Being the new guy on the block, I was kind of surprised by the amount of comments we delete. Not that any of them would be rude or inappropriate, but many of them are simply not "comments" at all.

We probably all know how comments work in theory, but in practice I guess we all forget sometimes and post a comment that should not have been a comment.

Comments are for, and should be used 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).

As a general guideline, before posting a comment, maybe ask yourself "what action could the person whose post I comment on take, to make my comment obsolete?"

  • If you asked for a country tag, they could add a country tag.
  • If you asked to give the people in the post names like Alice and Bob to make reading it easier, they could do so.
  • If you added a link and said "But courts have ruled differently just last year", they could read it and then ammend and improve their answer with this new information.

But if your comment has nothing actionable for the commented on post to do, then it isn't a comment.

Some of those comments I deleted were quite long and had solid information. Please don't try to save 30 seconds by writing a comment instead of an answer. It's like fast food. You feel full for a moment, but in the long run, you will be hungry again sooner than you expect. You saved a little bit of time, but your comment only lasted for a few hours. Create an answer. That will have lasting impact.

A real answer can also generate you those tasty green internet points, that comments don't get. Just sayin' :)


1 Answer 1


In my case, it's a comment rather than an answer when I am not convinced that the insight actually solves the problem at hand, or when I am trying to elicit more information to generate something I consider a viable answer. I've been trying to remember to look back after writing and see if it should be moved to an answer, but since the line between the categories is somewhere between fuzzy and fractal it's always a judgement call and people will disagree.

It's certainly legitimate, and helpful, to reply to a comment with "Hey, that looks like an answer to me." And probably achieves more than grumping on meta, however justified the grump is.

Fix the UI to not provoke undesired behavior.

  • 3
    Do you have any idea how to "fix the UI"? What changes could prevent people from doing it? Personally, I would rename it from "Comment" to "Ask for clarification", but maybe you have more or better ideas?
    – nvoigt Mod
    Dec 2, 2022 at 22:45
  • Automatically start asking, when a comment gets past a certain size "Are you sure this isn't, or can't be made, an Answer? Click here and we'll copy the text into that entry form for you."?
    – keshlam
    Dec 2, 2022 at 23:00
  • For an example of why drawing the distinction at all is a problem, see my response to diy.stackexchange.com/questions/261724/… . Since it doesn't give a solid solution, I hesitate to call it an "answer" -- but I think it contains useful context. In that s case it's fat too hig to be a Comment so. I was forced to do the (I hope) right thing. But not all not-quite-solutions are so verbose, and it sometimes really isn't clear where to put them .
    – keshlam
    Dec 3, 2022 at 0:23
  • -- or they start as a comment and turn into an answer as they are written, unnoticed. So the problem isn't just the word Comment, it's also the word Answer and the assumption that we know which one were writing or where to draw the line. Language has absolutes; reality is fuzzy, fractal, or both.
    – keshlam
    Dec 3, 2022 at 0:25

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