I'm wondering what the etiquette is for suggesting that a user accept a different answer to their question.

A recent example: shortly after the OP posted the question, an answer was posted and quickly accepted. The answer was technically correct, but was short and low-quality. 45 minutes later another answer was posted, which was lengthy, thoroughly explained the answer to the question, and was just an all-around good answer. The accepted answer has only 1 upvote, and the other answer 5. So clearly there is community consensus regarding which is the better answer; it is not only my opinion driving this question. The problem is that, even though the better answer has more upvotes, it will never rise above the accepted answer when being displayed.

So my question is this: I would like to comment on the question and suggest that the OP change their accepted answer, as the other answer is far superior and I would prefer visitors to the site view excellent content to poor. It is of course their choice, and I would word the suggestion politely, but I'm not sure if it is proper etiquette to advise a user on which answer I think should be accepted. In this case this was actually the OP's first question on the site, which adds another layer of complexity, but I think the etiquette should probably be the same regardless. So, can anyone please advise me on the SE guidelines for such situations? Can I politely prod the OP, or do I need to just leave it alone? (To clarify, none of the answers in question are mine.)

I attempted to find an answer to this question before posting it; the closest I came was this, which is related but not a duplicate.


Most of the answers here make great points about not interfering with users decisions regarding what answers they accept. But one thing missing from the answers here is that the accepted answer is not supposed to mean the best answer, nor does it represent the best answer as decided by the community.

From the Help Center page, What does it mean when an answer is "accepted":

When a user receives a good answer to his or her question, that user has the option to "accept" an answer. Acceptance is indicated by a colored checkmark next to the answer that has been accepted by the original author of the question.

Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for him or her personally, but not every user comes back to accept an answer, and of those who do, they may not change the accepted answer if a newer, better answer comes along later.

Thus, the number of upvotes -- the community's opinion on what answer is best, has no bearing on what answer actually helped the op solve his or her problem.

That's just what the accepted answer is: It's the answer that best helped the op solve his or her particular problem.

Encouraging users to change the answer he or she accepts is wrong, simply because you're now asking the asker to mark a completely different answer as the one that helped him or her.

As others have said, this is why there are upvotes. Upvotes represent what the community thinks as the most helpful answers, while the green checkmark indicates the answer that solves the op's problem. They serve two completely different purposes, and if we're to educate users on how these sites work, we should be sure to do it correctly.

From the Help Center page, What is "voting up"?

Voting up is how the community indicates which questions and answers are most useful and appropriate.

Bold emphasis in both quotations is mine.


My recommendation: Don't.

Just write the best answer you can, and possibly mention the defects of other answers.

You could comment on the accepted answer and point out any flaws, perhaps referencing better answers in the process.

But I would not make any statement directed at the OP suggesting that they change their decision.

If there are better answers, they will (hopefully) generate more votes and float to the top anyway.


That's why there is accepting and there is upvoting

It's no reason to ask to change accepted answer if accepted is correct. (If we suppose that OP knows about this possibility). It will be notified about answer and could have his own decision


From an etiquette point of view, many people find any and all comments that mention accepting to be a little bit icky. Two exemptions are granted:

  • teaching very new users who have expressed gratitude, for example "you're welcome. You can show other people that the answer worked for you by accepting it (click the checkmark)"
  • suggesting that a user unaccept your own answer and accept someone else's because it is better

By and large, any comments by third parties with no skin in the game ("hey, Bill's answer is better than the one you accepted, you should switch it") are considered a little bit icky and selfish comments ("please accept my answer") are considered really icky.

There's even a software mechanism that will delete any comment on a single "offensive" flag if that comment contains the word accept - that should let you know how commenting about accepting is held in low esteem.

I recommend patience. I have seen accepts move to better answers - it usually takes a few days. You can always comment on the great answer mentioning how great it is - though not the dreaded +1 comment - say what it is that makes it stand out.

  • This makes sense, thanks for your answer. I shall simply have to get over it, which is perfectly fine with me :) That's interesting about the offensive flags, I didn't know that. One sub-question; does your advice change if the user is brand-new? I note your exception for teaching them to accept, but perhaps they aren't aware they can change the accept either. What do you think in that case? – WendiKidd Jul 6 '13 at 23:45
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    if they comment something like "oh, I wish I hadn't accepted that one so quickly" you can easily reply that they can change it. But if you're the author of the answer they might switch to, wait a few hours to see if someone else makes that reply for you – Kate Gregory Jul 7 '13 at 0:19
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    The one-flag deletion was directed at "accept rate" comments. I don't think it was ever intended to do anything about general discussion of acceptance. – jscs Jul 7 '13 at 3:41
  • @KateGregory Oh no, neither of the answers are mine. It just bothers me that new users coming to the site are going to be immediately directed to poor content, so I was going to let the new user know that they could change the accepted answer to the better one. The general consensus seems to be that I should get over it, though, so I shall try. :) – WendiKidd Jul 7 '13 at 15:02

I don't see anything particularly wrong with educating a new user about site features such as being able to change which answer you accept.

Though I might have a problem with it if you stood to personally benefit from it.

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    There's nothing wrong with educating new users as to how the site works, but as I said in my answer, just make sure you're educating them with the correct information. Asking them to change their accepted answer because there's one that the collective thinks is better is not how answer acceptance is designed to work. Hope this helps! – jmort253 Jul 7 '13 at 0:41

One solution is to award a bounty for an answer you consider to be worthy of attention.

Reward existing answer One or more of the answers is exemplary and worthy of an additional bounty

Sometimes very good answers are posted late, days or even weeks after the question was posted, as a result they barely get noticed by the community. Consequently, they may only gain two or three upvotes, a number so low (this happens often in ELL) that a casual visitor may underestimate its value. By awarding a bounty and clearly stating your reason behind this, you are rewarding not only the user who posted his or her "great" answer but you are also nudging the OP to reconsider and move their accepted mark. If the OP is nevertheless still happy with the answer they accepted, and chooses not switch, at least a red bounty label remains next to the exemplary answer, effectively telling future visitors that this is the "best answer" all round.

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