How do you know if something you want to say should be an answer or just a comment?

I assumed that anything that answers the question should be in an "answer" field, and clarifications should be under "comment". But I found this question (https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/97777/words-relating-to-a-chain) in the English Stackexchange site.

The original question asks for words related to the word "chain" and all the answers so far were provided via comment to the original question, instead of in a separate answer field.

Is this the recommended way to answer a question that requires only one-word answers? Or should the comments to the original question be converted to answers instead?


Normally, something that answers the question should be written as answer. Sometimes, users write an answer as comment for different reasons:

  • They don't have the time to write a more complete answer, and they write the comment as a hint for somebody else who could be able to write a more complete answer

  • They are not sure about the answer, which could be just a guess

  • The question is not that clear, and they write an answer as comment, hoping the OP comments about that, making more clear what the expected answer is

  • They are going to vote to close the question

In your case, both the users who commented voted to close the question. That is why they didn't write an answer.


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  • Thanks for the detailed explanation and the screencap. I can't find the question now but it was open for around an hour with those answers-as-comments, making it look like the commenters were just too lazy to turn one-word replies to actual answers. It was only after some time (after I posted this question and logged out) that the same commenters voted to close the question, turning it into scenario 4. Looks like I'll have to be more careful about answering questionable questions that have no answers but lots of short comments. – mary Jan 14 '13 at 10:12
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    The question has been deleted; that is why you cannot see it anymore. Deleted questions are only visible to users with a reputation higher than 9,999, if they have a link to the question. – kiamlaluno Jan 14 '13 at 10:22
  • Aah, so it was closed AND deleted. Thank you again for the clarification! I have a lot of participating to do to be able to see deleted questions then. – mary Jan 14 '13 at 10:47

An answer should

  • answer the question
  • explain why
  • not be guessing

A comment if for

  • hints
  • asking for clarification
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