There are many questions addressing link-only answers:

But they don't explain why quote-only answers are not helpful for the asker. They mostly talk about how to properly attribute a quote and how much is OK to quote from a source.

As the answerer, I understand the material well enough to know that I better copy it rather than making a new one. Especially when I see that there is nothing more to tailor the source to the specific question. Not to mention that its English may be better than mine. What's the point of reinventing the wheel? Of course I'd link the source, and assuming that I have a legal right to copy it.

Relevant: Should copy-pasted answers be deleted?

  • 8
    Note that copying a substantial amount of text from another source is illegal by default. You can only do it if the source is explicitly published under a licence that allows reuse of the content, compatible with the one you publish it under here (which is CC BY-SA 4.0 at the moment). May 13 '20 at 6:19
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    @EmilJeřábek how do you define "substantial amount"?
    – Ooker
    May 13 '20 at 7:27
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    @Ooker if the content owner sues you and wins, it was a substantial amount:) May 13 '20 at 7:29
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    See e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_use#3._Amount_and_substantiality . I’m sorry, but if you want a more specific answer, you’d have to consult a lawyer. When in doubt, don’t copy anything, as a rule of thumb. Note also that even if it’s a small amount, you can’t just use it (without explicit licence) as the only content of your answer, you can only quote short passages for the purposess of critique or commentary. May 13 '20 at 7:57
  • I think your edit was a big improvement to your question, and it no longer deserves the downvotes it got. I hope those that downvoted will take another look.
    – ColleenV
    May 13 '20 at 13:45
  • @ColleenV Thanks. Your comment contained the word "helpful", and that was how I knew how I should frame my question. Just out of curiosity: in your guess, was my question downvoted because it wasn't grammatical or because people disagreed with it?
    – Ooker
    May 13 '20 at 16:59
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    I think it was because people assumed you were asking a question that had already been asked and answered many times, and they have a generally negative view toward answers that are just copy and pasted from other places (even if the source is cited). There's a perception that it's laziness or reputation farming instead of maybe a genuine concern for providing high quality writing.
    – ColleenV
    May 13 '20 at 17:17

I find it surprising that you wouldn't need to customize it at all to emphasize which points are most relevant to the question you're answering and explain how they apply. Many English questions might be answered by quoting the appropriate pages from either of the CGELs, but that's not really the most helpful way to answer a specific question. If you don't feel comfortable writing an answer from your own understanding supported by that source, maybe leave that question for someone else to answer and just comment with a pointer toward the other material.

Telling someone “Read this text from properly cited source. Here is a copy of it for your convenience. Any questions?” isn’t as helpful as trying to understand why someone asked the question and tailoring your response to address their specific source of confusion. I think there is no such thing as “reinventing the wheel” when teaching. Would a good teacher hand out a textbook at the start of a course and just say “Here, read this. It’s a really good explanation.”?

I sympathize with wanting to use a source that has been looked over by an editor and had the grammar and spelling corrected, but on Stack Exchange sites you have an entire community of editors willing to help correct any mistakes. The site is set up so that posts can be improved over time. Someone who couldn't answer the question because they didn't understand the topic as well as you do can still contribute by correcting any mistakes you might have made in your answer. The community works together to make the content better.

Your perspective and expertise is more valuable to the asker than your answer being written in perfect English. Even just explaining why you think the source you've referenced in your answer is good is useful to someone who may not know enough about the topic to be able to judge which sources are credible.

  • From my experience not all my questions and answers get proofread. Anyway, I understand the frustration that you mention, but if I see that there is nothing more to tailor the source to the specific question, then how can it create more confusion? And even so, can pretend that it's my word by not putting the text in quote, then have a big disclaimer at the end that this is just a copy from the source?
    – Ooker
    May 13 '20 at 17:05
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    @Ooker I am in no way suggesting that you copy someone else's writing without quoting or properly attributing it. If you don't see any way that you can contribute value to an answer, then don't answer the question. Leave a link to the source you want to copy and paste in a comment. If a question can be answered completely with a copy and paste, then they probably aren't of the quality you should be spending your time answering anyhow. And just copying and pasting an answer is likely to get a very negative reaction from most communities.
    – ColleenV
    May 13 '20 at 17:26
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    There are related discussions on ELL Are answers which consist only of block quotes acceptable? Are answers that merely quote an existing answer on EL&U acceptable? Those are pretty focused on English questions - different sites may have different standards for what is acceptable.
    – ColleenV
    May 13 '20 at 17:29

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