From our help section on the comment privilege:

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).


Comments are not recommended for any of the following:

  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

Nevertheless, instead of writing an answer people increasingly write a short comment only. These comments range form being a full answer of the question to a partial answer, or a link that answers the questions.

This is bad for the site as

  1. These comments cannot be downvoted. There is no community control to judge the value of any such comment.
  2. Whenever there is a comment that answers the question, people are reluctant to write an answer when it would have the same content.

We therefore will delete any such comment without mercy and irrespective of the value it may have.

If you come across any such comment please take the valuable information from it and copy & paste it in an answer. You can also post an answer to your own question this way. Then please flag the comment as no longer needed to bring it to our attention for deletion. Of course you may extend this answer if needed but even a short answer is better than none.

Thank you.

  • 2
    sounds a bit extreme "We therefore will delete any such comment without mercy and irrespective of the value it may have." Especially since you don't have data for the second point. And the first point is not relevant. It is sometimes better to write comments because when you write an answer it just makes it easier for some to downvote and you have to write a lot more to support your answer. A comment can just be a quick point to either support, or prompt to reconsider. – JGallardo Sep 17 '18 at 18:19
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    @JGallardo: it makes moderating such comments so much easier when procedures are clear and undisputable. But we do share your concerns. In the past we often tolerated such comments, which on some posts led to huge comment walls but never an answer that sums all up. The benefit now is that people know their comments are as short-lived as they are meant to be and that a comment is of little long-term value for the site. This alone already led to more answers and fewer answering comments. – Takkat Sep 17 '18 at 19:30
  • Looking at the vote score to my A below, the continued behaviour on all sites I frequent, and the reactions if I do as suggested in this Q&A: looks like apart from SE staff mods only a few Mohicans, see below, are in any way interested in this. Or was this a fad that's faded? – LangLangC Nov 16 '18 at 20:54
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    @LangLangC: well, many people believe we are a kind of discussion forum which we never were and never wanted to be. The success of all SE is because of its rather unique Q&A format. For lengthy discussions we do have our chat room system which would be an ideal place for this but people apparently fear these rooms for reasons entirely obscure to me. – Takkat Nov 16 '18 at 22:11
  • Well, chat gives me even less control than comments (eg typos, delete) and I really have a hard time finding anything there (recently had an urge to recover a chat for an answer; cumbersome until it appeared again). –– But the thing is that I really dislike unwelcoming, wisecracking half-answers to Qs (to Qs from new users esp) But anything along the lines of this Q&A as already outlined is very disliked by most users, incl regulars. "Comment-stealin, plagiarising, comment-obsolete-delete-flag-declined etc) What now? Stop bothering? – LangLangC Nov 16 '18 at 22:25

TL;DR: Yes. Most points in the question are valid observations. And they identify a problem. Even a growing problem. But the proposed solution (in bold) might discard the baby with the bathwater?

We shall please not answer in comments. But there is an alternative possible: In my opinion, everything in comments below a question that 'answers' a question is up for grabs. Attribution or even community-wiki-style are not needed, but add a certain decency or professionalism about that.
Write an answer and then flag the comments for deletion as "no longer needed".

More in depth explanation:

People have a tendency to treat comments like they matter, or are permanent, or as places to put information that they for whatever reason don't want to put in an actual answer. Guess what? They're not.

Comments are, first and foremost, ephemeral. They're inherently impermanent. If you post a comment, don't expect it to stick around for long.

You're told this when you first gain the privilege to leave comments, at 50 reputation. You get a nice notification "congrats, you've earned this privilege. Learn about it in the help center."
Alright, so let's go look at the help center.

And there "what are comments?" says:

Comments are temporary "Post-It" notes left on a question or answer.

Right there. Temporary Post-It notes. Not permanent notes on an answer. Just an ephemeral note… that has a very specific purpose.

This is where the Post-It note analogy ends. While Post-It notes can be used for a whole multitude of things, comments are really intended for three very specific purposes, again enumerated in the help center.

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).

Three very specific purposes… which happen to not include answering the question. In fact, in the next section, "When shouldn't I comment?", we see mention of answering the question:

When shouldn't I comment?


Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);

If we wanted people to write answers in comments like that, answers wouldn't exist. Not to mention that writing answers in comments has some serious drawbacks:

Comments cannot be downvoted, only upvoted, and so you can't have the quality checks that answers have. You cannot edit comments to improve them after 5 minutes. You cannot accept a comment. If you answer in a comment, and the OP says that solved their problem, they may leave the site never to return and leave an answer unaccepted, if the commenter answered with what they had originally posted as a comment.
(Interpersonal Skills meta)

Not to mention that you can't get rep from comments.

And you're reminded of this every time you go to write a comment:

Avoid answering questions in comments.

So now we've determined that writing answers in the comments is a bad idea, not worth it, and directly against site guidelines. So now, despite this, someone didn't feel like writing a full answer and dumped their half-written answer into a convenient textbox that was never intended for anything like that to be put in it.

So now someone comes along, sees the comments, and thinks "Hey, that could be a good answer if I take that information, flesh it out, and source it!"

Go for it. By any means.

If someone didn't write out the answer themselves... their loss. They had their opportunity. They chose to write it in the wrong place instead.

You are perfectly allowed to take that comment, flesh it out, and turn it into a proper answer. Since it had no business being posted in the comments in the first place, you're helping the site by moving the information into an answer.

This is a question and answer site, not a question and answer and half-answer site. All information should be collected into a question and an answer.

There's no requirement to make an answer that you took from a comment community wiki, but you're free to do that if it'll help your conscience… but hey, if the person who's writing answers as comments sees that you're earning rep from their failure to write a proper answer, perhaps they'll be incentivized to actually write a real answer next time ;).

It's a question of personal style to turn an actual answer then into a community wiki, or give attribution to where the content from the comment comes from. I'd like to see people contemplating to do the above to wait a bit before going ahead, then quote and attribute properly the content of their answer. I'd consider not giving attribution a form of plagiarism and bad manners. But I also see turning comments into proper answers as a very good idea.

Most of this is copied from Mithrandir's answer here


@Wrzlprmft: Thanks for the link to this question. I had already seen this and prepared a comment, that I lost.

I don't deny the rational, but I object that the three guidelines "When should I ..." are helpful. They can all apply, if the following is implied when answering a question in a comment

"... is this what you wanted to know or how specific do you need it" (clarification)

"... This is an easy answer that you should be able to find yourself" (criticism)

"... this is not a full answer, but the gist is ..." (transient information)

In that light the rules are inconsistent. Ex contradictione quod libet. You are left to exercise your own judgment.

The rational given in the above question slash assertion concerns first the lack of downvotes for comments, and second the detriment to other posters answers.

The former can be criticized variously, e.g. because a single up or down-vote does not have a lot explanatory power and a responding comment would be appreciated instead, which those who down-vote often don't write when actually down-voting an answer. So it's only half a solution.

Of course there are more reasons besides that. Answering a low effort, off-topic or otherwise ineligible question motivates more of the same kind, so these shouldn't be answered at all. However, as a matter of good measure, a few such answers to leave nobody hanging won't doom the site. There's the saying about teaching man to fish, but if you try to teach fishing with a heavy handed hammer, you are doing something wrong.

As LangLangC's answer shows, elaborate answers have a tendency of running on for a while. Some of them never get to the point, and the fact is lost in the noise. If the supposed answer fits into a 512 character comment instead, the value of some very context specific questions that can be phrased in thousand different ways is doubtful anyway. So I'd say we have different problems to care about.

A comment answer is indistinguishable from other comments, so it's not equivalent to an answer that sits at 0 votes, but basically, that's what it should be. And nobody should really have a problem with those. As others noted, an answer bumps the Q, gives +points for the askee when accepting the answer, and it might give -points for answers to a low effort Q. Refer back to the above argument about the subjectivity of votes. Different votes have different reasons, and some reasons may be deemed less valid. After all, it's lucky that down-votes are scored disproportionately to up-votes. So yeah, don't answer in comments.

It's not true that the practice has been increasing, though. It has always been done, and is unlikely to stop now.

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