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If you think you might know an answer, or have a good suggestion, should it be a comment or an answer?

Say you don't have the time currently to test your idea, or you are 80% sure, should this be a comment on the original post 'Have you tried... ?' or should you post it as an answer, and if it is voted up, accepted as the answer or you finally test it and confirm it, it is then edited to reflect the new stance.

Example (using simple CSS)

First Post

Have you tried setting its display to inline?

Revision after being accepted

Simply set its dispay to inline

example:

#element { 
   display: inline;
}

In the past, I have made a suggestion in the comments, and it has been correct, and then someone else posted it as an answer which was accepted. After I posted it as the answer later however, I received the accepted answer.

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migrated from stackoverflow.com Aug 20 '09 at 19:11

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6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

If you think you might know an answer, or have a good suggestion, should it be a comment or an answer?

It should be an answer.

Answer: Actionable information
Comment: Clarification or follow up

If you have something that may prove valuable (information, a thought, a suggestion, etc) - in other words, something actionable, then post it as an answer.

If you feel uncomfortable about it's "truthiness" then add "maybe, should, I think, if I remember correctly, I suspect" to the answer, and if you don't want a wrong idea to result in bad rep then mark your answer as Community Wiki. You can delete it later, or modify it later, if you find out it needs improvement or is wrong.

Comments are primarily to add clarity or request more information.

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I generally feel that if I have a suggestion or an answer that can lead the questioner to the solution to his/her problems, I write it in an answer. If I only have a quick thought, but no time to spend on re-thinking and/or testing it, I don't write anything at all - or a comment, at most.

However, I feel that a link to an article, blog post or code library that can help solve the problem is just as good an answer as a complete example with tested code. For example, if I ask a question about how to get some content to a web site with an AJAX request, I am just as happy for a link to an article describing how to return JSON along with a link to the jQuery webiste as I am for some example code.

Anything that is not just a question ("Have you tried...") should be in an answer - and edited if new information comes up.

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I generally write a comment when I don't have a good, tested answer. "Not having an answer" includes things like "did you try Foo" or "what about Bar". Only if I am pretty sure that my answer is useful, and I can think of a paragraph or so to write explaining it, do I submit an actual answer.

(Uh oh, now people are going to go through my answer history and disprove me. I aim for this, I may not be perfect :)

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My philosophy is that any answer to the question should not appear in the comments.

If I have an answer that I'm not sure of, I'll usually take the time to check that it's at least reasonable, then I'll post it (if it works, and usually only if nobody's beaten me to it). If you'd rather post a questionable answer immediately and then check it, I think that's a fair strategy, keeping in mind that it'll get downvoted if it's wrong - in that case, you should probably go back and delete it, or at least edit it to indicate that it's not correct.

Even suggestions that are like answers, or are partial answers, should be written up as answers, in my opinion, rather than being posted in the comments.

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If I make it an answer, then I try to phrase it as a declarative statement instead of as a question, e.g. "I think you do that by setting its display to inline."

If I do make it a declarative statement, then I try to flag its uncertainty or inaccuracy if there is any, e.g. by saying "I think ..." or "I try ..." or whatever if I'm not sure.

If I cannot make a declarative statement of what I'm saying (i.e. if all I have is a question), then I'd post that as a comment instead of as an answer.

Incidentally, people's upvoting my answer would not be sufficient reason for me to edit my answer to increase my implied confidence in it.

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I add it as a comment if it's simply a suggestion that I have not tried (successfully) in the past. If it ends up working, awesome! The OP can edit their post to reflect that.

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