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Why do some people answer in comments?

There seems to be a trend lately of people answering SO questions in the comments under the question. I don't mind seeing discussions under other answers, but when I see an answer masquerading as a comment under the question it gets under my skin.

How can we stop this behavior?

  • 22
    We can't, at least not very well.
    – mmyers
    Jan 20, 2010 at 4:07
  • 1
    Cleverly done there, mmyers.
    – Rob Farley
    Jan 20, 2010 at 4:13
  • 3
    @mmyers: +1 for illustrating exactly my point.
    – oz10
    Jan 20, 2010 at 4:15
  • 1
    See also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/4217/…
    – Shog9
    Jan 20, 2010 at 4:17
  • I would like to accept @mmyers comments as answer.
    – Graviton
    Jan 20, 2010 at 5:47
  • you could copy their answer from the comment and steal their credits..yeah! epeen.
    – bastijn
    Jan 20, 2010 at 8:56

5 Answers 5


There are already badges that encourage proper behaviour. But now we also see badges that seem to encourage better commenting... so, choose your poison.

Perhaps when you see it going on, ask the 'answerer' (or even the asker) to write an answer that describes the scenario in the comment, so that it can be accepted and better found by search engines. Once this happens from time to time, the people that do it (like mmyers on this question?) might stop doing it quite so much.

And yes, I was tempted to write this in a comment instead. ;)

  • 3
    Comments can't get downvoted, so I guess by leaving a comment, people feel like if they are wrong or the answer isn't popular, the worst that could happen is it being flagged. The other obvious reason would be that it is easier to post a comment, as answers take formating. Jan 20, 2010 at 5:31
  • 2
    Do people really worry about answers getting downvoted? Doesn't stop me... ;)
    – Rob Farley
    Jan 20, 2010 at 7:02

Do we want to stop that? If people decide to give up their reputation - fine. Means that someone else can just copy/edit/paste as an answer or that the asker can put it in as an answer and accept.

The new @ system might be helpful to remind people that they should put answers as an answer.

Funny how we spent the last year or so educating to put comments into comments and not as an answer, and now we need it the other way :)

  • The problem is that it avoids the mechanisms of the site to promote and identify correct answers. Comment answers are difficult to find while reading the page, and often result in questions getting no answers or no accepted answers which makes them difficult to compare with other answers. It also prevents search engines from ranking a good question with an answer as good content. "Someone else can copy the answer" is extremely lazy behavior that directly damages site quality and should be discouraged.
    – Bacon Bits
    Jun 28, 2019 at 19:01

I'm sure I've done this a few times, but it's because I initially just have an idea that is best phrased as a question, e.g. "how is Foo configured?" or "did you try installing Bar?" -- it's not always obvious at the beginning that this might be the seed of an answer, rather than just prodding the OP for more information.

We can discourage this issue getting worse by not adding support for more commenting features, like better formatting and line breaks, automatic notification of responses*, more support for code blocks etc. Perhaps the length limit should be lowered? I've rarely come close to hitting it as it is.

*okay, I was just making a funny there!


Comments are free text, you can't stop people putting answers in there. Well at least the good thing is there's an answer, and it sure beats adding plain comment as answer.


No, because six word answers suck

  • 3
    You can always build up a comprehensive answer from multiple answers and comments, you are in fact encouraged to do so.
    – waffles
    Jan 20, 2010 at 6:27
  • You can also always delete an answer you don't like.
    – Bacon Bits
    Jun 28, 2019 at 19:02

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