and word choice are not subjective by nature, they can be if treated in a certain manner, but: "what is the correct/official way of saying this?" or "Is this sentence grammatically correct?", these 2 questions are about usage and word choice, but they aren't subjective at all.
    – Alenanno
    May 31, 2011 at 20:20
  • @Alenanno And I'm referring to questions where there really are multiple right answers and which one you use is a matter of taste or opinion, without the "entirely or mostly" part you included. There can easily be a question with three to five perfectly good word choice answers where only those three to five are valid; it's not "entirely or mostly" a matter of opinion, it's a very small subset of the language. Perfectly good question for the site. May 31, 2011 at 22:29
  • @Matthew: Make an example of that question you are referring to, otherwise this discussion can go on endlessly.
    – Alenanno
    May 31, 2011 at 22:39
  • @Alenanno There are dozens or even hundreds of examples. Here's one from today: english.stackexchange.com/questions/27985/… :-: Which of those is the objectively correct answer? Jun 1, 2011 at 11:46
  • @Matthew: I see, but this is slightly different from what I was thinking; the first answer has 22 votes, the second "only" 9, so we can state which is the best answer for that question. All of those answers can work, but which one works best for that question? What I was thinking is something like "Which color is better in your opinion: Red or Green?"
    – Alenanno
    Jun 1, 2011 at 13:23
  • @Alenanno I understand what you mean with the "red or green." In the example I pointed to, even if one has more votes that doesn't make it the objectively correct answer, just the one with the most votes. It's not uncommon to see something like this, either: english.stackexchange.com/questions/28034/… :-: The answer accepted is not the one with the most votes (and in my opinion is also not the best answer to the question as worded). It's a more objective question, yet there's a significant disparity between the votes and the selection. Jun 1, 2011 at 14:39
  • I am referring to two answers given from the same user that essentially say the same thing. In the specific example, both the answers suggested the same word; there isn't anything subjective in that: the word is objectively the same. In a subjective question (leaving out the fact it should be closed, or not), would to add two answers that say "I agree with you," but then give two different reasons to agree make sense? Could not the user simply write a single answer, reporting both the reasons to agree?
    – apaderno
    Jun 4, 2011 at 16:49
  • @kiamlalauno Ah, sorry, I looked at both and, bizarrely, didn't even notice that the shorter one was the same as the first suggestion in the longer one. Jun 5, 2011 at 5:39

It seems strange but there are good reason for one author to make two separate answers even for objective questions. Sometimes it is not clear what the original question is asking (say for a word choice) and there is more than one possibility. The general culture is to list -all- the ones you think are good or close in hopes that one of them will satisfy the OP. But for future readers it is probably better to have a separate answer for each one (so that each can be voted on separately).

If you do add a second answer, SE has thought of that possibility already by giving you a message asking if you really want to do that or if you think it'd be better to edit your other question. If you're trying to add an answer that is very similar to another of yours, you should be editing the earlier one.


@kiamlaluno, that second answer was a joke. If you went on chat, you would see that originally MrHen had difficulty choosing the correct answer because all of the answers had truth, so I said could I post another answer listing everything, and he said yes. So, I did, but he said it didn't help much, cos I didn't put what he was looking for into my second answer either.

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    If it were a joke, then you could have removed it.
    – apaderno
    Jun 4, 2011 at 16:44
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    That second answer did not sound like a joke, it simply looks like a repeat of the first with very slight rewording. Really, it should have been folded into the one question or deleted altogether.
    – Mitch
    Jun 4, 2011 at 20:32
  • Well, this is partially true. There was a long, ongoing chat during the time I was looking for an answer to accept. A few people responded to that discussion with their thoughts and I said things along the lines of, "If you put that in an answer I'd accept it." Unfortunately, the attempts (joking or otherwise) to snag the accept this way didn't make the cut for various reasons. The answer eventually excepted did take the chat into account with an edit and I explained in detail why I chose that answer.
    – MrHen
    Jun 8, 2011 at 0:21

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