I often encounter answers on SO are only one line, and later they are not improved.

One of the rules suggests that a user should comment on the question instead of providing a one-line answer (especially in close questions).

Is it fine to have one-line answers?

  • 1
    If such answers answer the question perfectly then it is fine.
    – Himanshu
    Nov 28, 2012 at 6:51
  • 3
    "Writing a novel when a sentence will do is a bad answer." (from Programmers meta)
    – gnat
    Nov 28, 2012 at 7:04
  • @gnat - I agree, but in many cases, a sentence just doesn't make the cut. If it does, then awesome, but most of the time when I see one-liner answers, they're really not all that great.
    – jmort253
    Nov 28, 2012 at 7:07
  • 5
    @jmort253 good point. Of hundreds one-liners I've seen at SO and Programmers, only two or three were great, and maybe a handful rather OK. The rest sucked
    – gnat
    Nov 28, 2012 at 7:11
  • 4
    If the only thing it is contributing is a link, then no it is not fine. Nov 28, 2012 at 7:46
  • @gnat: That's what I have observed. Nov 28, 2012 at 7:48
  • @AustinHenley there is a subtle difference in perception of brief answers with and without links. Links in brief posts tend to dominate, making reader feel like cheated, like the truth is out there. As opposed to this, brief plain text feels fair, sending a strong signal that author considers it self-contained
    – gnat
    Nov 29, 2012 at 6:22

4 Answers 4


I'll answer this by explaining how I handle these when they reach the moderator queue. We see a few distinct types.

First, you have Bob Blogger and Glen Github:

Click this link, it will solve yer problumz.

... May contain a solution, but unless it answers the question completely within the answer itself it's not very useful. Link only answers are also removed, as we know. Barring exceptional cases, I delete these.

Then you get Mr. Negative:

No, that's simply not possible

... Does answer some questions. You could expand that to explain why something can't be done as explained, or perhaps suggest an alternative, but I tend to leave these answers as they are technically answering the question (correctly or otherwise). Votes can take care of the rest. The reverse of that, Mr. Sunshine that simply asserts something as possible - I just delete.

Don't forget Function Q. Junction:

You should use [link]function()[/link]

... Helpful, but at best a comment. There's nothing in the answer that explains how this would help, how to use the function or what to look out for. All you're doing is linking to documentation. Most of the time I convert these to comments, or expand them if the answer happens to be the one that is accepted.

And Terse Tony:

Put the -lm last in the command line, so the linker knows what symbols are needed when scanning the lib.

... Tony may even offer several additional words of explanation. Still, a perfectly valid answer, just a lot of room for improvement .. and syllables.

Finally, the try guy:

Try setting (something) to (something else) and frob the domino boilers

... These can sometimes be highly voted or even accepted, but in essence it started off as little more than a comment. If it appears the guess was correct I'll usually edit it to be more assertive and less of a guess. Otherwise, if it seems like a reasonable suggestion, I'll convert it to a comment so others can see what the OP might have tried.

Everything else such as 'me too', 'thanks', 'asdfgh', 'hi mom!' etc are cut and dry enough to not need explanation. If you think a one line answer is useful enough to keep around, but doesn't constitute an answer just flag it as other and indicate why it should be a comment.

Also note that flagged answers that the community deletes still show up in our queue, so we're usually the final step in the review process anyway.

  • 6
    "frob the domino boilers" - I think I did that at my previous job...
    – J. Steen
    Nov 28, 2012 at 8:19
  • @Tim: Thanks for the explanation. This helps to Delete such answers.. Nov 28, 2012 at 9:12
  • 1
    You didn't mention Terse Tony, "Put the -lm last in the command line, so the linker knows what symbols are needed when scanning the lib.", even giving a bit of explanation. Perfectly valid - but much improvable - answer. Nov 28, 2012 at 11:47
  • 3
    @DanielFischer How could I have forgotten Tony? I am such an insensitive clod!
    – user50049
    Nov 28, 2012 at 12:02
  • 2
    Function Q. Junction is sometimes a good answer. I think so, anyway.
    – TRiG
    Nov 28, 2012 at 12:05
  • Should one-liner answer be flagged as "very low quality"
    – Pandya
    Oct 29, 2018 at 8:45

No, not always.

This answer is a shining example of why one liners are usually bad. Any question that can be answered in one line fully doesn't deserve to be open in the first place.

  • Perfect example of why one liners are not helpful even if they do answer the question.
    – Lix
    Nov 28, 2012 at 7:15
  • @lix this was a rhetorical answer. Probably shoulda made it CW. Oh well. Nov 28, 2012 at 7:16

One liner answers aren't bad simply because they are one-liner answers. However, an answer that doesn't consist of much information is a red flag, and many times this is a symptom of an actual problem with the answer.

For instance, answers that are shorter tend to have a higher chance of failing to answer the question completely or failing to explain why the answer works. On a site dedicated to making the Internet a better place and being useful to future visitors, having a thorough explanation is critical.

The Low Quality Review queue consists of questions and answers that are short. The system automatically flags these as being potentially low quality. Stack Overflow users review them individually and either upvote them, edit them, downvote them, comment on them, or recommend deletion depending on whether or not the material is useful.

So, if the one liner answer is useful or helps someone solve a problem, then it's probably worth leaving. Of course, it's never harmful to suggest that someone add an explanation to their answer, for clarity. :)

In short, judge the answer based on it's own merits. Length alone shouldn't be used to judge an answer.


It depends how good they are, but they'll probably end up in the poor quality answers queue for human checking anyway.

  • 8
    Sorry, couldn't help myself... irony was calling...
    – AndrewC
    Nov 28, 2012 at 7:05

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