I asked a question regarding a very specific feature of a program and whether or not it works with a larger program. Within hours someone had marked it with "This question may already have an answer here of a similar question, but not related to my question.

The question I asked IS NOT ADDRESSED in the referred-to question. It's frustrating to spend half an hour putting together an intelligent and specific question, and then have someone mark it as a duplicate (or possible duplicate), which apparently causes people to skip over my question. I haven't received any more responses since the question was flagged.

Two questions: (1) How do I get this flagging removed and (2) what's the best way to prevent these "helpful" flaggings in the future?

  • 15
    1. Ignore it and it will go away when other members of the community disagree with it and all votes have aged away. 2. Educate every member of the community on how to flag duplicates properly. -- And no, it doesn't cause people to "skip over" your question. Aside from that single comment there, there's nothing else to indicate to anyone that it might be a duplicate. That "possible answer elsewhere" box only appears to you until the question gets closed.
    – animuson StaffMod
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 16:31
  • @user232247 - duplicate flagging also servers as a Sign Post to help future visitors find similar questions and answers. Don't sweat it too much - just include a sentence explaining why its not a duplicate and everything should work as intended. That shows you "did your homework". Kate goes into it in more detail below. Also see Linking Duplicate Questions. (The real frustrating part is when you are flagged as a duplicate, but the duplicate question has no answers... Go figure that one out!).
    – user173448
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 20:42
  • @Rob This question was already closed for the same reason and later reopened. Even though the situation being referred to is on Stack Overflow, the question being asked in the end is not only applicable to it. I've made an edit that should make that clear. Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 22:19
  • @NathanTuggy Looks like this question was once again voted as site-specific. I've made an edit that scrubs all references to Stack Overflow while keeping the rest of the question intact; hopefully that should stop it. Commented Sep 1, 2019 at 22:20
  • 1
    This question, prior to any of today's edits, could be interpreted either as specific to one question on Stack Overflow or as generally asking what you should do when this happens on any site. I originally interpreted it generally, but when my edit to remove the specific-question tag (which doesn't belong in that case, because it's not specific to one question) was rejected as deviating from the original intent of the post, I took that to mean that the reviewers interpreted the question the specific way, which made it off-topic, leading me to flag it as such.
    – pppery
    Commented Sep 2, 2019 at 4:18

3 Answers 3


When someone wants to close your question as a duplicate even when it's not, you should immediately edit (not re-post) the question to clarify that it is not.

Here's how not to do it:

EDIT: This is NOT a duplicate of the other question. Stop flagging this!

Instead, go back through your question and reword it a little. Maybe add a sentence or even just a few more adjectives. Also say something like

I have read [title of other question, linked to it] and it's helpful, but doesn't address [whatever].

This should be phrased in a way that makes sense even when the close votes are all gone, and is generally best in the body of the question, not as a comment under it. Not all close voters read the comments.

Don't get too excited if your question is wrongly suggested to be a duplicate. Just one close vote or close flag will add the banner when you view the question, but it won't be shown to anyone else at that point. It takes multiple votes or a user with a gold badge for one of the question's tags to actually close it. After you've edited in the clarification, the close vote may "age away", and users reviewing close votes may issue "leave open" reviews in a review queue.

Even if the question gets closed, it will be pretty simple to reopen it. You can edit your post and check the box to put the post into the review queue, or you may vote to reopen it yourself (if you have 250+ rep), and again it just takes the same amount of voters to reopen it.

Note that due to how the reopen review system works, if you or someone else has performed a minor edit after closure, you should perform a more substantive edit that clearly explains why it's not a duplicate, so that reviewers see it. (If the question is edited after closure, reviews see a diff of the edit rather than the question itself; sometimes reviewers just see the minor edit and don't bother to look at the question, and thus disagree with reopening it.)

Once your question has been reviewed in the review queue, the notice will indicate if others reviewed it and determined your question should still be closed. In this case, you can try again with another edit that makes it clearer your question isn't answered in the target. Reviewers can also specify that a different close reason applies to your question (such as if your edits make the question no longer a duplicate but it's now no longer in scope for the site); you can make another edit to address that other close reason.

If you tried editing again but your question was still left closed in review, or as an alternative, you can post a request on the per-site meta asking for it to be reopened and providing a clear argument. Be sure to clearly explain with details why your question isn't a duplicate or why the answers to that question don't address your question. If your question was left closed in review, it means other community members have already reviewed your question and determined the closure to be valid, so you should convince them with facts that they made the wrong decision.

In the end, being closed or marked as a duplicate isn't permanent for many questions; it's just a pause to improve.

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    This is an excellent suggestion/explanation and I really appreciate the effort that everyone went to in explaining this situation to me. I'll take this advice in the future.
    – user232247
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 21:48
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    The advice given here is exactly what I did. I posted a question that got marked as a duplicate, when my question is asking something completely different. Before I even posted my question, I clarified what I trying to do, but nobody seemed to read my clarification. After the first close vote, I edited my question and very redundantly explained why it wasn't a duplicate. I even added an image to show what I was trying to do! But it was too late, the first close vote started an avalanche. stackoverflow.com/questions/22465446/…
    – James Dunn
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 14:21
  • 2
    Within seconds of posting the above comment, I found that my question had been reopened. It looks like the "vote to reopen" option is a good one, when combined with redundant clarifying edits. It gets the moderators' attention!
    – James Dunn
    Commented Mar 18, 2014 at 14:35
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    The one thing though is, specific instances of questions aside, why doesn't the community put more of a burden on the flagger to have some idea of what they're talking about before they flag? I mean sometimes there could be legitimate confusion, but a lot of times, it seems like somebody just glanced at a few key phrases without ever really reading the question. At that point it seems to really detract from the SE community as a whole to have that kind of unnecessary and reckless distraction. Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:14
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    it takes 5 votes to actually close it. You may feel that someone isn't bothering to notice that this question is different, or the truth may be that even though some details are different, the underlying question is in fact the same, and the answer to the duplicate will answer this. (That may be hard to know when you're new to a subject.) Lazy flaggers exist, as do lazy upvoters, lazy downvoters, lazy askers, and lazy answerers. The system believes they are outweighed by those doing a good job, @Panzercrisis, and I think so too. "Unneccessary and reckless" might be an over-reaction. Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:23
  • and again it just takes 5 voters (different from the first 5) to reopen it - Actually, a person who VTCed can also VTRO even if the question hasn't been edited or anything.
    – Mithical
    Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 13:45
  • hmm, perhaps they have to retract their close vote? Do you have a link I can edit in, @Mithrandir? Commented Sep 15, 2016 at 14:40
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    Just one close-vote or close-flag will add the banner when you view the question, but it won't be shown to anyone else at that point. is very useful information - I was not aware that what I see is not what others see. It makes the "on-vole close for duplicate" way less stressful when it is not a duplicate.
    – WoJ
    Commented Nov 4, 2016 at 10:55

what's the best way to prevent these "helpful" flaggings in the future?

Although you put this word into ironic quotes, it is helpful indeed, and instead of preventing, you better learn to use these flaggings to your advantage.

ode to dupes (from the asker's perspective:)

Just think of it: someone invested their effort, did some research and let you know that they believe your question has an answer elsewhere.

First thing to do when this happens (as you correctly did btw), is to go to the mentioned "possible duplicate" and study the answers given there.

Okay, now let's take a closer look at various possible outcomes of your study…

1. You discover that one of the answers in duplicate solves your issue

This is the best possible outcome, quite a pity it didn't happen to you this time. It occurred once or twice to me and have to admit, it felt… great. Just think of it, you get your answer, what could be better?

In cases like this I flag / or vote to close my own question myself.


The reason for "self-closure" is simple: since I found an answer, I want to save self from trouble of further "maintenance" of my question — you know, from studying and replying to possible comments, answers, from stuff like that.

Since I found an answer, I just don't need my question anymore, and the sooner I get it closed, the less I will need to worry about it in the future.

1.1. A less lucky (but still, lucky) variation of above…

…is when you find that although there is no answer to your question there (yet), the question itself is really the same as yours.

This isn't bad either, and in this case it also makes good sense to close-vote your own question — simply because this allows you to get rid of the need to maintain it. Instead, you can just follow the answers coming to the duplicate one.

2. You discover that duplicate only looks similar…

…but differs in essence from your question.

Okay, this is actually a pretty useful knowledge. Think of it, if it feels similar to you, then it might feel similar to other readers of your question who could in turn begin giving you useless answers addressing that similar question instead of yours. Now this is something worth preventing, isn't it?

You don't need answers telling you "do X" when you already know this won't help you, you need a way to "repel" these before they get in and begin wasting your efforts in cumbersome explanations that this is not what you need. Good news is, that "possible duplicate notification" gives you the means to prevent this.

  • Think of it, before the mentioned notification you didn't even know that your question may be misread that way, that it can get useless answers because of this mis-interpretation. But, now you know, and you can use this knowledge to your advantage!

All you do is just edit your question and add something like:

There is another question that reads similar, but it is actually different, because of <explain what are the differences between what you need and what is needed in that other question>.

That's it! Any reader now clearly understands what kind answers aren't of interest for you, this saves you from being pestered by irrelevant stuff like that anymore.

3. You discover that "duplicate" is totally different, obviously irrelevant.

That's the least useful outcome, but still…

If you think of it, "possible duplicate notification" warns you that someone dumb enough may misread your question in a really weird way (and, well, bother you by posting respectively weird answers and comments).

This risk is rather minor compared to previous case (similar-but-different) but thing is, preventing it is much easier, too. Since you already invested (wasted) some effort on studying that useless not-a-dupe-at-all, just put a little extra effort into "converting" it into something at least marginally useful to you.

For that, you just edit your question and add at its bottom something like,

Side note I also studied another question to find out maybe there's something useful to me there, but it turned out totally irrelevant because of <put an obvious, easy to understand, explanation "for dummies" here>.

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    This answer is potential FAQ material.
    – jscs
    Commented Aug 23, 2013 at 19:29
  • 14
    I don't particularly agree with using the close feature as a stick to drive questioners to edit their question, especially for things that are at best tangentially related. Too often, users see one close vote and (also, trying to be helpful and clean up the site) join the herd without checking just how duplicate the linked question is.
    – Telastyn
    Commented May 11, 2014 at 16:51
  • 2
    @Telastyn: But the closing system is explicitly not only for marking off-topic and unsalvageable things, but also to make sure the answer is clarified (and giving a hint in what way) so it will become answerable and maybe even a great question. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 22:02
  • @Deduplicator - have a reference to that explicit point? I don't remember ever seeing such a motivation.
    – Telastyn
    Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 22:09
  • 9
    In practice, I rarely observe these benefits. In practice, it looks more like people skim questions, and if there's a duplicate annotation, fairly quickly decide this is not a place to spend time (correctly, because once a question is marked as a duplicate it's unlikely to be reopenend, and core stack exchange functionality is crippled). As far as I've seen, most duplicate annotations really mean "similar or related" and serve to cripple further discussion for no good purpose. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 9:53
  • 4
    Note also that these benefits are largely achievable with plain comments. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 10:59
  • @EamonNerbonne clarifying in comments would probably work too, but I generally hesitate recommending this, to avoid an impression that it's okay to put really important details here (sometimes, "de-duplication" clarifications may be quite important). See: Help us figure out a way to handle the explosion of comments on Stack Overflow
    – gnat
    Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 11:04
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    The problem is that even if questions are conceptually identical, the perspective people have and the context often differs and therefore the answers are usually not duplicate. Just look at questions that are marked as duplicate that have answers and activity; often this activity is quite useful and interesting. Closing a question is estructive; nor does it really provide a path to salvage what effort the questioner and answerers of the closed question have made (which is amply underlined by the fact that answers aren't typically migrated). And this is in the "worst case" of true duplication. Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 12:08
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    If indeed long-ago answers had some way of regaining momentum it wouldn't be so bad (the collaborative search for a solution could continue there), but that's not the reality for all kinds of reasons; the reality is that whatever momentum there was is simply squashed; it's basically a way of making clear tp participants that they're wasting their time and effort (i.e. they're not welcome here). Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 12:14
  • 1
    e.g. see this thread: meta.stackexchange.com/a/32315/133369 Commented Jul 4, 2014 at 12:15
  • Why have you made one part of your answer as spoiler?
    – user829542
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 19:13
  • it's under spoiler because I wanted to explain the intent of this answer and in the same time tried to avoid this meta-explanation standing in a way of presenting its main points to the readers. When drafting the answer I first tried to make it in a smaller font but spoiler worked better to me
    – gnat
    Commented Nov 10, 2020 at 19:36
  • To prevent people from misreading your question and marking an irrelevant question as a similar question, they should be forced to provide a reason why it answers the question. After all, they are the one making a claim that it's a duplicate, the burden of evidence should be on them. Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 2:24

A follow up to Kate's answer, which seems to merit its own answer

Use Kate's suggestion, but preemptively. If you've done your research properly, it is highly likely you will have already found the supposed duplicate. When you are posting your question for the first time, you can say something like:

I've found a similar question [link to it] but it doesn't address the specific problem of [xyz].

This has a two fold benefit in addition to heading off possible marks as duplicates. It helps others needing a similar solution. (Interestingly, they might find yours first, see that it does NOT do what they need, but they then find the other solution which you linked to.) The other related benefit is these links in the post show up over in the Links panel on the right side ... and even faster way to find stuff.

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