Due to the widely varying attitudes in the question, answers and comments on the post Can this site be more "friendly" to users when closing questions? I really think we need a quick primer on what constitutes "rude" behavior on this site. I think we need to all be on the same page as far as what's "rude" and what's just community moderation and normal use of the site, and how to deal with rudeness when you see it.

  • Are downvotes and closing questions rude?
  • Is Disagreement rude?
  • What exactly is rude?
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    are comments explaining downvotes rude? – gnat Jul 24 '12 at 14:45
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    @gnat it's all in how you phrase it. I suggest explaining what's wrong, not that you downvoted in a comment. Seeing the -1 on comments doesn't seem necessary to me – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 14:57
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    agree, avoiding -1 sounds reasonable. Poster who received downvote is already aware of it, no use of repeating – gnat Jul 24 '12 at 15:15
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    One thing I find extremely rude is when people throw around empty accusations, without a shred of evidence, just because they are bitter their question got closed... – yannis Jul 24 '12 at 16:06
  • @rarity It has been considered a courtesy on other sites if you are going to downvote then stand up and say why... It is even in the down vote text. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 24 '12 at 18:22
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    @Chad did you read the post I linked? Explaining what's wrong is great. There's no need to start off with "-1" or "I downvoted", that just makes it personal instead of focusing your comment on improving the post. People should improve posts because they're incorrect/could be better, not because they want their 2 rep back. – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 18:27
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    @Rarity - I Do not have a problem with that so long as we take the stance against the +1 comments as well. Comments are for improving the question not discussion. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 24 '12 at 18:34
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    @Chad same logic applies, though +1 comments are often just plain noise so I didn't bring them up in the other discussion. Plus they're not "rude", just not useful, so they don't really fit into this post here – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 18:44
  • @Rarity the problem is when you eliminate the -1 from the comments anything that doesn't have a +1 becomes rude. Stackflation (Copyright 2012 Chad all rights reserved)(that is a joke I am not claiming copyright but i will claim prior art) So we can declare war on the -1 but only if we go after the +1 too. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 24 '12 at 19:06
  • @chad +1 i agree. (joking) but in all seriousness, i think ti really depends on the content of a comment. a '+1' is nowhere near as rude as a '-1', and thus i think should only be regulated based on the content. If it's just a "+1 you have the right of it", then that's bad. but if it is "+1, i think you give some good points, especially regarding..." then that is good. – acolyte Jul 24 '12 at 20:34
  • I vote for close. I think this question is meaningless given the fact that SE already have a standard on downvote/closing question. – lamwaiman1988 Aug 4 '12 at 3:28
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    @lamwaiman1988 sites can and do have their own standards, and can often discuss matters related to "standards" SE has. This is an informative post to help explain what's rude, what you should do about it, and what's just normal use of the site. – Rarity Aug 4 '12 at 16:35

Are downvotes and closing questions rude?

No, downvotes and closing questions (as well as upvotes and reopening questions) help us sort out quality content and enforce the quality standards laid out in the FAQ. People don't like downvotes, they don't like having questions closed, but these actions are vital to the survival of our site. By closing unanswerable, off topic or discussion questions we keep the bar of quality on this site high. We are in beta, and beta sites can be shut down for low quality.

Do not be afraid to vote to close questions or downvote low quality questions; if you can't vote to close, flag the post. We will not be lowering our quality standards. Our standards can be hard to grasp when people first find the start, and they're a lot higher than other sites out there on the web. This is because we don't want to be just another site out there on the web. Ignoring the risk of being shut down, making this site a high quality resource should be our goal; I became a moderator to help this site along in that regard.

I think Jeff Atwood put it very well here:

not everyone can attend Harvard. Or even the local community college. Stack Exchange has the rules it has about questions and answers because that’s what makes us Stack Exchange and not, y’know … Yahoo Answers or Reddit. Anyway, my point is that when people say "you guys are mean!" they often aren't actually talking about civility at all. They just want Harvard to let them in and/or loosen their requirements for applicants. Of course, doing that would make Harvard.. no longer Harvard. Please do not conflate these two very different things.

Is disagreeing rude?

It's perfectly fine to tell someone "don't do that" in a comment or answer. If someone is asking how to accomplish a goal that is professional suicide or otherwise dangerous, that's exactly what answers are for. Share why they shouldn't do whatever they have said; a quick "I don't think you should do that" is not an answer. Answers should always explain why you're giving the advice you are so we can evaluate their accuracy.

Just because you aren't saying what the asker/other people want to hear doesn't mean you're being rude. Don't be afraid to give an answer that disagrees with other answers, just be civil, as you would in all other answers.

What exactly is rude?

Being rude is being a jerk. It's saying "You're stupid to do that" instead of "You shouldn't do that". It's saying "Your post sucks" instead of downvoting and moving on. It's not just saying something people disagree with, it's doing it in a way to be intentionally or dismissively mean.

Using the primary functions of the site as intended (voting, answering) is never "rude". What can be rude is how you express yourself in your questions, comments and answers.

When a question is closed or about to be closed, the asker might be upset. It's not very fun. Do leave guiding comments saying why the post isn't acceptable and how it can be improved. Just be civil and focused when making those comments; if all you say is "this is off topic" or "please read the FAQ" well, the close reason already says that.

Don't belittle people, call them names or attack people. If you see a post that is rude, go ahead and flag it as "rude/offensive"; a moderator can edit out the rudeness or delete the post/comment. In the case of repeat offenses a user may be suspended for repeated, abusively rude behavior. If the rudeness is minor and in a question/answer you can go ahead and edit it out.

There's also another fabulous guide on rude comments on Arqade's meta.

  • If this isn't up on the FAQ, I think it could go up verbatim. – bethlakshmi Jul 24 '12 at 18:14
  • @bethlakshmi It's a bit long for the site's /faq (the etiquette section has a short explanation of the last part, sorta). I could make it an faq tag question on Meta though. – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 18:28
  • Yeah, that'd work. I see your point. – bethlakshmi Jul 24 '12 at 18:33
  • @bethlakshmi stuck on a faq tag FWIW. Don't think we have any other faq style questions to go with it yet – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 18:37

In regards to commenting on closed questions, I find comments rude if they are made with the intention of simply dismissing the user.

For example, I think comments simply telling the user to "read the [faq]" are very rude, because the user is basically implying the OP is an idiot and dismissing them with a link. They're not interested in helping the user, and it comes through in the words they choose to use. It's even worse when those sorts of comments get upvotes, because then from the OP's point of view the community agrees with that behavior.

I think that is part of the reason the What Stack Overflow is Not post got deleted - because it prompted too many users to simply leave dismissive comments on questions, which too frequently got taken as rude and elitist by other users.

So please, if you want to comment just to make a point and never see the question again, refrain from commenting altogether. Don't comment unless you're actually interested in personally helping the user understand their mistake so they can avoid making the same mistake in the future.

As a side note, I did a quick check on a bunch of closed questions to get examples of rude comments for this post, and couldn't find any. They were all informative, helpful, and written in such a way that they don't sound condescending or dismissive. I know this wasn't always the case since I recall seeing rude dismissive comments on closed questions a while back, but I think you guys are doing a good job of keeping your comments polite, and flagging rude comments :)

Edit in response to comments below

Here are some example closure comments which I thought were great:

Hi Brandon - your question was closed as a duplicate of another question we already have on the site. If you think there are some nuances to your question that make it different, please feel free to edit your question to make those more clear. If you need guidance, please ask in The Workplace Meta or The Workplace Chat. Thanks! - jcmeloni


I'm having difficulty parsing the exact question here. If it's just "should I go into X field or Y field" it doesn't really fit here; per the faq we don't really don't do general recommendations, but rather answer specific questions about problems with solutions - Rarity


Michael, actually I voted to close as off topic, I see this as a medical issue not a workplace one. RSI is a catch all term, and there's no one size fits all solution. I've seen colleagues thinking the same as you, that the problem was their chair, keyboard, desk, whatever, when in fact it was something completely unrelated, and in one case following advice from the internet made it (a lot) worse. I really think you should visit at least a GP, if not a specialist - Yannis Rizos


  • Plus the close text already says "read the FAQ"/ this is off topic/ect, so like I say in my answer, you're not really helping. I don't see many of those (not sure I've seen any on Workplace) – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 14:35
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    only think that's missing from your answer is a few examples of actual closure comments, to show that the workplace is actually one of the nicest SE communities. I'd edit them in myself but I'm on mobile and editing is a bit akward... – yannis Jul 24 '12 at 15:11
  • @YannisRizos Sure, I added some examples comments. As a side note, jcmeloni your closure comments are great. I had a hard time not using you for all the examples :) – Rachel Jul 24 '12 at 16:16
  • Hey! Spell my name right, please... :) – yannis Jul 24 '12 at 16:19
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    @YannisRizos lol oops sorry, I'm used to @Ya[tab] spelling your name for me :) – Rachel Jul 24 '12 at 16:27
  • @Rachel Thanks! – jcmeloni Jul 24 '12 at 16:49
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Downvotes and Votes

The following are mechanisms that were built into the system, and using them is not intrinsically rude:

  • Downvoting (of both questions and answers)
  • Voting to close
  • Voting to delete
  • Moderation activities

Like any tools, they can be misused, but the mere use of these tools is not in and of itself rude. They were put in place to help the site present and feature the best content, and let content that is substandard filter down or disappear.


Some believe that using the above tools should be accompanied by a comment explaining it, even suggesting that the SE platform be modified to require it. I, personally am not of this camp, since I think there are times when I believe it is appropriate to use those tools, but am unable to formulate a constructive explanatory comment.

Whether commenting is rude obviously depends on the contents of the comment. Generally, constructive comments help the recipient either fix the content so it will be a better fit for the site, or prevent others from being misled by an incorrect answer. Comments should also be specific to the content being addressed, not merely pointing to the FAQ or reiterating a blanket principle. IMO, it is better to use the voting tools and not comment than to use the tools and provide a non-specific comment.

It is also not rude to challenge the premise of a question. If you are asking for advice on how to do something antisocial, destructive, or harmful to your career, the community better serves you by advising you not to go through with it than by providing guidance on how to go about doing it.

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    IMO, it is better to use the voting tools and not comment than to use the tools and provide a non-specific comment. Sadly, there's a ton of people who go for commenting (most of the times harsh, borderline rude) without even thinking of using the tools. Don't have access to such info on The Workplace, but on Programmers it's somewhat common to see a comment along the lines of "This is off topic, read the FAQ", with the poster not bothering to flag / vote to close or even vote on the question. I kill those comments right as I see them, but most of the times the damage is done... – yannis Jul 27 '12 at 14:55

+1 and -1 in comments

It has been said above that -1 in a comment is not terribly constructive. Other than to identify yourself as the person who voted down there is little gained from it. It is often taken as an attack on the person rather than the answer/question.

By extension when you remove the -1 any comment that does not have a +1 becomes rude. So by including +1 in a comment you are making other comments appear rude... this isnt nice either.

Comments on answers and questions are not meant to be discussion or to state "good answer"; that is what votes and chat are for. If a question needs clarification or revision then suggesting that in comments is good. If we eliminate the noise then the comments become more important and used how they are intended.

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    I partially agree with this but don't really think it belongs here.I really don't think omitting most -1s on comments implies that all comments without a +1 are rude. I do agree both -1 and +1 are non-constructive and should be left out of your comment, but that's a different discussion – Rarity Jul 24 '12 at 22:16
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    i still maintain that prefacing your comment with a '+1' is not rude at all, and is not even all that non-constructive as long as you continue on and explain your reasoning. – acolyte Jul 25 '12 at 14:14
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    I find it rude. So either i do not matter or it is rude to some people. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 25 '12 at 15:02
  • @Chad All the SE sites are communities, and communities work with a little social lubrication, which is what including "+1" in comments is about. What you're proposing is a community that is cleansed of all normative content (other than votes), which IMO is not a "community" is all. That we don't share your perceptions doesn't mean they don't matter, just that they aren't a veto. – JohnMcG Jul 25 '12 at 18:33
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    I do not share the perception that -1 in a comment is rude. It is respectful of the person in that I am willing to say yes I down voted you and usually I will reverse if the issues I point out are addressed. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 25 '12 at 18:40
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    OK, so I guess you're saying that if we stipulate that -1 is rude, then it follows that +1 must also be rude. – JohnMcG Jul 25 '12 at 19:03
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    Here's my disagreement. Let's assume that insulting a co-worker's appearance is rude. Then we say that complimenting their appearance (not in a sexual way, I mean like "nice shirt") is also rude, b/c it means makes those who don't offer compliments appear rude. – JohnMcG Jul 25 '12 at 19:05
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    I suppose that's a valid position, but I'd rather live in a world (or participate in a community) where sincere compliments flowed with the occasional insult then one in which people only registered feedback using a formalized voting system. And I think don't think that discouraging insults means we must also discourage compliments. – JohnMcG Jul 25 '12 at 19:07
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    @JohnMcG very well said. chad, what we're saying is that +1'ing or -1'ing have no place here, UNLESS they're followed by some sort of contributing discourse. Would you ever recommend a restaurant to a friend? If you would, then is that not being rude to all the other ones in the city by not recommending them? – acolyte Jul 25 '12 at 20:14
  • @Acolyte - I agree they need clarification... the talk is about barring the door to -1 with reason comments though. And its no less rude to recommend one than to warn about the bad experience you had at another. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jul 25 '12 at 20:28

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