Maybe I am used to norms on other stack sites but I don't get why there are 5 answers for a question and no upvotes for the question itself. To me if you spent the time to answer something, then why would the question not be upvoted — I don't spend my time answering things I consider "filler". Sorry I am not giving examples but you can always use the front page as a guide because it is almost half of the questions on this site.

So to phrase my question clearly — why would you answer a question and not upvote that question?

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    If I find a question interesting enough to give a real answer, I upvote it. But that's just me. Culture isn't universal. – Mitch Mar 5 '14 at 20:10
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    It can happen that the answers provoke greater interest than the actual question itself. But generally speaking, people tend to upvote answers. Me? I'm a believer in upvoting great answers, answers which have given me food for thought and those very questions that were responsible. however, I am finding it increasingly harder to predict which questions will attract the bees and the birds. Some recent ones have been extremely ordinary and yet generated a huge amount of interest and upvotes. Do you know why? I certainly don't. – Mari-Lou A Mar 5 '14 at 22:47
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    The flip side of that coin also occurs, where a 0-vote answer is accepted — and left that way by the accepter themself! Similarly difficult to fathom. – tchrist Mar 5 '14 at 22:54
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    @Mari-LouA- so you aren't an auto upvoter if you answer? Is it cultural? – RyeɃreḁd Mar 5 '14 at 23:41
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    @tchrist - I attribute that to (usually) a new user that doesn't understand the site. It is similar though. I find that the excuses for this is - I am too lazy, I upvote so much that I have to save them, I like answering bad questions, or I am really stingy with my votes... maybe I left a couple things off. – RyeɃreḁd Mar 6 '14 at 0:12
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    I don't always upvote a question I answer, but I often do. I don't think it has to do with one's culture, but to do with how they view EL&U, their personal criteria, and their personality. – Mari-Lou A Mar 6 '14 at 4:22
  • Relevant (more for the answers than the queastion itself): meta.english.stackexchange.com/q/3452/8019 – Tim Lymington Mar 6 '14 at 23:51
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    I upvote questions that I've had myself - i.e. that I didn't have to ask it because someone kindly did it for me. I also upvote questions that are very well formed. I don't upvote just because the question doesn't deserve to be deleted. – Joel Brown Mar 7 '14 at 3:39
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    @tchrist new users can't upvote, but they can accept, so that's slightly more explicable. – Matt E. Эллен Mar 7 '14 at 12:39
  • I think the ELU voting pattern is pretty clear but I am more than willing to entertain reasons I should upvote questions I am willing to answer. :) – MrHen Mar 9 '14 at 17:40
  • Excellent question! For what it's worth my answer is below. Reading through others' answers it seems to me that there is muddled thinking going on. On the one hand ELU aspires to get to grips with interesting usage, while on the other it allows itself to play a more 'TEFL/TESOL' role. How else can you begin to explain how someone can answer a question and yet downvote it? Users should simply ignore poor quality questions or comment on them (critically if that's the case). A question that raises an answer should be something worth crediting. – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 12:14

I upvote questions according to the mouse-over help on the voting arrows:

This question shows research effort; it is useful and clear.

This question does not show any research effort; it is not useful or unclear.

I answer questions according to whether I know the answer and can support it with evidence or explanation. Lately, most of the questions I've answered have not been particularly interesting, well-researched, or well-written, but I felt I could help out the person asking regardless. Thus, I haven't up-voted many of the questions I've answered recently. (Conversely, many of the questions I've upvoted already had good answers.)

In a few cases, I have even voted to close an question that I answered, because the close reason was borderline (e.g., a duplicate question that didn't exactly match the new question).

  • You are very nice helping people with their poor questions. A saint! I also vote to close a lot of questions - most duplicates - on questions I have answered and upvoted. So do you downvote a question you answer? – RyeɃreḁd Mar 6 '14 at 16:14
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    It's rare, but I will occasionally answer questions that I've downvoted. Usually that's because the question was very poorly written and researched, but the meaning is clear enough to answer anyway, and the answer is interesting. – Bradd Szonye Mar 7 '14 at 2:08
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    I'm similar to Bradd. I tend to vote on questions based on their quality, not their content. I don't tend to upvote questions just because I find them interesting, but I may well answer a question just because I find it interesting, or just to be helpful. I am also not too liberal with my downvotes. If I feel the need to downvote a question, it is because I consider it is inherently low-quality and/or unsuited to EL&U. I might try to give some helpful leads or ideas in the comments, but I would be unlikely to both answer and downvote. – nxx Mar 7 '14 at 18:11
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    I am most similar to Bradd. My decision to upvote or downvote (or close vote) is mostly independent of my decision to answer the question. – MrHen Mar 9 '14 at 17:39
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    What @MrHen (and Bradd) said. Mostly I tend to upvote questions where it's obvious the asker has made some (or considerable) effort to resolve things for himself before posting. Or if the actual question seems inherently interesting to me personally, in which case it's unlikely I'll be posting an answer myself anyway (I'm interested because I don't know). I suppose logically if it's good enough to answer, it should be good enough to upvote, but I just don't usually feel that way. Unusually, I've upvoted this question and all three answers. – FumbleFingers Mar 10 '14 at 19:08
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    I'm going to throw another voice behind Bradd. I answer questions that I down vote all of the time. All questions deserve an answer. Sometimes that answer is a comment saying check a dictionary. Sometimes that answer is an obvious statement of the definition. And, when it's a good question, it gets a good answer. – David M Mar 11 '14 at 3:22
  • @David M When you say "Sometimes that answer is a comment", do you mean you answer in a comment, or you comment in an answer? – nxx Mar 12 '14 at 1:36
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    Many people believe it's better to answer poor questions in comments rather than posting a formal answer. FF has recently posted to that effect. – Bradd Szonye Mar 12 '14 at 1:40
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    @nxx answer in a comment when I feel it doesn't warrant more than a one-liner. As I said, a comment such as check a dictionary is an answer (but not good enough for the answer field). – David M Mar 12 '14 at 2:22

I like this question, not in the least because the simple answer is in my case

I never thought of it. If a question strikes me as particularly interesting or useful, I will upvote it, regardless of whether I will even (try to) answer it.

Actually, especially questions that I don't feel up to answering are likely to get my upvote.

On ALL, but certainly also here, some questions I do not find worthy of an upvote, but I still feel I can put in a bit of effort to provide the OP with an answer. I may even answer a question and downvote it.

The reason I like your question is that it does make me wonder if this way of working is good or acceptable, so I am very interested in other answers.

  • It seems perverse to me that you might be stimulated enough by a question to answer it and also down vote it. Please explain! – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 11:54

I recently heard a radio personality wonder aloud:

How can the best actor Oscar and the Best Picture Oscar not go to the same film?

I couldn't understand the confusion. An actor can do a great job acting in a very average movie, and a great film can have sufficient but not outstanding acting. (As an example, I think the first Rocky movie was a great film, but I hardly think Stallone gave an Oscar-worthy performance.) One award recognizes good acting, while the other recognizes acting PLUS those other key ingredients of a compelling film: plot, direction, editing, musical score, etc.

Similarly, I'll answer some very average questions, and upvote some I won't bother to answer.

Bradd's answer here says it so well: I often upvote questions when they are well-researched – just like the mouse-over tip says. They will consult four or five sources; sometimes, the further into the question I read, the more I am stumped.

Other questions are legitimate questions, but the research is scant. I might answer one of those, but I'm unlikely to upvote it.

I think there might be a higher correlation between number of upvotes and number of answers in some of the more technical Stack Exchanges, but that's just a hunch right now.

  • If a question is 'average'. Why would you answer it? – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 11:52
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    @Dan - If an answer is likely to help those who come here to learn more about English, why would I not leave one? – J.R. Apr 29 '19 at 14:04
  • It seems there is muddled thinking going on. ELU aspires to get to grips with interesting usage, and there's frequent hand-wringing because of poor quality questions. And yet people are encouraging 'TEFL/TESOL' -type questions by answering them. Doesn't it make sense simply to ignore poor quality questions or only comment on them (perhaps to redirect them to ELL). Only questions 'worth' answering (as opposed to answering and then downvoting !!?) should be answered on ELU. And it seems reasonable to me that all questions worthy of an answer should attract an upvote. – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 15:20
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    @Dan - This meta question was asked in 2014, when ELL was still in beta. So perhaps this is more "dated information" than "muddled thinking." As for what to do with less-than-stellar questions, some are worth answering, some are worth downvoting, some are worth leaving a comment asking for more details, and some are worth editing and making improvements. I've done all of those, depending in part on the underlying question and how it was asked. I agree that most TEFL questions should be on ELL but don't care for absolutes like "all questions worthy of an answer should attract an upvote." – J.R. Apr 29 '19 at 15:30
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    No, honestly, nor do I. The impetus behind my input is the same as the OPs I think: That very often a good question is not upvoted even though it attracts many answers and much discussion. Also, the strange behaviour that has people answering questions and then downvoting them... . Perhaps, before an answer can be posted, the answerer could be invited to upvote the question (to remind them that they might)? – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 15:59
  • @Dan - I thought this question raised some interesting points from an English usage perspective, so I answered it. However, there's no way I would upvote that question – at least, not in its current state. It essentially asks, "I think X means such-and-so; what is your opinion?" I may have thought the question deserved an answer, but that in and of itself does not make it worthy of an upvote. – J.R. Apr 30 '19 at 16:33
  • Thanks for sharing. I'd say your comment was spot on. It addressed the OP's question and suggested ELL (the OP was clearly out of his depth - English not the mother tongue). Your answer is great. But the fact that you chose to provide this information, by my book, means that you should give the OP credit for having stimulated you to do so. My policy is to try to remember to upvote any question I am moved to answer. – Dan Apr 30 '19 at 20:29
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    @Dan - That may be your policy, but I don't think it needs to be a Stack Exchange policy. I chose to answer that question, not because it was a good question, but in spite of it being a mediocre question. My policy is to not reward mediocrity with upvotes. If the Stack Exchange designers felt like people should gain rep just for "stimulating answers," they could have designed that into the system. They didn't. – J.R. May 1 '19 at 14:44

On Stack Overflow itself, most questions get up votes if the asker has tried to work out the answers before posting the question. It's like my school maths teacher always said 'show your work'.

Many of the questions on English are one line or just a few sentences with no clear indication that they tried to find the answer elsewhere beforehand. If they do, they'll be getting an up vote from me.

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    From my (somewhat limited) experience, most questions don't get upvoted based on these criteria, but rather, questions which don't meet these criteria are liable to get downvoted... – einpoklum Mar 18 '14 at 15:38

To me, personally, it is an issue of expertise.

I am, as far as I'm concerned, qualified to correctly answer (or at least attempt to correctly answer) many of the questions posed on this site. I feel that I am also qualified enough to judge whether or not someone else's answers are accurate.

However, I am hardly a Stack Exchange expert.

Nine times out of ten, when I see a question get closed for reasons other than redundancy, I have no idea why that question is being closed. Usually a reason is provided, but I often find that reason lacking, or I fail to see how the reason applies to the current situation. Unfortunately, I cannot think of any recent examples off the top of my hand, but regardless, I feel there is a major disconnect between what I would consider an appropriate and perfectly valid question to ask and what the general English Language & Usage community would consider appropriate to ask.

I assume that many of the lower-reputation members probably feel similarly. But maybe it's just me.

I understand that the question should show evidence of research, and I understand that the question should be understandable and clear, and I understand that the question shouldn't be "Do my homework", but aside from that, I've seen very little uniformity in what constitutes an "inadequate" question.

That's not to say there isn't a set of rules and guidelines - rather, I just haven't figured it out yet, and so I don't feel qualified to rate most questions as "good" or "bad".


No-one answers a question without having first been stimulated. Surely, as a mark of respect to questioners (and of commitment by answerers), each new answer to a question should entail an automatic upvote for the question.

This change would not preclude anyone upvoting questions they think worthy. Nor, obviously, would it stop criticism (using comments), down voting or voting to close poor quality questions.

If a question is 'average' or poor quality then no-one is forced to answer it (unless they are chasing points). Helpful observations/criticisms of such poor quality questions can be made as comments.


As an alternative to automatic upvoting of the question when an answer is posted, perhaps, before an answer can be posted, the answerer could be invited to upvote the question (to remind them that they might)?

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    An up-vote, according to the tool-tip, is for "shows research effort; is useful and clear", not for "I know the answer to it". DVing a question you answered is strange, but to not UV it seems fine to me. People have their own criteria, and as long as they're self-consistent and vote on content instead of the author, it all works out in the end. The only automatic votes I think we should have are for spam/rude/abusive, because those need to be hidden on the main page as quickly as possible, and some of the people flagging don't have the reputation to down-vote them. – ColleenV Apr 29 '19 at 12:13
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    @ColleenV - Easy-to-answer TESOL/TEFL -type questions have no place here. Those with more rep than me can vote to close poor quality questions. ELU depends on questions and answers. That's what it is. I think it makes sense, to encourage good questions, that an upvote for the question automatically follows any answer. If you feel your answer is worth saying, why wouldn't you want to credit the person who stimulated you to make it? – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 12:20
  • @ColleenV - And if the question is not "useful and clear" then you can make as many observations and criticisms as you like using comments. – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 12:22
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    I disagree that being willing to answer a question should be conflated with “this is a good question”. If I don’t down vote it, it’s an adequate question that’s perfectly reasonable to leave on the site. I don’t want to encourage adequate questions, I want to reward folks that do better than adequate. Answers on the other hand, I am more liberal with up-votes, because it helps sort out what is correct, not just well-formed. I vote a little differently on different sites depending on what I would like to see more of. I don’t support an automated system stripping me of that flexibility. – ColleenV Apr 29 '19 at 13:47
  • @ColleenV - Do you not think that by choosing to answer a question you have singled it out, from among many, as one deserving your attention? – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 15:07
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    I think my comment was pretty explicit that I don’t believe every question I might answer deserves an up-vote, so I don’t understand your question. – ColleenV Apr 29 '19 at 16:28
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    When I was a fanatical follower of ELU, I saw many poor questions with poor answers, sometimes several poor answers, and the idea of a poor answer automatically triggering an upvote of a poor question seems perverse. Also, as a practical matter, what would happen if a poor answer is removed as VLQ or NaA; I suppose that could automatically trigger the removal of the upvote it caused, but it seems klugey. But in general, I agree that if a question is interesting enough to answer, it is likely to be interesting enough to upvote, and that answerers should have a reason not to upvote the Q. – ab2 Apr 29 '19 at 18:53
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    I have a personal policy: if the Q deserves my answer, it deserves an up-vote. – Cascabel Apr 29 '19 at 20:17
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    @Cascabel - this is also my policy, and for the same reason. Occasionally I realise later that I forgot to do so. Perhaps before an answer can be posted, the answerer could be invited to upvote the question (to remind them that they might)? – Dan Apr 29 '19 at 21:26
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    @Dan That seems good...perhaps a "gentle nudge" to do the right thing... – Cascabel Apr 29 '19 at 21:28

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