We all know that Stack Exchange is not a forum. Well that dealt with Stack Overflow specifically, but it applies to the whole network.

Sometimes, new users will post multiple answers thinking that they are commenting/posting to a thread (e.g. a typical forum structure). For example, see my Q/A on Finance where @me171 posted two separate answers. I tried to guide him/her into the appropriate places to learn about the site/network.

However, there are two answers posted by that person that serve better as comments. What do we do when a newbie posts answers in the format of comments/replies to a thread? Do we merge them, delete and migrate to chat? I am nowhere near 10k on any site and not a moderator, so excuse me if this is a simple problem to be solved!


3 Answers 3


The site moderators need to handle such issues so flag one of the answers for moderator attention with a custom flag and explain exactly what the issue is.

The "answers" there are rather too long and rambling to be turned into comments, so the moderators may well delete them. Moderators also have the ability to message users directly so they might do that too to nudge the user to improve their answers.

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    Moderator message is a serious thing, it leaves a mark on the user account, and shouldn't be used lightly. Only if the user ignore comments asking them to stop and repeatedly posting non-answers, then a moderator message will be justified, in my opinion. Aug 19, 2016 at 6:19
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    There are comments along those lines already under the answers. I agree it would be better if the answerer themselves cleaned them up but unfortunately I suspect that won't happen. It's better for the answerer to learn earlier, assuming that's possible rather than end up with a number of downvoted non-answers on multiple questions and an answer ban. Aug 19, 2016 at 6:30

I see new users trying to use Stack Exchange sites as discussion forums frequently.

So that they learn about focussed Q&A sooner rather than later, as soon as I see their first instance of doing so, I make a comment like:

Welcome to <site> SE! As a new user be sure to take the Tour (e.g. https://meta.stackexchange.com/tour) to learn about our focussed Q&A format which is quite different to any discussion forums, bulletin boards, or other Q&A sites you may have used previously.

I try to follow this up with more specific redirection to Q&A site rather than forum terminology, but what I especially try to get in front of them is the You gotta get this to get us paragraph from We're working on a new stat to help convey the reach of your posts here.

In terms of "answers" in comments, I sometimes suggest they post them as answers, but for some recalcitrants it is easier just to let them expend their energy and miss the opportunity to build their reputations. I figure "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink".

I have been a moderator on two sites for two or so years and have not yet seen a need to consider using a moderator message to try and adjust this behaviour in any of the many users that I have seen start out thinking we are just another forum [sic]. Most learn quickly, a few slowly and some others don't ever get it, and usually don't stay long.


Forums are everywhere, nearly any topic that you could search for on the internet has a forum about it. Trying to find the widely spread (and largely visually similar) Forum model is a very difficult thing to do.

Trying to "address" the "issue" where new users don't understand the Q&A model is also a hard job. Stack Exchange and its community have been trying to change and rearrange the experience for new users so that they can't try and understand the Q&A model before posting. However most users don't read the help screen and go straight to posting.

Rather than trying to fight a systemic relation to forums, It's significantly easier to fight it at the individual level, with a comment like what PolyGeo posted.

With all that said, often times, multiple answers aren't bad. People use multiple answers to separate their solutions or viewpoints.

However, using answers for commenting or replying is bad, but it is done all the time, regardless of whether people think this is a forum. If you spend time in the NAA (Not an Answer) queue, you'll see quite a few of these.

These aren't a new thing, and they're not something that needs to be violently witch-hunted out of the system. Every site has moderators and higher-rep users to keep bad posts out and the site clean.

While your intent is admirable, the "problem" is being dealt with at the side-effect level; there's no need to deal with it directly.

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