We've been told that the purpose of comments is to improve posts and that comments are meant to be temporary post-it notes. My post is getting a lot of comments; what exactly am I supposed to do about that?

  • I've answered this, but I definitely welcome other answers. This isn't meant to be fiat but a discussion leading to guidance. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jun 18 '14 at 1:56

You might get several types of comments:

  • Asking for clarification: edit your post to address whatever was unclear. After you've done so, flag the comment as obsolete. (Make sure it really is -- that you have made the edit!) See more about editing below.

  • Arguing against your answer: if the objections raised in the comment are ones you can address in the post and you don't think it would be too tangential, consider editing your post to address them. (See more about editing below.) If the comment seems to arise out of a misunderstanding (the person thought you said X when you said Y), leave one comment politely pointing out the misunderstanding. Do not get into a long back-and-forth in comments; do feel free to use chat to discuss anything that comes up on the site.

  • Additional information (e.g. a source for something you said): edit to incorporate if it makes your answer stronger. It's polite to give credit to the person who suggested it, particularly since the comment will probably be cleaned up at some point.

  • Comments that aren't constructive or otherwise shouldn't be there: flag.

A word about editing:

Think of posts on The Workplace like Wikipedia articles, not like posts on your blog or an email thread. That is, the current version of the post should read like a seamless, integrated whole. Don't append additions with "edit", "edit #2", etc, and there's no need to quote comments in order to respond to them. Instead, edit the post to take that feedback into account and produce a version that, had you posted it earlier, the comments you're addressing wouldn't have been made. The full revision history is available, so you really don't need to call out your edits as edits -- just make the post better. By and large, you are writing for people who will only ever see the final version, not for people who've been following every development along the way.

Thank you for making the effort to improve your posts. Every improved post makes The Workplace a better site, thus making the Internet better.


If a comment adds to impact of the answer, I will append it wholesale to the answer, with full attribution to the author. I will also respond to the comment if the comment cries out for a good response. I think of my answer as a total: the original answer plus whatever appropriate comments and responses to comments make the answer more appropriate and compelling. The idea is that the answer plus the comments and the responses to comments all converge toward a single idea,. If they don't converge, then we have an open ended forum discussion on our hands - forums are good and/or great but forums are not answers.

By appending the comments and the response to comments - as long as they converge - into the original answer, I get to enhance the original answer without having to do heavy duty integration and editing work. Yes, I am lazy - I try to get the job done with minimum work :) Plus, it's nice to see how the answer gets enhanced from its original form thanks to the input of my commenters :) I claim there is a method to my madness :)

Of course, if someone comments back to me "your answer sucks because you did not take into account ..." and they've got a good point, I'll edit the body of the body of my original answer to cover up my tracks :) I am not sure that I gave full credit to the last person who did this to me but knowing myself the way I do, I am pretty sure that I didn't - I don't know why, but I never get awards for sportsmanship :)

  • 1
    It's okay to give the author of a comment some form of recognition, but we don't want answers to read like they're part of some discussion. Stack Exchange simply isn't a discussion platform, and using answers to try to turn them into one goes against the goals of our site and what the engine was designed for. Hope this helps clarify. – jmort253 Jun 21 '14 at 20:07
  • I believe that if the discussion sharpens the answer, then it does its job. Note that most discussions that I quote don't involve more than two or three comments – Vietnhi Phuvan Jun 21 '14 at 21:46
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    Still, in most cases, it's best to just integrate the entire work into your post so it flows as one complete body of work. Otherwise, answers end up looking like the very same comment threads we're all working so hard to clean up. Not saying there aren't boundary cases where this could make sense. Perhaps someone worded something in a way where it's valuable to preserve the exact quote, but if many of your answers follow this format, then you're likely doing it wrong. – jmort253 Jun 21 '14 at 23:58

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