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Preface

First, I am aware of the result that allowing full comment formatting is not desirable for several reasons, see for example the discussion in Comment formatting.

I also found a similar question on this matter, How about newlines..., and noticed it was marked as declined. Apologies if reopening this question is against Meta SE rules - the tour didn't mention if 5 years after what seemed to be the last vote on the matter is sufficient for that.

The "pitch"

How about newlines... presented several solid reasons in favor of allowing comment paragraphs, but to condense it even further, here is what I consider the strongest (abstract) reason in favor of admitting comments with paragraphs:

Comments are meant to be "second class" in a sense. That makes sense. However, in order to achieve this goal, it seems rather unnecessary to make them purposefully unreadable as well.

Pretty much anything other than the most simple arguments or thoughts tend to benefit from being broken down into paragraphs. While comments are not supposed to be on the level of full answers,depending on the complexity of the topic (and the answer being commented on), triviality is not an option, even in the comments.

Summary

In my view, making comments more readable is mostly unrelated to the (understandable) goal to not put them on the same level of complexity as full answers, so technical reasons notwithstanding, it seems like a good idea to enable paragraphs in comments.

1 Answer 1

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The fact they are "second class" means adding paragraphs conflicts with their "class". They are footnotes, like you have post-it notes on your desk which are usually a quickly scribble, and get crumpled up and thrown away.

In most cases, if a comment could benefit from a paragraph, then it likely has juicy information, and could either be a new answer, or the question or answer should be edited.
Not always, but then if the above is not true then it's "just" a comment and so paragraphs not required.


I've had a lot of extended discussions in comments (on Meta) and I don't find them a problem having no paragraphs. The only time I've found comments unreadable is when they were badly written.

Granted it could be useful occasionally but for the few times it is useful, the amount of times it will be abused, badly used, or pointless, will outweigh any usefulness by far.
Comments are not really for extended discussions, so paragraphs don't really have their place in them.


Some of the paragraphs in your question have around 300 characters, so by putting two of your paragraphs together without a break we get around 600 chars.
As the comment char limit is 600 you are effectively showing that we only need one paragraph split in comments.

Is one paragraph really that useful or much of an improvement?

Here are two paragraphs copy/pasted from your question but with the paragraph break removed:

How about newlines... presented several solid reasons in favor of allowing comment paragraphs, but to condense it even further, here is what I consider the strongest (abstract) reason in favor of admitting comments with paragraphs. Pretty much anything other than the most simple arguments or thoughts tend to benefit from being broken down into paragraphs. While comments are not supposed to be on the level of full answers,depending on the complexity of the topic (and the answer being commented on), triviality is not an option, even in the comments.

553 chars, so nearly the full limit for comments. Is the above that unreadable?
Used within a post (question or answer) it would perhaps benefit from one break somewhere, as you have done, but I don't think it's over the top at all, and especially for comments.

We need to keep comments simple, adding styles or flow control like paragraphs moves them up the chain of "use" and we don't want that.
They are currently perfectly adequate for their intended usage, and work perfectly well considering their "class" level.

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  • Thanks for taking the time to write a (very thoughtful) answer. I agree with the premises of your "look at the no. of chars in your own post" argument, but I don't reach the same conclusion: I can think of several comments on, say, math.stackexchange, that would have benefited from one or two breaks, essentially marking the author saying "And now for the next step in my argument". As of now, some short, but content-wise "dense" comments have to be parsed once or twice before the intended structure is understood. Not terrible, but inefficient, I'd argue. (1/2) Jun 14, 2015 at 12:44
  • I also find the claim "paragraphs would move comment class up" rather doubtful. Their length stays the same, so what can be expressed would stay the same, just how easily it will be understood would be different. All that said, I can see that voting indicates there's little support for the idea, so I better get used to the status quo. (2/2) P.S. Not sure if my breaking down this comment into two parts is a point in your favor ("See, there's a way already") or mine ("But it's a kludge.") =) Jun 14, 2015 at 12:48
  • An argument for "site specific" might carry more weight, if indeed some sites would benefit from it. But, even then, comments are not supposed to be so important. I know, they are, we all use them in a way whereby they are quite important now. But they're not supposed to be. If a comment could benefit from a paragraph, then it likely has juicy information, and in "most" cases could either be a new answer, or the question or answer should be edited.
    – James
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:51
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    The length doesn't stay the same as you introduce line breaks. The char count could stay the same, but imagine a post with a discussion of say 12 decent sized comments, now imagine it where all comments have paragraphs. It's look like a real discussion, which comments are not supposed to be really. As for breaking down your comment, it's fine by me, and probably most people as your comments are substantial. Adding only a sentences or two in different comments would probs not be a good idea.
    – James
    Jun 14, 2015 at 12:53
  • Another very good point. Perhaps it comes down to "How it should work by design" vs. "How it works in reality, given human constraints". I'd argue that if, magically, comments would be made non-informative, and their information would have to be added to an answer, on a site like MSE a lot of information would never be added at all. It seems to me that some "asides" aren't taken as important enough by those who write them to be entered as an answer, but for the (less advanced) reader, they can make the difference in understanding the actual answers. Jun 14, 2015 at 12:58

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