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When you review an answer in the low-quality post queue, one of the comment templates is:

This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker.

Is it just me, or is that last part awfully confusing?

The first time I read that sentence, I saw the phrase "answers that don't require clarification," and the meaning of this phrase is pretty obvious (or so I thought): it means "answers that are so clearly written, that nobody needs to ask the author of the answer for clarification." Then I saw the phrase "from the asker," and it was easy to fit this part into my reading of the sentence: I read it as "provide answers that are so clearly written, that the asker doesn't need to ask you for clarification."

Of course, that interpretation doesn't make sense. Everyone should try to write answers clearly, of course, but if I can't post comments on your question, what does that have to do with you asking for clarifications about my answer?

Well, a year or two after I read the sentence for the first time, I finally figured out the intended meaning: it's saying that you should provide answers that don't require you to ask the asker for clarification. Mystery solved!

All right, can we please change the phrasing of this comment so that other people aren't confused like I was confused? Perhaps something like:

This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; until then, provide the best answer you can without asking for clarification.


Alex was also unable to decipher the current wording, as they brought up in this other meta post recently: Explaining the difference between an answer and a comment

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I'll go ahead and post my suggestion as an answer here.

I think that the wording should be changed to:

This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; until then, provide the best answer you can without asking for clarification.

  • 1
    We don't want to be suggesting that people answer questions which need clarification. Questions which need clarification shouldn't be answered until that clarification is provided by the OP. As written, this sounds like it's telling users to take their best guess at what the question is asking. Sure, there's a point where answering is reasonable, even with a bit of ambiguity in the question, but if the person answering really isn't sure about what's being asked, then they shouldn't be answering the question. The other option is to provide an answer that covers multiple interpretations. – Makyen Sep 30 '19 at 2:48
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I don't think it is confusing. Answers that require "clarification from the asker" are answers that are really comments asking the question-asker for additional details about their question. We frequently get "answers" like this:

  • You say that you are using the Foozbain, but what version is that? I can't find a solution unless you tell me.

  • Are you using Windows?

  • Please add your source code! I can't debug anything if you don't provide your source code.

An "[answer] that don't require clarification from the asker" might look like this:

  • If you are using Foozbain 5.3 or higher, you can fix this problem by installing the BarPack Integrated Enhancements Module. If you are on an older version, this is not supported, so upgrade to 5.3 or higher.

  • If you are using Windows, the option is found in your Control Panel under Widgets and Gizmos. If you are on MacOS, you need to reboot your computer and hold down F5 to access the Random Stuff Options Dialog.

The third one above is one of those questions that you can't answer without asking for clarification. That means that if you do not have enough reputation to comment, leave the question for those who do and move on to a question where you can provide some sort of an answer.

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    '"Clarification from the asker" refers to answers that are really comments asking the question-asker for additional details about their question.' - I know that now, but it was very difficult for me to figure that out from the canned comment as it's currently phrased. If the phrasing of the comment were different, I would have understood it right away. – Tanner Swett Sep 12 '19 at 16:48
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    When you look into potential confusions in text, you have to consider that not everyone is well-versed in English, and that potential confusions from such users shouldn't be overlooked. – Sonic the Anonymous Hedgehog Sep 12 '19 at 18:18
  • Also when a question requires clarification from OP, you could also flag for closure before moving on. It is either "unclear what your asking" or "too broad". – Luuklag Sep 13 '19 at 7:51

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