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I was searching yesterday for answers that contained the phrase "Thanks in advance" since this is often a marker of "I have the same problem" not-an-answers. I discovered that many of these hits are answers that start by quoting the question in all its Hi, I'm new, I'm trying to learn X, how do you do X, I tried doing X but its not working, plz help urgent, thanks-in-advance glory.

And that got me thinking - how do we, as a community, feel about question-quoting? I think that answers NOT quoting any part of the question feel more stackexchang-ish, but maybe that's just me? And if question-quoting is ok, can we at least advise people just to quote the actual, you know, QUESTION part of it and not the preamble or closing bits (which some people feel shouldn't even be in the question, and I'm sure we all agree don't need to be in the answers.)

The FAQ doesn't have a section on answering, but it does have a slightly hidden link to http://stackoverflow.com/questions/how-to-answer which doesn't cover this.

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stuff like "thanks in advance" should be edited out of questions entirely, not just quotes of the question in answers (although obviously there too) –  Servy Oct 1 '12 at 15:27
    
As far as editing goes I would just say "edit out all the fluff and leave a comment". –  Bart Oct 1 '12 at 15:28
    
No argument to either of you on the editing front. But perhaps we'd need less editing if we told people not to do it... –  Kate Gregory Oct 1 '12 at 15:29
    
@KateGregory We do. link. It applies to all posts (questions + answers) –  Servy Oct 1 '12 at 15:30
    
@Servy that says "if you're editing a question, feel free to take THanks in Advance out." Not at all the same as "if you're answering a question, don't paste part of the question into your answer as a quote" or "if you're answering a question and want to paste part of the question into your answer as a quote, don't quote opening or closing pleasantries such as "thanks in advance". I would like to see advice to answerers, not advice to editors. –  Kate Gregory Oct 1 '12 at 15:32
    
@KateGregory If you see "thanks in advance" in a question you should edit it out before even answering it in my mind. –  Servy Oct 1 '12 at 15:34
    
@Servy no argument. Now imagine I am a low rep new user about to start answering questions. I read the FAQ. I find the link to How to Answer. I remain unguided on the matter of quoting. Doesn't apply to me personally, I feel very guided. I am trying to arrange for guidance for newbies here. –  Kate Gregory Oct 1 '12 at 15:39
    
@KateGregory: I don't think we need any particular guidance for newbies. You generally don't see people quoting entire posts in answers, so they won't quote the entire post in their answers. We don't need a rule for everything; the general sense of how things work on SO will suffice. –  Nicol Bolas Oct 1 '12 at 16:24

3 Answers 3

Like GEOCHET, I think quoting a question is a waste of space (and time). Moreover, when someone answers a question line-by-line or sentence-by-sentence, it gets obnoxiously like fisking. Answers should be able to stand on their own as much as possible.

The only time I'd see quoting being helpful is when a part of the premise of the question needs to be preserved verbatim, and paraphrasing it into the answer can't work.

Off the top of my head, an instance where that might be required is when the question is founded upon a faulty premise or some equivocation, and it's necessary to point out a problem with how the question is formulated in order to provide a complete answer.

Otherwise:

  • if a question has so many subquestions it becomes unwieldy to write a single, unified answer, I'd take issue with the question's scope for asking too many things at once.

  • if an answer is so long that it needs to be broken up into sections, I'd use headings (e.g., ###) to separate them.

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A related example would be a typo or other subtle error in a particular line of code that's easier to recognize when you have that line and the correction next to one another. But yeah, top-quoting the entire question usually isn't helpful. –  Shogging through the snow Oct 1 '12 at 16:15

Quoting parts of a question is no problem, if done sparingly. If a specific part of your answer addresses a specific part of a question, go ahead and quote it. That might make it easier to follow for those who will read it.

This of course all under the assumption that the question is good. Having to quote a question to answer it, might indicate a problem with the question. If you have to quote various parts of the question because they are really multiple questions in one, you might want to address that issue.

Ad verbatim copying the entire question is of course nonsense and should not be done. No fluff should be present. So don't do this yourself, or feel free to edit it out when you see it.

Should this be specifically stated in the How to Answer section? It might be a nice addition. On the other hand I'm by now cynical enough to say that most won't read it anyway. But hey, you never know.

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Quoting a question is a silly waste of space. Edit the quoted material out and move on.

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Quoting an entire question is a waste of space. Quoting small sections of the question can be enormously helpful if it is very large and/or complex and you want to respond to different aspects of it separately in your answer. –  Servy Oct 1 '12 at 15:33
    
Of note (though I assume you didn't mean to indicate otherwise) if you go as far as to remove the quoted content, make sure you revise the whole answer so that it no longer relies on the (now absent) quoted content. –  Bart Oct 1 '12 at 16:03

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