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I recently came across this answer to a basic "help I can't do X because I'm new" question, here on MSE.

First of all to get a reputation you should not asking a question like that! Secondly check the page so your questions will get up vote and in the end try using the homepage frequently and help the others with well answers

I flagged it as Rude & Abusive, seeing our be nice policy and all I felt this didn't really fit with being nice as it uses an exclamation mark, and tells people basically not to ask a question.

Which then got the

Declined - a moderator reviewed your flag, but found no evidence to support it

canned response. Was I overreacting in this case, or did the moderator who handled the flag take this too lightly?

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    It's not outright rude, it's just unfriendly. As a comment, we could use a proper flag. As answer, we should just downvote and move away, it should not be deleted right away. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Sep 10 at 11:54
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Per the guidelines defined in What are the “spam” and “rude or abusive” (offensive) flags, and how do they work?, this isn't really rude.

What makes something rude or abusive and when should I flag it?

A post should be marked as rude or abusive (formerly known as offensive) if it contains hate speech, obscenities, abuse against people, or abuse of the community or system, i.e., a clear violation of the be-nice policy.

Hate speech, abuse, etc, there's none of that. I do agree such an "answer" can pester some, but it's not rude. Actually, the first "don't" bullet point tackles that:

Do not use this flag because:

  • A post criticises somebody or something in a civil manner.

Spam and rude flags are not handled lightly by moderators, as they carry heavy penalties on the flagged poster (and rightly so).


So sure, it's criticism, but it's relatively civil. Depending on what the question was (hard to judge without it), it might be "not an answer", which would have been the correct flag. You may want to leave a comment under the answer to explain what's wrong, then flag accordingly.

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    Yeah, I forgot the penalty aspect there, in that sense this is too harsh a flag to use. I was misled by the flag name, as I personally find this text rude. Perhaps the flag name could use some tweaking to indicate that this is really about edge case rudeness. – Luuklag Sep 10 at 7:06
  • What makes me wonder is that the help link of the RA flag goes here: meta.stackexchange.com/conduct Which states that snarky posts should be flagged, however it never becomes clear, neither in the linked help center post, that the obvious Rude flag shouldn't be used. I might make a separate discussion about that. – Luuklag Sep 10 at 7:15
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    It's clearly unfriendly and very not welcoming.. – Shadow The Princess Wizard Sep 10 at 11:55
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This answer is definitely unfriendly and something needs to be done to it, but (I haven't seen this specific Q&A) is it really worth receiving a blocked/hobbled IP address and -100 reputation? Rude/abusive flags are 'heavy' tools and shouldn't be used lightly. This is a slightly different situation than comments, where we have a 'soft' R/A flag in the form of the 'unfriendly or unkind' option.

Since this post does seem to attempt to answer the question, albeit in a very generic way, a 'Not an Answer' flag isn't warranted either.

If I encountered such a post, I might have edited it into something like

Questions like that aren't likely to give you reputation. Please read the help center to improve your questions will get upvotes, and in the end try using the homepage frequently and help the others with good answers.

and it might be that the ♦ moderator handling the flag thought you should have done so as well. You don't have the edit privilege (yet), but it's easy to miss that from the flag dashboard. And you could have suggested this as an edit.

I felt this didn't really fit with being nice as it uses an exclamation mark

Punctuation is used differently by different people. This particular instance might be inspired by text messaging, and scientific research confirms that ending your texts with a period is terrible. Anyway, it's typography and something which can be improved by editing.

and tells people basically not to ask a question.

No, it tells people that a specific question is bad, which is an opinion and one which can be backed with objective criteria. Again, without seeing the question, chances are high that the person who wrote that answer is actually right about that. Furthermore, it even offers some guidance on how to improve the question.

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    The problem lies with the author of the original question not being very skilled in the English language, hence its post is a bit comprehensible. I explicitly chose not to link the post to avoid people jumping on it. – Luuklag Sep 10 at 7:09
  • I think that is a good choice; I'm just emphasizing that I'm generalizing a bit. – Glorfindel Sep 10 at 7:12
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    @Luuklag The author probably didn't mean the comment to be harsh. Editing it to soften it, as this answer suggests, not only gets rid of the perceived unfriendliness but may help the person that wrote it learn a better way to express what was probably intended to be helpful advice. I would explain in the edit comment that Imperatives can sometimes be perceived as unfriendly, so I'm rewording that sentence. "Rude" flags have consequences if someone gets too many of them, so it's better to edit if there's a chance the rudeness wasn't intended. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 10 at 11:56
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    "some cultures it's considered rude .. end a sentence in a messaging app/SMS with a period." - What? If ending a sentence with a period, is rude in some cultures, then everything I write here is rude. I think you meant, it might be considered rude, if a sentence does not end in a period. – Ramhound Sep 10 at 16:48
  • @Ramhound, I heard the point Glorfindel makes before. Although someone might consider not ending a sentence with a period rude as well. Although ending a sentence with an exclamationmark is usually perceived as yelling, and rude because of that, similar to an all caps sentence. – Luuklag Sep 10 at 20:41
  • An exclamation mark is a “is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume (shouting), and often marks the end of a sentence.”, so it can indicate strong feelings or indicate yelling. If users presume users are behaving themselves then they should perceive an exclamation mark as indicating strong feelings about something! (just like I did) – Ramhound Sep 10 at 23:55
  • @Ramhound Exclamation marks can also indicate excitement or energy/involvement. “Good job.” might come across sarcastic where “Good job!” might not. The moral of the story is to assume good intentions. – ColleenV parted ways Sep 11 at 10:58

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