1. Is there such a thing as an autoflag for Very Low Quality (VLQ) questions or answers? If so, how does it work?

  2. What is the difference between flagging an answer as VLQ, downvoting it, and writing a comment to let the author know about the problem? In other words, I'm trying to find out the recommended best practice procedure.

  3. Similar, but for flagging a low quality question, and in this case another option would be vote to close.

  4. How is a participant supposed to find out that his or her post has been flagged as VLQ? And in the case that multiple posts s/he has written have been flagged as VLQ?

Let's take me, as a guinea pig. On November 14 an exasperated reviewer informed me of a problematic pattern in my answers: Word or phrase used to describe a person concerned with self preservation. I didn't understand at the time, but something started to get through my hard skull. I took a good look at what I thought was a model answer and started making a point of following that format. By the time I got another exasperated comment from someone else, on November 24th (https://english.stackexchange.com/a/359975/112436), I had already started working on improving my documentation of single-word, phrase, and idiom request contributions. But it still hadn't sunk in about my answers having landed in the VLQ list until I was called out quite publicly by the first exasperated user (https://english.meta.stackexchange.com/a/9770/112436, see first version of answer in edit history).

And that leads me to...

  1. How can contributors learn from their mistakes, if they are not informed in a timely way that they have written posts which have been flagged as VLQ?
  • 2
    meta.stackexchange.com/a/161391/284336 Pretty sure this addresses your questions about how the system works at least. "The Low Quality Posts queue contains posts which were automatically determined to be of low quality based on several system criteria that generates a post quality score."
    – Catija
    Dec 4, 2016 at 5:16
  • @Catija - Thanks, I took a look, and found: "The Low Quality Posts queue contains posts which were automatically determined to be of low quality based on several system criteria that generates a post quality score." My hope is to read something that gives me some idea how the auto-flagging actually works. (Did I miss something important on that page?) Dec 4, 2016 at 5:21
  • 2
    I'm not sure that they publish what the criteria are... if they did, then people could do exactly enough to get past them. From experience seeing the Low Quality Queue, it's largely based on length and whether you use punctuation/capital letters etc. You have enough rep... I'm sure that it wouldn't hurt for you to actually check out the queue from time to time to see what the system flags. If you don't know how to handle them, you can always skip to the next one.
    – Catija
    Dec 4, 2016 at 5:24
  • @Catija - I'm fine with the secret sauce remaining under wraps, but I wanted to get a general idea. Your comment helps! How can you distinguish auto-flagged answers from manual flags when you're looking at the queue? Dec 4, 2016 at 5:59
  • Since I removed my publicly calling you out from that post you can either add an information about people going into the edit history or I can restore it if you want to.
    – Helmar
    Dec 4, 2016 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


It's a great question and I will try my best to answer it based on my experience and some discussions with moderators. I can't find all the references necessary to support this answer. Please feel free to edit or point out my misunderstanding.

  1. Yes, both questions and answers are auto-flagged as Very Low Quality (VLQ) if they are not long enough (usually one or two liners) or they contain some words banned by Stack Exchange. As @Catija commented, we don't know what exactly triggers them. You need to note that sometimes an answer that is longer than one or two liners could be flagged, for example, Difference between "get hands on" and "get". I could only guess it was automatically flagged for using too many bold words or many words were being repeated.

  2. If you flag an answer as VLQ, it will appear in the moderator's review queue, not the general users' review queue. You can flag it when you are convinced that a post is flaggable as low-quality, but you need to note that moderators don't approve VLQ flags as frequently as NAA (Not an Answer) flags.

    2.2. I never flag a post as VLQ after several of my flags were declined by moderators 10 months ago. The comment from moderator was along the lines of "Please downvote an answer instead of flagging it as VLQ". In my opinion, downvotes work better than flagging as VLQ as VLQ is very hard to define. Related ELU Meta post: Why was my VLQ flag rejected? and Disputing flag reviews and Why did moderators decline most of my flags even if they were helpful?

    2.3. I always try to make a comment to VLQ posts that answer a question. If they don't, I just either downvote or vote to delete them. Sometimes users respond to my comment, but more often than not, they don't. Also, I aggressively edit a VLQ post which answers a question. When you flesh it out with some links and examples, you can upvote it. The latest VLQ post I edited. Not only can you get the VLQ post out of the review queue, but also you help other users get more upvotes.

  3. You can vote to close only questions while you can flag both of them as VLQ.

  4. I don't think there is a way for users to find out their posts have been auto-flagged. But experienced users should know their posts should be long enough with supporting links and references. Just inserting a link can flesh out your answer by several tens of words. The best to avoid the flag is write a post relatively long enough.

  5. As explained above, you can pay attention to those comments and try to write a post with research and references. If you keep that in mind, you don't have to worry about this flag.

  • A long time ago, people could see if there were flags on their posts. It was removed because of the resulting drama.
    – Laurel Mod
    Dec 5, 2016 at 16:57
  • Re Q 1: how can you tell that it was an auto-flag, as opposed to a human flag? Dec 5, 2016 at 18:03
  • @aparente001 Yes, it was confirmed by a mod, too.
    – user140086
    Dec 5, 2016 at 18:04
  • Sorry, I didn't mean to call into question your assertion that it was an auto-flag! I meant to say, how do you figure out it was automatic? How can one discern that? Dec 5, 2016 at 18:06
  • @aparente001 (1) I am not a moderator. I don't have an access to VLQ queues manually flagged. (2) I am a normal user. I only review the general reveiw queue. Does it answer your question?
    – user140086
    Dec 5, 2016 at 18:10
  • I get it now. If a post is listed in the VLQ queue (how's that for a tongue twister), where ordinary mortals such as you and I can see it, then by definition it was an auto-flag. Dec 5, 2016 at 18:14
  • I'm working on digesting your thorough answer, thank you VERY MUCH for posting it. Right now I'm trying to understand why the manual VLQ flag exists, and how the questions about answers-posted-as-comments issue might relate to my two meta questions. Lots of stuff to read there. Also, I am confused as to why a user would not receive any notification that their post was auto-flagged VLQ. The three communications made to me by two exasperated users came out of left field for me -- and I'm trying to figure out how I should have become aware there was a problem. Dec 5, 2016 at 18:22
  • @Laurel - I read the post you referenced. I have a question. That post said, "We have a review system for answers that offers a set of canned comments aimed at guiding folks who've posted very poor / non answers. Instead of notifying them that someone has flagged their post, these comments spell out specific problems that could be addressed." I take it the canned comment only appears for a manual VLQ flag? I don't recall getting any canned comments. Dec 10, 2016 at 5:13
  • @aparente001 I think it means the Low Quality review queue's comments. If you go to that queue and click "recommend deletion", you'll see it.
    – Laurel Mod
    Dec 10, 2016 at 16:30
  • Notes: 1. Questions and answers that are too short or contain prohibited words cannot be posted at all.  So, I guess there are three zones: green (OK), yellow (auto-flag), and red (cannot post).  3. Users with less than 3000 rep cannot vote to close.  I think we’ve been told that users with ≥ 3000 rep should never flag questions, but should always VTC questions that have moderation-type problems (unclear, too broad, POB, etc.) Dec 12, 2016 at 5:22
  • @Scott Questions and answers that are too short or contain prohibited words cannot be posted at all. That's why I excluded the red zone in the first place as the question is about posted questions and answers. What I meant by not long enough was longer than necessary to be posted and shorter than necessary to prevent auto-flagging.
    – user140086
    Dec 12, 2016 at 8:25

Users never see flags on their own posts, although I suppose that, if you have access to the relevant review queues then it may be possible to find that your own post has been flagged. I don't know if the system actually checks for that in what it presents for review.

I'm going to deal with Question 6, which you didn't ask: How do I avoid flags in the first place?

The best way of avoiding flags is to follow the guidance:

Each of those links has a sidebar with more information, all of which is relevant.

You may find that users (including moderators, perhaps) will occasionally point out how your posts might be improved in order to help the site and avoid flags and their consequences. Take the advice; it's meant well. You may find that people simply downvote. While a reason for that is more difficult to diagnose if there isn't an accompanying comment, take some time to consider your post in the light of the help pages, and see what might be improved.

But, if you follow the guidance about posts, you should find that downvotes are rare and flags are even rarer.

  • Great answer (Probably better than mine). I've just checked with rene and he says "you never get reviews for posts you already flagged/ close /re-open voted or which you're the author of". Just FYR. The only way seems to be for 10K + users to check the history, but I wonder how many 10K + users would post LQP or try to find their own posts in the review history.
    – user140086
    Dec 6, 2016 at 17:46

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