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According to the rules and various statements, comments are for clarification, while answers are...well...answers.

However, in various questions, I have seen answers given directly in comments. Sometimes, these answers are long, and sometimes they are short. I have also seen short answers as answers, so there is definitely a situational difference.

I looked into this thread, but I still do not understand the semantic difference between the two. Anyone can explain this?

  • 8
    Comments are usually used to answer a question when the commenter a) doesn't think the question should remain (it's a likely dupe, it is low-quality, ...) b) isn't exactly certain whether or not they are actually right or c) believes there needs to be a more elaborate answer than the comment they give (as in: the comment is a hint where an answerer may wish to look for a full solution). - In this case, I'm fairly certain there's a dupe somewhere. – user98085 Jul 27 '13 at 0:25
  • Related: Comments have become answers. The question not so much, but the answers there, definitely. – Michael Petrotta Jul 27 '13 at 0:38
  • In meta, questions can be answered also by comments! – user210003 Jul 27 '13 at 0:38
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I've seen this many times, especially on Meta.

(You'll have to trust me with this assertion, because I'm not going to go and trawl for examples or name names...) Usually these answers are left by high rep individuals. They are interested in helping someone but due to circumstances, i.e.:

  • not looking for (more meaningless) rep
  • too busy
  • don't expect the question to survive
  • haven't got time to dig out supporting references that a good answer should have
  • haven't got the time (or inclination) to select the appropriate duplicate (from potentially 100's) in order to close the question

they tender the answer as a comment.

Are they throw-away answers? Not really, they are still perfectly valid and correct.

Do we want to encourage this habit? Probably not, but nor should we stomp on it.

3

I think it depends on the site, but on non-meta sites, I think "answers" as comments come in 2 different flavors.

  1. Question that should be closed but someone wants to help out the OP before or after the question gets closed
  2. I don't know the answer and just have a guess, so I leave it as a comment instead.

For meta sites, it is usually just a short answer or link and not worth a full answer.

0

The main reason for me is because I don't want to be downvoted for feeding a help vampire. However, if you're referring to [meta] as well, it's probably because people don't understand that saying "-1 ..." in a comment could easily well be an a swer explaining why they don't want the proposal to succed.

Look at FEichinger's comment. That could very wel be an answer here IMHO.

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