Take this question, or many others on EL&U where someone answers in comment and OP, despite have got an answer in comment,will satisfactorily forget that question will still remain open and appear in unanswered list.

If someone who is answering isn't sure, definitely he can use comments. But when OP receives answer in comment, should he request the commentator to post that as an answer (as in the link I mentioned in); or simply he himself post the answer, so that the question gets some closure. I don't know which one is right approach but, definitely I don't think this is to be done by everyone.

So, here is the question-what to do with such type of questions?

2 Answers 2


Stack Exchange encourages the editing of answers for improvement. This carries the corollary that Stack Exchange recognises that answers may be initially offered in a form that is less than ideal. However, as with some other high-traffic SE communities, the ELU community tends to penalise unsubstantiated answers. Note also that one person's fully-substantiated answer can be another's sketch-of-an-answer.

As an aside - if you consider a comment to be a good answer, conveying your appreciation of their comment is often enough to prompt a proper answer.

For the OP, answer location (comment-answer or answer-answer) is often secondary to having their question answered in a reasonable manner. For simple answers to simple questions, leaving them as comments is fine. There is always the risk, however, that comments may be removed without prior notice. To simply preserve comments, copy them into wiki-answers.

For the database, and for more substantial community involvement with answers, answer-answers are preferable. Feel free to post answers even if your answers are based on existing comments. When you do, common courtesy suggests that you provide proper attribution. It should go without saying that your answer-answer should have a sufficiently-high standard of substantiation, particularly when compared with the corresponding comment-answer.


It is the behaviour of site users that needs to change, but this is rather like trying to herd cats. This is my own experience as an inveterate poster of "answers as comments".

Stage 1

Nag them into posting real answers instead of answers as comments. If this works, job done.

Stage 2

If they refuse to give up their evil ways, you could post their answers for them as community wikis (crediting them, of course). This is a highly effective technique (and has worked with me).

Stage 3

If they post real answers, but without any supporting evidence, nag them into providing fully documented answers with links to reference materials.

Stage 4

  • If they comply with the above request, job done.
  • If they decide to leave the site and get a life, job also done.
  • If they decide to go on strike and refuse to provide simple answers to straightforward questions...


I now spend a lot of my time on chat. There, I can provide single-word answers to straightforward questions. No one moans and the customers are (usually) delighted. What's not to like?

  • 6
    Do not nag anyone into doing something you're not willing to do yourself. If there's a good seed of an answer in the comments, but needs some effort to convert into an answer proper (e.g. references), then put that effort in yourself. It's not someone else's job to post answer you like. It's your job. Don't be a hypocrite.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 14:27
  • 3
    I'm just relating my own experience on this site.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 14:28
  • 3
    But you're framing in the imperative, as instructions, advice. It's bad advice.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 14:29
  • 3
    Well, how would you encourage users to stop posting answers as comments. Let's hear your advice.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 14:31
  • 10
    It's not going to happen. You're assuming it's bad behavior; it's not. It's an attempt to provide an answer for the OP (that is, an attempt to be helpful) without actually posting an answer, which might be inappropriate because the question is close-worthy or other. As long as people truly want to be helpful, answers in comments will continue, whether it's SE policy or not. Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 16:35
  • 4
    @Mick My advice was in my first comment under this answer. As to how I'd stop people from answering in comments, I wouldn't. I think it adds value and allows people to provide information with a low barrier to entry where they otherwise would not and OP would be left empty-handed. If some other regular members would like to see those helpful comments converted to answers, they are free to do so themselves.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:14
  • 1
    @DanBron I can only wonder why I am discouraged from doing so, both by high-rep users and by mods.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:27
  • 4
    Consider this a high-rep user not discouraging you from doing so.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 19:29
  • 1
    Re having been discouraged: Have you actually been chastised by a high rep user or a mod from developing someone else's comment into a full-fledged answer, or seen someone else chastised, or have you just inferred that you would be? The answer of course must substantially go beyond the comment, and put in an acknowledgment to the commenter, but if it does, I think it is accepted policy on this site that it is OK.
    – ab2
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 20:44
  • 1
    @DanBron I have never turned someone else's comment into an answer. I always up-vote if someone else turns one of my comments into an answer (and makes a decent job of it). I have been on the receiving end of "stage 2" as described above.
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 21:01
  • @DanBron Note that I said "worked with me," not "worked for me."
    – Mick
    Commented Dec 31, 2016 at 21:11
  • 1
    Once a comment has been deleted, it's very difficult to get it undeleted. You would have to remember "who" left the comment, "where", and "what" was said. OTH, a deleted answer is still visible to users who have 10k rep (or is it 20K I can never remember which) and if that answer is particularly good, users can suggest to undelete it. What I dislike are chunky comments posted within 5 minutes which answer perfectly the Q.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:10
  • 2
    Any casual visitor is bound to be reluctant to take that fairly detailed comment and turn it into a fully fledged answer. Who likes to be seen as a copycat, especially if the comment has attracted 6-10 upvotes in the meantime? Oh, and why should someone else spend time to copy and paste a comment, find a dictionary reference, and turn it into a CW? Why should anyone have to do that?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:13
  • 1
    I'd say upvoted comments which are really answers in disguise, to questions that are not obviously off topic, should be auto-deleted after 48 hours.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 25, 2017 at 16:15

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