I frequently see questions about word-suggestions, something like:

I am looking for a term to describe X.

Questions like this could attract a lot of answers, like this:

You could call it Y.

Or like this:

You could call it A.

Well, actually,

you could call it B.

Or like this:

You could call it P.

Well, actually,

you could call it Q.

Well, on a third though,

you could call it R.

Obviously, if there is no "correct" (in the objective sense) answer, those who propose more than one suggestions have higher chances of getting upvoted, because one of their suggestions could be quite right. This way every single suggestion they made (in the same answer) rises to the top.

However, for an outsider, it is not at all that clear, that which of A or B got the upvotes, or which of P, Q, or R received the upvotes. So, which one should be choosen by a naive outsider?? Needless to say, that sometimes suggestion A should be heavily upvoted, whereas suggestion B (from the same user within the same answer) should be heavily downvoted.

I believe that answers of this kind are not at all useful, and it is very difficult to correctly vote on those.

Question: what is the rationale behind letting people post multiple suggestions in the very same answer? Is this by-design, or an unfortunate by-product? How do you vote on these answers?

  • 1
    Answers are typed into a free-text field, so it's not easy to automatically enforce single-answer answers. You can place comments ask multiple-answer respondents to split their answers into separate posts.
    – Lawrence
    May 23, 2016 at 14:02
  • @Lawrence I interpret what you just said as: Enforcing this as a guideline would be moderation-intensive, and, perhaps, counter-productive.
    – Matsmath
    May 23, 2016 at 14:10
  • Sorry, I thought the phrase "letting people post" in your question was about automatically screening for multiple answers. In the case of human screening as a moderation activity, I think my suggestion of placing appropriate comments is a good first step. Deletion of offending answers is a drastic step. I recognise the dilemma of wanting precise voting and acceptance on one hand, and on the other, not deleting good answers just because they contain chaff. In the middle is splitting answers as a moderation power - that carries its own problems of potentially inappropriate splitting.
    – Lawrence
    May 23, 2016 at 14:18
  • 4
    That's exactly why some questions get closed for being too broad...
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 23, 2016 at 14:20
  • If you are the OP, you can always insist that users put forward a limited number of suggestions, three is a happy medium. And if you are undecided...well, no one gets the green tick, it's as simple as that. Not every question has an accepted answer, and not every answer needs to be upvoted on, sometimes a user is just providing extra info.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 23, 2016 at 14:26
  • @Mari-LouA I am afraid I am the Googler (or goggler?) who just landed on ELU.SE.
    – Matsmath
    May 23, 2016 at 14:34
  • 1
    I commiserate entirely. How does one vote if A is great and B is terrible? How does one interpret others' votes: did they like (or hate) one out of many or did they like (or hate) them all? Lists answers are universally acknowledged in meta to be 'bad'. People have learned not to ask them, but people have not learned to answer that way. On the other hand, it takes a lot of ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) perseverance/integrity to answer each item separately. But enforcing, editing, or even suggesting to separate is weird.
    – Mitch
    May 23, 2016 at 15:23
  • Also see: "against single word requests"
    – MetaEd
    May 23, 2016 at 21:32
  • @MετάEd let me check whether these 5-year old posts withstood the test of time. It will take a while.
    – Matsmath
    May 23, 2016 at 21:55
  • Here's a good example of an answer with seven suggestions, some better than others. english.stackexchange.com/a/327762/44619. I didn't upvote or downvote.
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 25, 2016 at 9:34
  • @Mari-LouA You kind of abandoned me there helpless and unable to see from another's p.o.v as to which out of my 7 was the better answer.
    – NVZ Mod
    May 25, 2016 at 11:12

1 Answer 1


I answer , , and a lot. It's hard to decide whether I should post all suggestions in one or separate answers. I always put out there, everything that I've got, and hope the community informs me, by comments, what works and what doesn't.

There are some who just up/downvote my answer simply because one, out of many, suggestion they found good/bad. Which is not helping me or the OP.

My meta experience tells me I should keep posting all suggestions in one, as long as they're all closely related, and explain them well. And that I should post separately only when two suggestions are drastically different.

Here's a meta answer that kind of supports my view. MrHen says:

When I answer SWR questions I typically add a bunch of detail about each potential match in order to address the entire area being discussed. English often doesn't have an exact phrase that fits and I think splitting each section into its own answer would make it harder to understand.

While I see the argument for splitting any of those answers up, I think they work best as is. Various comments will address portions of the answer and I will typically integrate the extra information into the full answer.

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