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It happens that someone puts a lot of effort into writing a purported answers that fails to address the question. For example as a reply to a question asking for the different meanings and usages of a particular German word, someone may explain different German words for the same thing. Should non-answers of this kind be deleted?

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Yes, because that might discourage the poster to write this kind of non-answer in the future.

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    Not only that. It saves time for persons, looking for the real answer. It might else encourage other people to get off topic and just get elaborated on something rarely related. It might get saved as a coment and the person might ask the suitable quesion for that answer himself. – user unknown Apr 1 '15 at 3:11
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    To add to this, if the only answer to a question is a non-answer that managed to attract upvotes, the question may not be regarded as unanswered and thus does not receive the special attention that such questions usually receive on our site. – Wrzlprmft Apr 11 '15 at 10:22
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It should be decided case by case. In the example case from the question I'm against deleting the answer. It's true that the answer doesn't answer the original question per se. But it's on topic as covers the topic indicated by the question in general. And it adds useful information to the accepted answer.

So as long as the answer is elaborated and adds useful information the accepted answer or for user who read the question I don't see a reason why the answer should be deleted.

If the answer doesn't add anything for the general context of the question, delete it.

I didn't vote on Cartens answers as in my opinion this question can not be answered with a clear yes or no.

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No, because that might discourage the poster to write answers in the future.

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For those who are not aware that we already heave a minimum guide on deleting let me quote what we say in the guide for Truster User privileges:

When should I vote to delete an answer?

You may vote to delete answers in the following cases:

  • The answer is extremely low quality: There is little to no scope for improvement
  • The answer doesn't attempt to answer the question; it may be a comment or a separate question altogether.

So deleting should be reserved for obvious cases, be it a user who cannot comment yet but writes an answer instead, or people writing a new question as an answer.

Not without reason there is a focus put on "attempt"", that is whenever a user who posted a poor answer it may have been from good intentions but they failed. Still, this is to be regarded as an attempt. Such answer may be not-voted, downvoted or (best) ignored but we should not delete it.

Also consider this: somebody writes an answer on a question that was edited later. In these cases we should not overhastily pull the delete trigger but we should politely but clearly comment to say what's wrong.

Sometimes another edit to a question could turn a now off-topic answer into a great answer (e.g. a very small edit to the question you quoted would instantly allow answers for names of such drinks in Austria or Switzerland). I we had deleted it this would not be possible.

Only in case an answer is misleading, dangerous, or entirely poor beyond hope we may consider deleting. But this should not be the primary action we take whenever we see a poor answer.

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    In the case that I mention, there is obviously no attempt to answer the question, but the text is also too long for a comment. And the user has a history of showing that he does not care for the scope of the answer, as long as he can write something about his favourite topic. I am asking if that is behaviour that should be encouraged. – Carsten S Mar 31 '15 at 13:02
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    Changing questions to fit to an answer is a bad habit and should be strictly discouraged. Only Changes which keep the intention intact should be performed. – user unknown Apr 1 '15 at 3:19
  • @userunknown: nobody said that we or the author of an answer should edit a question to fit to an answer (at least not in cases like this) but the OP of the question may decide to do so.. – Takkat Apr 1 '15 at 7:08
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    Oh, I read: "Sometimes another edit to a question could turn a now off-topic answer into a great answer (e.g. a very small edit to the question you quoted would instantly allow answers for names of such drinks in Austria or Switzerland)." I'm sorry. – user unknown Apr 1 '15 at 17:51

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