Apologies if this is duplication; the closest existing question I could find was this which touches on the subject but does not resolve it.

I was wondering what is the cause and possible solution to the situation which I have seen many times whereby when browsing 'unanswered questions', the answer has already been given in the comments. This appears to be discouraged (I'm relatively new here) but it's not clear what can be done to combat it. At the very least, if no actual answers are posted (or none which resolve the query to the same level as that definitive comment), it doesn't seem possible for the question to ever be marked as answered, even if the asker and other visitors can upvote the comment in question (no pun intended).

Is this a common issue, and can anything be done about it? Is there a flag I'm unfamiliar with?


2 Answers 2


There is an SE cross-site discouragement of giving a comment that attempts to answer the question.

I often give a comment that essentially answers the question because:

  • I don't have the time/energy to compose what I think would be a reasonable answer
  • or I think the question is actually closable (and so it would be wrong to give an answer) but I don't want the questioner to go away empty-handed.

The solutions are:

  • for someone to make an answer out of the comment. Encouraging the commenter to do so is a good thing, but for someone else to do so is OK too. It is not plagiarism. The commenter didn't think it worthwhile to make an answer so it is OK if you use that to make one for yourself to get the credit.
  • or vote to close
  • 1
    That succinctly gave me all the information I was looking for, thanks very much!
    – naughtilus
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 13:48
  • 1
    "It would be wrong to give an answer"? Where did that moral judgement come from? Are we in the business of keeping information secret? We certainly give a good imitation of keeping it confusing, but I didn't realize there were Secrets. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 16:00
  • @JohnLawler "... and so it would be wrong": if a question is closable that means that you don't think the question should allow answers so it would be inconsistent to vote to close and give an answer. As to secret, well, the comment gave away the information, so the commenter can't be accused of obscurantism.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 17:33
  • 1
    "Inconsistent"? Good grief. Consistency is the single thing we do not care about on ELU, if experience is a guide. If you can figure out what they're asking about (not a simple task for an amateur, granted) why not give a short answer if there is one? Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 17:37
  • @JohnLawler: That seems to imply that you are making a case for not closing at all or for a different reason for closing than preventing answers. That's a reasonable case to make, but contrary to the design of the closing features of SE.
    – Mitch
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 18:01

I wish people would stop putting answers in comments. I believe it discourages people from leaving actual answers, for fear of coming across like they're just rep-farming off of someone else's work. I know that I, for one, feel awkward when I see an "unanswered" question I could post a good answer for, only to find that someone has already covered it in a comment. That breaks the way SE is supposed to work, and doesn't help either the asker or the answerer.

Lately, if I see a good-quality answer in a comment to a question with no answers, or if the comment covers ground that isn't in any existing answers, I post an answer myself that simply says "So-and-so posted a good answer in a comment" along with the text of the comment in a blockquote. I mark the answer Community Wiki because it's not my work and I don't feel I deserve any reputation from it, but I still think the questioner deserves a genuine answer that's advertised as such.

  • I'm with you on the first paragraph.
    – Frank
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 6:22
  • Me too - it's why I asked this question in the first place. As a newcomer I wanted to be sure of the accepted netiquette here. I'm a little less certain now than I was yesterday, however...
    – naughtilus
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 9:37
  • 1
    I also do this simply because I like keeping the Unanswered queue accurate.
    – MrHen
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 20:47

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