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The post that highlights this is When is "sex" sex, and when is it "gender"?

I both voted to close and answered the question (apparently not my finest answer).

This is not the first time that I have done this, and explained my action thus:

Voting to close and answering are entirely different matters and not at all connected. I may think that the question should be closed, but others might not and the question will remain open. If it is not closed then an answer may be given. To put it another way, if you voted to close, but I disagreed, I might answer, and I would not comment on your action.

My vote to close is merely an opinion. It may not be the popular opinion and that is why there is the opportunity to vote to re-open.

I’d be interested in reasons or precedents for and against voting to close and answering.

2 Answers 2

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I think it is arguably valid to answer a question and vote to close it under at least two scenarios:

  1. The question is fundamentally good but has some correctable flaw (such as no showing of prior research) that the answerer hopes the questioner will provide at a later date.

  2. The question isn't very good and is closable on that or some other grounds, but (a) the answerer doesn't want the questioner to go away empty handed, and either (b) the explanation or other response is too long to fit in a comment box or (c) the answerer is categorically opposed to answering in comment boxes even when the answer would easily fit there.

I believe that I have sometimes answered a question and voted to close it under scenario 1. In any event, I think that the decision to do so is both reasonable and good for the site.

I may once or twice have answered a question and voted to close it under scenario 2(a & b). Doing so isn't especially good for the site, but it may be of some value to the questioner. That's the point of it, anyway.

But I haven't ever answered a question and voted to close it under scenario 2(a & c). That's because I don't agree with the rule against answering in comments—especially when it comes to answering an excessively simple or otherwise off-topic question. In such situations, answering in as evanescent a form as possible seems to me to be a good thing, and comments are notoriously evanescent at English Language & Usage. That doesn't mean that answering and voting to close under scenario 2(a & c) is indefensible, but it does (in my opinion) make usefulness to the questioner a more critical criterion for justifying it.

I suspect that your answer in this particular instance drew a more-than-usually hostile reaction from downvoters for two reasons: the answer could easily have taken the form of a comment; and it was not very satisfactory as a full-fledged answer. That is, it was so brief that it amounted to a simple assertion rather than a reasoned explanation—and as such, it was unlikely to be very helpful to the questioner.

This brings us round to my original rationale for answering flawed questions in the first place under scenario 2(a): to avoid having the questioner go away empty handed. If your answer had explained why there is no way independent of context to tell which meaning of "sex" a speaker or writer has in mind, I would have considered it reasonable enough. But an answer of "When is 'sex' sex, and when is it 'gender'? When the context indicates that meaning." seems to me to be more dismissive than explanatory. I don't think that your answer deserves multiple downvotes, but I also don't think that presenting it as a formal answer was the best way to convey the point that it makes.

You are a valuable contributor to this site, and I appreciate the quality of the vast majority of answers you have provided here. Nevertheless, I think that your answer to this particular question was not a well-conceived use of an answer box—and certainly was of no more use to the questioner than a comment in the same words would have been.

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  • I should perhaps have added that in presenting scenarios about close-worthy questions, I did not mean to imply that I thought the particular question main-site question that this Meta question refers to ought to be closed. In fact, I think it asks a legitimate question. But for purposes of responding to the broader question posted here on Meta about close-voting and answering the same question, I have not considered the main-site question at all.
    – Sven Yargs
    May 22 at 1:00
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    Related question from long, long ago. Also check out some that it's linked to.
    – tchrist Mod
    May 22 at 2:24
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    @tchrist Looking at that other question, most of the answers are explaining edge cases for when the author has chosen to 'answer and close vote', usually framed in guilt language (ie the feel bad for doing it yet they can come up with a reason). To me this means that it is in general noticeably a negative behavior and requires special justification when done. Whatever the justification, it prevents others from answering when the author answers. I'm not saying this behavior should be prevented, but that people should only do it if they have a clear and conscious reason for it.
    – Mitch
    May 22 at 15:11
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It’s a bit like having your cake and eating it, in my opinion. When a question is closed, the main outcome (penalty) is that it’s not accepting answers. Surely, if one believes that a question doesn’t deserve answers, that’s when one votes to close it? Then both answering the question and voting to close it seems to me illogical.

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    Also, it's a bit churlish, answering a question and then preventing others from also answering.
    – Mitch
    May 22 at 15:01

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