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Remember those rather amusing double toilets in Sochi? (O.K., I have no class. I admit it.)

one stall with two sit-down toilets in it

They made me (and millions of other people) laugh, because, well, it would be kinda awkward... one per is quite enough for me.

I kind of feel a somewhat similar awkwardness when I see (not a rare event) two answers by the same user to a single question on the main site here. While I can see this as perfectly acceptable on meta (or math, or somewhere where there might be two unique and equally acceptable answers), my sense of awkwardness makes me wonder if I'm being a killjoy.

This comment finally nudged me to ask this question.

I would split that into two answers so the two suggestions and be up- and down-voted separately

So I looked it up at Meta.SE.

These Meta posts have conflicting answers.

Mostly - but this may be a confirmation bias revealing itself - it seems people feel that

[i]n general there should be one answer per person per question; if you need to amplify your answer, edit it! - Jeff Atwood (Oct 8 '09)

When there are multiple possible answers, I crowd them impolitely into one answer box. What should the etiquette be on the main site here?

I promised you a second question, and in keeping with my lack of class, here it is: Which seat has been left in the proper position? Bonus points if answered correctly!

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    Answering the bonus question: The left one is correct because it's equally inconvenient for all potential users. – Andrew Leach Mar 28 '15 at 7:59
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    Answering the bonus question: The right one is correct because it can be used by anyone in extremis with no further change. – Andrew Leach Mar 28 '15 at 8:00
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    Answering the bonus question: This is a ladies' loo, so neither is correct. – Andrew Leach Mar 28 '15 at 8:01
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    @AndrewLeach - You win the bonus points, indisputably. :) – anongoodnurse Mar 28 '15 at 8:10
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    As a 'medica', you should be made aware that the two toilet solution is quite convenient in certain forms of the flu. – Mitch Mar 30 '15 at 14:21
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One commenter on that post said this:

I also find it hard to vote when an answer is actually two answers. I respect your approach however I would suggest that you give more consideration to giving more than 1 answer as it may be easier and more usable for in the community at general. I prefer multiple answers, even if from the same person to answers that contain multiple answers within them.

I disagree; I have no problem with that answer as is.

As is clearly stated in the first line, the answerer is offering:

two adjectives that may be useful

That means: prehaps both of them are useful, maybe none of them are useful, and maybe one will be more helpful than the other.

Splitting them into two answers might make it easier for voters who want to upvote one suggestion but downvote the other. But the end goal is to provide useful answers to the O.P. (and others who are interested in the question), not to the voters. I don't think that splitting that answer into two would make the result any “more usable for in the community at general.” Either way, I have two suggestions – take 'em or leave 'em.

Incidentally, the upvote button hints are:

  • This answer is useful
  • This answer is not useful

I think an answer can be “useful” even when one of the more-than-one suggestions isn't to someone's liking.


One more thing: I often notice a "synergistic effect" when people list more than one suggestion in a single answer – the answer "builds upon itself," in a way. That could be lost if every word- or phrase-request answer was split into multiple entries.


Note to the voter: Perhaps you think that my point about synergy is a really good one, while my earlier discussion about usefulness was off-the-mark. If that's the case, I apologize for the quandary I've put you in by combining those two answers into one.

  • It's telling how Hellion's answer on that same question also offers up two suggestions, yet no one has peeped a word about how that answer could be more "useful" if it were split in two. – J.R. Apr 5 '15 at 15:28
  • Though I may be wrong, this is the answer that I most agree with. I would feel awkward (and it would be more work) splitting my answers, because I'm presenting them all - for comparison's sake - at once. I do hope Kit Fox can provide some good examples for split answers, though. – anongoodnurse Apr 7 '15 at 4:49
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Generally, it makes sense that one question will have one answer if the question has been asked in a fashion that makes it on topic. This is why the guidelines are geared toward encouraging users to edit and expand on their existing answer rather than adding a new one.

However, there are certain kinds of questions where more than one answer is acceptable. Most notably on this site is the single word request, which I dislike as a category particularly because it invites a slew of answers, all of which may or may not fit the bill. There are other questions though where for instance a descriptivist answer and a prescriptivist answer would offer distinct perspectives that would inform the asker.

I offer this guideline: if you have more than one answer and each answer can stand on its own merits, it is acceptable to post more than one answer. On the other hand, if you have more than one answer, and they involve comparing and contrasting amongst themselves, these should really be one answer. I will look for (or make up) some examples to illustrate this guideline.

  • Thanks for the speedy answer! I feel better already. ') I am look forward to your examples. – anongoodnurse Mar 28 '15 at 0:35
  • are you still looking? – anongoodnurse Apr 5 '15 at 16:07
  • @medica No, I just forgot. – Kit Z. Fox Apr 5 '15 at 16:09
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My opinion is that if you are answering a question of the type What word is .... then each answer should only offer a single word. If there are a number of other words that may fit the bill then either add another answer or leave it for others to provide a different choice.

I rarely upvote answers that give a choice of two or three words except in the event that one of those words is perfect (in my opinion) and I'll upvote and add a comment explaining the upvote is only for that one word, not the rest.

Saying that, I wouldn't particularly like to see this answer https://english.stackexchange.com/a/235882/71783 turned into a score of individual answers by one user, no matter how well written they are.

I'm sure I've also broken my own 'rule' on a number of occasions where I've offered a 'multiple choice' answer.


As to the picture - the one on the right is in the correct position, anyone can use it without touching the toilet with their hands, a closed toilet lid can be quite a pain for someone with disabilities and you also get the opportunity to see the contents (or lack thereof) of the bowl before committing to that particular cubicle, there's often a nasty surprise lurking under a closed toilet lid. An added bonus is that dogs can get a drink.

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I can't recall doing it more than once (though I may have done; it seems like no big deal to me), but at the time I thought I had reasons for posting this second answer a week or two after my first one. I also posted a bounty which seems to have gone down the toilet, so it was a pretty weird question all round.

In retrospect maybe it wasn't such a good idea, since there wasn't much support for my "supplementary musings". But in principle I can't see any reason to object to multiple answers by the same poster, provided they're recognisably "different" answers.

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    Yes. The statement in your last sentence is consistent with the StackExchange philosophy of upvoting good answers regardless of source. – Erik Kowal Mar 31 '15 at 7:47

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