In looking at the recent question Transport & Accommodation for new location, the question is clearly off-topic. There's no way we can answer the question, because it is about company-specific policy, and the question is very likely to be closed soon. However, inevitably you get someone who will post as an answer "Talk to your boss/HR. We can't answer this for you." This also tends to happen with the "Which job should I take" questions.

Is simply stating "We can't answer this" a valid answer? Is it worth keeping around, or should it be deleted? Usually those with enough rep will instead make a comment and then flag or vote to close the question. Does it even matter, since the question is going to be closed anyway?

  • 3
    explaining close-reasons in answer feels weird. How to Answer guidance doesn't seem to suggest anything like that
    – gnat
    Commented May 7, 2015 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


If I'm voting / flagging a question to close, I don't answer it - in my opinion, doing so can give the impression that the the question is legitimate, which then encourages other people to ask similar off-topic questions. This can be more of a problem on smaller sites (sports.stackexchange.com is where I personally see this, but that's just because it's the smallest site on which I have close vote privileges) where questions can take a couple of days to get closed, but I think it applies to some degree on larger sites as well.

  • +1 This is what I do as well. Comment to inform the user that it can't be answered, and vote to close.
    – Jane S
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 5:10
  • 1
    I definitely agree with this, but I'm more wondering what we do with the answers that other people post
    – David K
    Commented May 8, 2015 at 12:09

In my personal opinion, that is not a valid answer. But unless we have clear community consensus on this, don't expect mods to actively delete them. But here are some tools you can use:

  • Close votes. If the question should be closed, then close it, the sooner the better. That at least stops more answers that may make it harder to reopen the question. Closing isn't bad and it isn't forever; it's a time-out while we address an issue. We want questions that can fit here to be fixed and reopened; we're not trying to pound them with a big red "no" stamp.

  • Not An Answer (NAA) flags. Not for the mods to handle (see above), but enough reviewers in the low-quality review queue can remove a post. Note: this only works if the community also visits the review queues on a regular basis. Go ahead; click that "review" link at the top of the page. Help curate the site.

  • Downvotes. Closed questions with no upvoted answers are automatically deleted after a while. But if you upvote those "go see a lawyer" or "ask HR" answers, you're (a) preventing the Roomba from acting and (b) rewarding that behavior. Most people will continue to do what gets rewarded.

  • Delete votes (20k for answers, 10k for closed questions).

  • Edits. Can you fix the question so that we can answer it? While in general the SE rule is to not edit questions in ways that invalidate existing answers, I personally think we should make exceptions in cases like that. That's not a mod pronouncement, but it doesn't need to be: the community can use votes and flags to address issues.

Questions that we clearly cannot answer help neither the site nor the asker. By all means, leave comments suggesting other places where the asker might get help; we want to help, within reason. But we shouldn't do that with answers like these.

For a while we were systematically reviewing our broken windows, with the goal of fixing what could be fixed and deleting questions that were helping nobody. The main organizer got busy with other things, but maybe we can revive this. It doesn't have to be run by a moderator, after all.


If I post that. I usually do so as a comment while flagging/voting for closure. But sometimes "mu" really is the only answer we can give.

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