I had this short exchange with two other users:

@HighRepUser The new code of conduct simply asks that we keep a friendly tone as we point out the flaws in a post. Nobody should have trouble doing that. – Rainbolt 1 hour ago

@Rainbolt Nobody should have trouble posting a comment that is widely considered appropriate, reasonable, professional, and not at all rude by the community at large. Basically no one is capable of writing a comment that a mod will consider friendly enough to not delete (especially if it's in any way pointing out a flaw in anything), given the standards they hold comments to. – User 1 hour ago

@Rainbolt Unfortunately... reality doesn't work that way. – OtherUser 11 mins ago

I read the new Code of Conduct again. As far as I can tell, helping others see their mistakes is totally fine. On the contrary, I have an 80k+ and a 200k+ reputation user saying that it won't be allowed by the moderators. Are they being dramatic, or am I really not supposed to comment when someone gets it wrong?

I understand that many stacks have their own additional rules that go above and beyond the code of conduct, but what I really want to know is the network wide policy.

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    I think you may have misunderstood the point i was making... or I yours. There's nothing wrong with pointing out problems with someone's post if done respectfully. That's not what the question was about.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:28
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    If anything, this simply highlights the level of ridiculousness of the whole "friendly vs. unwelcoming" situation. At one extreme you should be able to freely criticize since that's what's needed to improve content. On the other extreme, it's impossible to not be unwelcoming unless you shower the person with praise and nothing but praise because it makes him/her feel good because they want to feel good.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:34
  • reading back through it... the entire comment chain is completely missing the point of the question.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:41
  • At first I thought you were telling me that the new code of conduct doesn't allow for constructive feedback. Now that I read your comment again, I think you were trying to tell me that in reality, some people post unfriendly comments. Agree. And yea, my comment on that other post was off topic.
    – Rainbolt
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:44
  • @Rainbolt You're not wrong with your assessment. Depending on who you're talking to, there is often no overlap between constructive feedback and being friendly. So you have to your poison.
    – Mysticial
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:47
  • yeah, basically, sure, everyone should be capable of posting comments that aren't against the coc... but... whether or not they do, at any reasonable frequency, is something else. I haven't had very many cases where i responded to someone asking why the downvote where i didn't end up having my intelligence insulted.
    – Kevin B
    Aug 10, 2018 at 21:47
  • 'if done respectfully' - if only that was defined for everyone who asks questions. It is is not, so you cannot guarantee to be able to point out problems in a 'respectful' manner. Aug 10, 2018 at 21:54
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    Nitpick: I imagine the first user meant "Everyone should have trouble..." or "Nobody should be able to...". Otherwise the comment doesn't make much sense.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 11, 2018 at 10:24
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    On Interpersonal Skills, you're not allowed to post comments pointing out problems in answers (I imagine this is a network-wide policy, but IPS specifically seems really obsessed about getting rid of those). You need to suggest an improvement or request clarification (or post an answer of your own). The takeaway for me is that we don't care about the correctness of answers.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 11, 2018 at 10:30
  • @NotThatGuy "you can't even add, 2+ 2 is not 5" doesn't suggest an improvement and is rude. "I believe 2+2 is actually 4, perhaps you could edit?" suggests an improvement. Preferring the second wording does not mean "we don't care about the correctness of answers." We just also care about the way you tell someone their answer could be more correct. For great examples of such comments check out Puzzling where people improve the heck out of each other's answers using comments only. Aug 11, 2018 at 21:11
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    @KateGregory "you can't even add, 2+2 is not 5, perhaps you could edit?" is also rude, and "I believe 2+2 is actually 4" seems essentially equivalent to your second phrasing. Although if I convert that comment to something one might say on IPS, I get "I believe telling someone X is likely to cause offence, perhaps you could edit it?", which I'm 99.99999% sure will not survive on IPS. Maybe one can say "Can you address how to respond if they take offence at X?". But I'd rather just say what I want to say instead of having to say it indirectly using loaded questions to get past the mods.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 12, 2018 at 0:47
  • I am sure, @NotThatGuy, that you can compose many similar rude comments. That does not mean polite comments don't exist (as the question asserts) or that we don't care about the correctness of answers. It simply means that "but it's true" is not an exemption from the code of conduct. On IPS the anti-comment stance is not so much about politeness as it is about preventing answers-in-comments and random speculation, both rampant there due to the subject matter. Aug 12, 2018 at 0:50
  • @KateGregory The IPS rules seems comparable to disallowing any comment containing "2+2 is actually 4" and instead only allowing something like "Can you explain your thought process to get 5 from 2+2?", which doesn't do much to convey the message that 2+2 is actually 4.
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 12, 2018 at 0:50
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    @KateGregory: Readers might be forgiven for detecting sarcasm in "I believe 2+2 is actually 4". Aug 12, 2018 at 13:21

3 Answers 3


Certainly, it's possible address flaws in a friendly/neutral and factual tone. It's unlikely such comments will get deleted, unless a moderator is of the opinion they've served their purpose and are no longer needed, which has nothing to do with the code of conduct.

Yes, we should be mindful of how we express ourself, and think about how our words could be interpreted. No, we shouldn't stop talking altogether.

I've noted some users talking about stopping commenting altogether, or being very restrictive with comments. I believe this has more to do with expressing their thoughts on the code of conduct than what's actually allowed

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    This post restates the assumption in question, without backing it up any further. It would be better to give examples where someone might reasonably suppose it to be difficult to post a friendly criticism (but where this actually is possible), or otherwise give some specific, reasonably objective backup to the assertions. Aug 11, 2018 at 2:53
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    @NathanTuggy Luckily, you just proved my point by sharing criticism on this answer. Unfortunately, the question doesn't discuss a specific answer, and I can't imagine one where it would be difficult, so I'll just leave you with a random number: there are currently 105549 comments on answers on Stack Overflow containing the text improve that haven't been deleted (source). Presumably, a lot of them talk about how answers can be improved, without getting deleted for violating the CoC.
    – Erik A
    Aug 11, 2018 at 6:44

The short answer is "yes".

It depends on what exactly you mean by things like "acceptable", "friendly", "flaws". If you're reasonably polite and you don't have a pattern of posting disruptive comments, it's quite unlikely that you'll be suspended or otherwise disciplined for posting critical comments.

I assume what the replies are getting at is that there's no guarantee that your comment won't be deleted, no matter how friendly it is. A number of moderators lean hard on the "comments are ephemeral, should only be used for requesting clarification or encouraging the original author to improve the post" ideal, especially in sites that tend to get a lot of comments. Even if your comment isn't particularly objectionable, a moderator might delete it based on this theory of what comments are for.

E.g. two relatively common scenarios when someone posts a comment pointing out a flaw are 1) the original author of the post never responds in any way and 2) the original author of the post replies in the comments and expresses disagreement with the criticism. When either of these happens, then past a certain point, it seems increasingly unlikely that the comment will ever lead to the post being "improved". So my impression is that some moderators will delete even friendly comments after a while in these kinds of circumstances (or if the comment and replies started to look like a "discussion", they might be migrated to a chat room).

One issue is that in some cases (certainly not all), the existence of "flaws" in a post is a matter of opinion. I think comments pointing out factual mistakes/errors are obviously valuable, and should be retained even if it seems that the post will never be edited to fix the mistake, but comments that criticize something that is more of a judgement call (I think this kind of thing is particularly likely to come up on sites like https://interpersonal.stackexchange.com/ and https://workplace.stackexchange.com/) might not be viewed as useful.


It is pretty simple: unless there is a community within the Stack Exchange network where the members decided to discourage commenting, you absolutely are allowed to write friendly comments in order to support the original author to improve the quality of his content.

The main purpose (from the future readers perspective) is that our communities contain high quality content. Helpful, constructive feedback is an essential element of getting there.

Of course, five downvotes tell the author that his input isn't conceived well. But that doesn't give any insights why that is. Or what to improve.

I have been there often enough myself: you write a nice answer, and then you get downvotes. Sometimes I figured the problem myself, but more than once a friendly, constructive comment enabled me to fix the issue (which I simply didn't see!) myself.

So writing such comments is not only "friendly", it is often essential to achieve that aforementioned goal of high quality content.

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