Which is best?

I think the poster meant...

(connotes too much a "poster", i.e. a piece of paper on the wall)

I think the author meant...

(the person who posted hasn't written enough to be considered an "author")

I think the original poster meant...

(sounds odd, why "original"?)

I think the OP meant...

(I am not sure people know what it stands for, I think it stands for "original poster" but am not even sure, and it connotes an operating room in a hospital.)

I think the person who posted meant...

seems the best but if you repeat it too often, your message becomes unnecessarily wordy

  • I was thinking this exact thing earlier today. – cori Aug 15 '10 at 1:39
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    FYI: The word in question is not a pronoun, it is a noun. – Kosmonaut Sep 12 '10 at 21:14
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    The only abbreviation I've ever seen for an operating room is OR. – Marthaª Mar 23 '11 at 1:16

"Author" is fine. One does not have to be an accomplished writer to be an author. Someone can write a simple letter and it would be completely proper to say "the author of the letter."

"OP" is okay but I would limit its usage to meta where people will likely have seen it before, and only in comments where space may be limited. Personally, I prefer clarity to this kind of pseudo-cultural obfuscation.

"Poster" is technically one who posts, but that just sounds like a hacked up nounification or gerund. I wouldn't personally use the poster in this context any more than I would say "the emailer" or "the phoner." But that's my pet peeve.

  • Thanks, you just gave me two new words to play with :-P (emailer + phoner) – Vincent McNabb Aug 13 '10 at 22:42
  • Answers are directed towards the OP anyway, so addressing them in the second person instead of the third makes more sense---in fact, I'll elaborate in an answer. – user575 Aug 17 '10 at 10:46
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    But we do say "the caller" for someone who calls on the phone. And we can also have "sender" for the person who sends a letter or email. That said, I like "author". – Kosmonaut Sep 12 '10 at 18:13

In comments I prefer "OP", for "Original Poster", or, occasionally, "Original Post"; "original" means the post that started it all: the question.

The acronym might initially confuse some, but is unambiguous once learned — something that you can't quite say for "poster" (alone) or "author", since there are many 'posts' on a page (question + comments + answers + comments on answers) and each of those has their own author (though mainly authors of answers would be the problem) plus potentially many more authors if the post is edited.

That said, "author" will be clear enough in many situations, but if books are being discussed, you may need to somehow clarify that you're not referring to those mentioned authors.

Additionally, using a display name is problematic when a user changes it — and that can be common with new users unfamiliar with the system and still using an assigned generic name when asking their first few questions.

Answers are directed towards the OP anyway, so addressing them in the second person instead of the third makes sense. I can't recall seeing an answer (and I mostly am on SO and SO's meta) using "OP" or any variant.

  • Perhaps times have moved on. When I write an answer, I assume my audience is primarily the ELU community, rather than OP (since collectively they're the ones who assess and up/downvote what I say). So if I need to refer to OP in answer text I normally do it in the third person. And if anyone isn't familiar with the usage "OP", I'd have thought it should only take a few seconds to figure out what it means - it's not essential to even know what the initials stand for. – FumbleFingers Feb 21 '12 at 14:07
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    Surely you do not mean to imply a work need be addressed to its expected audience? It seems to be fairly conventional (though certainly not universal) to address answers to the asker, despite hoping that others will also find them useful. – SamB Feb 27 '12 at 0:36

I prefer to refer to this person as the questioner (or even the asker). This is completely unambiguous, and what is more, fully correct and widely accepted English.

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    I also like asker; in addition to being strange jargon, OP can indeed get a bit confusing in comments on answers. – SamB Feb 27 '12 at 0:41

I usually use the (posting) name of the person, as in

Edward Tanguay said

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    Right, but if the post is long with many answers, you may want to make it clear that you are talking about the person who posted the message, since otherwise the reader would have to scroll back up and see if "Edward Tanguay" was the person who posted the question or someone who posted an answer. – Edward Tanguay Aug 13 '10 at 8:04
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    @Edward Tanguay: Again I am evading directly answering this, but what I actually do when that happens is to refer to "the question": "I think the question was about" etc. – delete Aug 13 '10 at 8:34
  • I think this is also a little more polite than The Author or the Psoter – cindi Aug 16 '10 at 16:39
  • -1: Users can and do sometimes change their "handle" on ELU. Also, we should be addressing the question, rather than involving the asker. The usage "OP" is firmly established across se sites, and it's rare that a new visitor needs to ask for clarification - the meaning is invariably obvious, even if someone doesn't know exactly what the letters actually stand for. – FumbleFingers Feb 21 '12 at 13:48

I agree with Robert Cartaino, in fact StackExchange embodies this - in the edit screen the last "How to Edit" tip reads "always respect the original author"

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    But this doesn't limit it to the author of the question - answers can be edited, and their authors should also be respected while editing. – Marthaª Mar 23 '11 at 1:19

The OP is used alternatively to refer to "Original Post".

This could get increasingly confusing for a newbie, who will find "original post" v/s "original poster"


"OP" or "Original Poster" is used overmuch on forums, but even there someone will be puzzled by it from time to time. I tend to use the name of the person. If it's important to my point that it be understood that I'm referring to the post that started the thread, I'll write something like this: "Edward Tanguay's original post makes a good point, but I feel this issue can work itself out over time on a common-usage level; trying to set a standard will only add to the new-user learning curve of this site."

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