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Usually in the comments for questions or answers I see something like "+1 it's a good question/answer". Is it better to do this or to just vote up without saying anything?

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If you have something to say, then leave a comment. If you want to rate the answer, then vote. Both are optional - you shouldn't feel compelled to do something you don't want to. – Shog9 Jun 13 '10 at 2:57
up vote 6 down vote accepted

Usually, when I vote up answers, something of value was pointed out in the answer. Whether I leave a comment depends for me on how obvious the value was to find.

Voting down, on the other hand, probably deserves a comment. Whenever I'm voted down without comment, I can't fix anything since I don't know what I did wrong. So leave a comment in those cases, please.

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As Casey said: When voting up answers, it is also nice to leave a comment about what was so useful about the question. But this is completely optional, because your upvote indicates that the answer was useful anyway. It's a nice thing to do, but it isn't necessary.

Downvotes without comments often cause (some) users to get angry and paranoid, unfortunately, those same users who get really worked up about downvotes are also some of the users who will retaliate if they know who you are. This is the exact reason why voting is anonymous. So, no, you don't ever have to leave a comment on your downvote if you don't want to.

The downvote itself is an indication that you disagree (technically) with something they said, and that is enough. If we solve the problem of people being afraid of downvotes, then it wouldn't matter so much.

Of course, it is always helpful to leave a comment.

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I really hate it if I get downvoted without a given can I improve my answers and myself if someone isn't telling me what's wrong? – Time Traveling Bobby Jun 13 '10 at 19:08
@Bobby: I agree with you, I hate it too, which is why I always leave a comment. But it is not necessary. Sometimes people will just disagree with you, and sometimes, if you re-read your response you'll find areas to improve. It might not be what the downvoter felt was the problem, but improving your answer, for any reason, is always a good thing. – devinb Jun 14 '10 at 6:35
Is retaliation for downvoting really such a big issue? I always comment when I downvote (SO asks me to) should I be worried about getting de-repped for being honest? – Anonymous Type Oct 21 '10 at 2:14

I'd like it if people gave reasons for upvoting questions - many upvotes on questions containing completely incoherent tosh leave me wondering about the upvoter's mental state, and it would be nice to have my prejudices regarding this confirmed, one way or another.

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+1 - I can't read, but enjoy purple stars! – Shog9 Jun 13 '10 at 19:45

If the comment would just be "thanks, that was useful", don't post it. That's already what the upvote means and the comment doesn't add anything.

Add a comment if you think it adds useful content, leave it out if other readers could just as well do without it.

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