When flagging a comment to be deleted, the possible flags are

  • "rude or offensive",
  • "not constructive",
  • "obsolete",
  • "too chatty", and
  • custom.

I'm trying to figure out what "not constructive" means in this context. AFAICT, there are two possibilities:

  1. The comment is not particularly constructive. It doesn't add anything. In other words, roughly, it doesn't do what comments should do, viz attempt to clarify or improve the post or add relevant information.
  2. The comment is destructive. (In this view, "not constructive" is an instance of litotes, like "he's not very smart" to mean "he's quite stupid".)

Which leads me to three questions:

  • Which of those is the correct reading?
  • If (as I suspect and as others have written) #1 is correct, then how is "not constructive" different from "too chatty"? They seem like synonyms.
  • If (as others have written) #2 is correct, then can the flag be reworded from "not constructive" for clarity, please?

2 Answers 2


I think it's the first one as well. But I also agree that there's a lot of ambiguity, and we aren't taught a lot (as moderators or users) about comment flagging.

I would consider these comments not constructive:

This answer is the best.
Please don't answer questions that don't show initiative.
You obviously have no idea what you're talking about. Please stop posting here.
Internet Explorer is useless. Don't bother supporting it. [as seen sort of in your linked post]

I would consider these comments too chatty:

+1 ^^
You give great answers.
Have a nice day!
I've had very similar experiences in the past! Can anyone help me?
Good Question

I guess the ultimate difference here is content. Many "too chatty" comments don't add anything. They're straight noise, without any benefit to anyone. On the other hand "non-constructive" comments do add something, it's just not something that should necessarily be added.

But I would be lying to say I didn't have a fair bit of difficulty with where to place a few of those, it's definitely not obvious, and these might be ambiguous as well.

We've heard it a million times, but comments should be used to request clarification from the author, or add very specific details to an answer. If a comment doesn't do those things (or any that someone marginally used to the system would recognize as appropriate) but does hold some sort of content, there's a reasonable chance that it's not constructive.

I also tend to use "not constructive" in cases where a comment is mean-hearted, but does not necessarily warrant the opprobrium of a "rude or offensive" flag. That speaks something to the "destructive" idea you put forth, and I do think that that's part of it. Of course, also as we all know, flags should not be used to enforce technical accuracy. So make sure, if you're going the "destructive" route, that it isn't "destructive because it says something that's wrong."

But at the end of the day, I guess an important thing to remember is that moderators are humans who sift through flags. Obviously we should all do the best to choose the right flag in any situation, but I think these two are ambiguous enough that in cases of uncertainty, a mod will read your flag and understand the meaning between the two, especially since the resultant actions are the same for either.

  • There is no penalty for any comment flag. They're all treated exactly the same. Nov 27, 2014 at 10:20
  • @MatthewHaugen there is a rep penalty for offensive posts, but not comments. Nov 27, 2014 at 17:14

My understanding is:

  • comment that does something positive: “why did you use a frobnication technique in paragraph 3?”, constructive criticism (“the sky is not red, it's blue; I don't know how that influences the probability of rain”), suggest related resources (“do the answers in this question [link] solve your problem?”), alert a participant about an update (“@previouscommenter I've added the requested information to my question”)) → these stay as long as they haven't been handled
  • comment that used to be in the previous category, but no longer (typically because the post has been updated, or the target has read the alert and the parties have dropped the matter) → obsolete
  • comment that isn't relevant: a digression about unrelated matters (“This reminds me of my youth in the New Crobuzon street gangs. Ah, good times!”), or an idle remark (“Hey, I learnt something today!”) → too chatty
  • comment that is relevant or at least related but isn't in the positive category and is likely to trigger comment arguments or other forms of ill feelings (“For the third time, this is not the right way”, “+1 this is a good answer”, “-1 this is a bad answer”, “What did you try?”) → not constructive
  • comment that is outright rude or offensive (insults, etc.) → rude or offensive

Basically my interpretation is sort of between yours: it's content that, on a discussion medium, would be frowned upon (unlike “too chatty”), but wouldn't typically be subject to immediate deletion or penalties (unlike “rude or offensive”).

In the end, it doesn't matter much. All comment flags are treated in exactly the same way: they go only to moderators, and there is no associated penalty. Moderators can only delete the comment or dismiss the flag, they don't have more fine-grained responses like with post flags.

As a flagger, you should convey the reason why you think the comment should be deleted. Moderators often see the comment out of context (with at least the title of the thread it's on, but not in the context of the full conversation without extra effort), so it's helpful if your comment flag makes sense on its own. A “rude or offensive” or ”too chatty“ flag typically should typically be obviously valid without looking at the full conversation (though the moderator is likely to investigate more for a “rude or offensive” flag anyway); a “not constructive” flag usually requires looking at the context. You can leave a custom comment flag if you want to provide more information; unlike with post flags, there isn't any faster handling or review queue for canned flags. If you aren't sure, don't sweat it, just pick what you think is appropriate.

As a moderator, I don't care about the flag reason. It's only important if it fails to convey why the comment should be deleted; for example I'm likely to dismiss a “rude or offensive” comment on something that isn't rude, even if it would warrant deletion for some other reason that's only apparent in context.

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