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Is there a preferred method for answering single-word requests or phrase request answers if you have two or more recommended words/phrases?

There are a few possibilities I can think of:

  1. Multiple answers - Answer once with each word/phrase option.

    • This keeps it neater and allows the OP to pick their exact favorite word/phrase.
    • If you have a good thesaurus (and the question is really generic), you could be listing answers all day.
  2. One answer, multiple options - Leave only one answer but include all options.

    • This shows the OP a digest of options and keeps the number of answers down.
    • Doesn't allow for specific acceptance of answer.
  3. One answer, one option - Pick your favorite option and don't mention the others.

    • Keeps the focus on what you think is the best answer.
    • It's possible no one else will think of those other options but it does give other people the chance to answer.

If I only had two or maybe three different words/phrases, I'd be more likely to use option one but I'm afraid it looks like you're rep-scavenging. I do like that it gives people the option to refer to the answer specifically with the votes.

I tend to go with option two because it's easier but I champion one answer over everything else and mention the other options in passing. I particularly use this for when someone is looking for a word that has 10-20 good options in the thesaurus, and I'll sometimes post a screen-shot of the thesaurus options just to show that there are a bunch.

I don't really think option three is very useful to the person asking the question because of the second bullet point... if no one else thought of it, then the OP (and subsequent viewers) would never see that option.

So, I want to know if there's a preferred method to answer these questions. I know that questions should always be split if there's more than one question, so is the same true for answers with more than one answer?

marked as duplicate by Marthaª, Nicole, Chenmunka, Dan Bron, Misti Jul 9 '15 at 16:45

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If both of your suggestions are equally valid and serve the same purpose, i.e. they're used in the same context(s) and have the same connotation(s), then you should probably post them as separate answers.

However, this almost never happens.

Instead, when you have multiple words to suggest, chances are that each of them has pluses and minuses. For example, one meets the formality requirement, but is well-nigh obsolete with the desired meaning, while the other clearly means the right thing but is borderline-offensive slang, etc. etc.

In almost all cases, the best answer to a s-w-r question would detail all the options, describing why each might be suitable, as well as why it might not be suitable.

Thesaurus-like answers to single-word-requests are just as undesirable as unresearched, context-free single-word-request questions.

  • I know this is old, but does your first paragraph contain a typo?  I would think that if multiple suggestions are equally valid and serve the same purpose, i.e., they’re used in the same context(s) and have the same connotation(s), then the respondent should probably post them in a single answer, while multiple words that differ significantly in connotation, formality, currency/obsolescence, and offensiveness should be posted as separate answers. – Scott Apr 4 '18 at 17:46
  • @Scott: no, I meant what I wrote -- each answer should be as complete and correct on its own as possible. If I want a blue dress and you don't have one, but you do have a blue skirt and a blue shirt, offering me a choice between just the skirt or just the shirt will leave me half-naked. – Marthaª Apr 4 '18 at 22:40

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