Why do some people post comments that are actually answers to the question? Wouldn't posting an answer be better?

  • 19
    Because some answers are really more like comments. Or is it that some comments are kind of answers, too?
    – Telemachus
    Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 12:12
  • 61
    I've been asking myself the same question, but with a twist: what about questions with no answers at all, but which have a valid answer in a comment. This is annoying as the question will stay "unanswered" - what's the correct behaviour to adopt here? Should the OP repost the comment as answer after some time, or should he ask the commenter to do so? Should a third party do that?
    – Joubarc
    Commented Jun 21, 2010 at 12:16
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    Because they are afraid of downvotes :-) (or don't have the pundit badge yet :-))
    – Tomas
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 13:58
  • 3
    Let me try to answer this: A comment does not have to be that well formatted or contain a lot of explanation, and can even be a guess happens to be right. Writing an answer takes more effort, and once there is an answer in the comment nobody will repost it as answer. Commented Nov 6, 2017 at 17:36
  • @SamuelKirschner I find that if someone posts a comment with the answer, it's equally likely to not have an answer using it for the same reason. I agree that there is a disinclination towards repetitive answers, even when they add significantly to the other answer. Editing only helps so much. I think there ought to be a way to mark an answer as a follow-up to an existing answer.
    – Bacon Bits
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 19:10
  • Because these 1337 h4x0r5 do not want the rep for it
    – bobobobo
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 7:43
  • I was a bit slow to the nerd humor. You're all answering the question here in the comments. LOL!
    – user148298
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:04

10 Answers 10


Most often I do this when I have some input to give that I think is helpful, but I don't have the time/care to write a detailed answer that meets my personal quality standards. Rather than an incomplete answer or not helping at all, I'll leave a comment to point them in the right direction.

  • 17
    -1. This is precisely what a comment should be (that, or, a request for a clarification on the question). Ironically, this answer IMO is less correct than the "comment-answers" above.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Mar 4, 2013 at 22:11
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    I completely agree with @bobobobo. This does not answer the question at all. The question asks why people leave comments, and this answer is about why I leave a comment instead of an answer. Not sure how it got so many upvotes. Commented Jul 16, 2013 at 21:45
  • 9
    Simply rephrasing a little, this is an answer to "Why do some people post comments in comments?" Commented Nov 14, 2013 at 2:10
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    So funny that the commenters don't seem to want to "get" how "personal quality standards" are an important factor. The point is, if you can think my comment is "the answer", by definition it doesn't live up to my quality standard. (With very very rare exceptions)
    – sehe
    Commented May 26, 2014 at 21:04
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    @AmalMurali Am I missing something? How can anyone provide an answer for the actions of other people? This answer is explaining why they do it, and presumably why others do as well. This is a perfect answer.
    – ert
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 2:43
  • also cc @bobobobo
    – ert
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 2:43
  • 5
    @bobobobo Comments are for clarifications, not answering.
    – philipxy
    Commented Oct 21, 2019 at 0:34
  • @philipxy Yes, comments are for questions about the question, or for giving little hints & tips or links when that you don't think qualify as a full answer. Rather than bury your brain-nugget, you instead wish to share it with the world as a comment. I gave this -1 because the question really tries to ask "why do people give the full answer (when the answer is short and simple) in a comment instead of posting a complete answer where they can earn rep for it". I provided the answer in a comment, of course.
    – bobobobo
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 8:15
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    This is a good answer. Well, it describes accurately why I regularly leave answers in comments, at least, and probably many other people (given the number of upvotes). The way comments are managed in some specific SE sites can be really annoying: stubborn zealots applying site rules almost blindly are really counterproductive. Commented Mar 31, 2021 at 17:09
  • If the answer can be summed up in a sentence or two, just write it in the answer box. You'll at least gain some non-fungible SO points out of it.
    – user148298
    Commented Mar 2, 2023 at 21:12

Sometimes I'll put in a half-answer in the comments when I'm really not sure if I'm right or not, hoping that somebody can confirm what I'm saying. Then I'll go off and research the answer, and by the time I get back somebody else has confirmed what I said in a real answer, so I'll vote them up, or if nobody has, I'll answer myself.

I'm really just trying to spur a quick correct answer, and not put down something as an answer if I'm not sure it's right.

  • 22
    I often do this too. I don't always have time to actually look up what I'm saying.
    – mmyers
    Commented Jan 20, 2010 at 14:13
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    This must be avoided in my opinion. When you are wrong, there is no way to downvote your comment. In addition, the comment (which may be wrong) will be visible above the real answers. Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 7:47
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    @EmilVikström if they're wrong, comment on it. Like you just have ;)
    – ian
    Commented May 14, 2013 at 20:55
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    @EmilVikström I think this is not necessarily a bad practice as long as the commenter does not say it in a definite tone, e.g. doing this WILL fix your problem. In fact, this can be helpful when there's no correct answer provided – even if the comment is wrong, as long as someone points out that it is wrong, it gives visitors on the page one less thing to try. :) Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 14:42
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    Sometimes, you can use comments as a risk-free way to see if your answer will work. It's disappointing to type a 20-line answer and the answer be rejected by the OP.
    – unbindall
    Commented May 1, 2015 at 23:51
  • If you realize a comment is wrong then delete it. If it would fowl a chain of follow on comments then post another comment retracting it. There is nothing wrong with demonstrating your ability to learn. Commented Sep 8, 2015 at 16:05
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    @boxspah It's only risk-free to you, because you bypassed/cheated the peer review system. It can be extremely risky to the question author, who has no earthly idea whether your "answer" posted in the comments section is correct or not, because there is no peer review on it and it cannot be downvoted. This should be obvious. People who answer in comments seem to either assume they are always right, or don't care whether they're right. Particularly odd for those who do it because they're not sure they have the right answer!! All of them seem to be in a rush to prove themselves for some reason. Commented Apr 10, 2020 at 18:14

If I vote to close a question, I refuse to answer it as well. But sometimes I will give some input in the form of a comment. Occasionally such a comment from me will be a real answer.

Alternatively I'll post "have you tried ...?" comments. Someone posts a question saying they want to know how to parse XML, so I'll say "Have you tried XSLT/XPath?" with a link to a resource explaining it. You could call that an answer, but from my point of view it's just a verbose link.

To me, it's an answer if I'm supplying real information that I generated on my own, or aggregated on my own. If it's just a link it's not an answer. Your opinions may differ, but that's how I see it.

  • 22
    +1 for refusing to answer a question you voted to close. It's annoying to see people answering and closing. It just makes no sense. Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 16:24
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    @gnovice: I disagree, when the questions is good on its own merits, but in the wrong place (either the wrong trilogy site or just doesn't belong on the trilogy at all), I will do both. 'Cause I'm friendly like that. Commented Jun 29, 2010 at 17:27
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    @dmckee: I consider a question that's going to be migrated as an exception to what I said above, since you're not really closing it, just moving it (i.e. it's still open somewhere). Commented Jun 29, 2010 at 17:42

Comments cannot be downvoted. For unclear questions, if the question is clarified or other people interpret the question differently then people might downvote an answer that does not answer their interpretation of the question. Also someone may be afraid of losing rep from an answer that may not be what people want to hear if the truth is unpopular or politically incorrect.

Hopfully avoiding downvotes is not politically incorrect or else I should have posted this as a comment. :(

  • 4
    @mark4o - voted down for fear of losing rep j/k ;-) Commented Jul 10, 2009 at 17:46
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    downvotes are -2 points, upvotes are +10 you can please 20% of the respondants and displease 80% and still come out ahead.
    – Jasen
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 2:49
  • @Jasen - LOL, well that approach may have a sliver of hope for being successful in topics that are mostly opinion based. But I have observed that in topics where a correct response is based on more black and white information, a down vote is rarely followed by an up vote.
    – ryyker
    Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 13:13
  • 2
    This is probably the real reason. Commented Oct 12, 2020 at 13:52

There are probably as many answers to this question as there are people answering in comments...

I'll do it sometimes if I have a suggestion that doesn't really seem like a complete answer, if the length and formatting restrictions of a comment allow it.

Sometimes, I just don't want to bother writing up a good answer, so I'll use the comment to post a hint, in the hope that it'll prompt someone else to go to the trouble of researching and fleshing it out.

Others have noted that they'll use comments to provide answers to inappropriate questions. I'll usually still post an answer in that case, but mark it CW... however, this can upset some people, and I'm not entirely sure whether it works to encourage other CW answers (ok), or just encourage other answers (not ok). So I'll occasionally post my answer as a comment then as well.

  • 3
    If you don't want to bother writing a "good answer" perhaps your time would be better spent in any of the review queues. There is always good, simple, meaningful work to be done there (and you can spend as much or as little time there as you like). Commented May 27, 2017 at 14:49
  • 6
    Heh... No review queues existed when I wrote this answer, @mickmackusa.
    – Shog9
    Commented May 30, 2017 at 22:43

One possibility is that someone wanted to answer a question which was closed while they were preparing the answer, so they posted a comment instead.


Occasionally it's not obvious when your response should be an answer or a comment. I have sometimes commented on questions, and it's turned into a discussion that results in an answer.


One reason that was made explicit on Chinese Stack Exchange is the following (emphasis added):

Just being allowed to comment already is a great favor. Besides some users are afraid their answers will be marked down, which means their score will go down. In fact there seem to be some powerful users who will miss no opportunity to take revenge on other users and mark their answers down. For this reason these users restrict themselves to writing comments.有用户认为,仅仅被允许撰写评论本身就是十分多么大的恩惠。 此外有用户害怕其答案很可能会受到扣分,导致得分会被减少的。好像有些力量大的用户总是伺机向别的用户报仇而使其答案受到扣分。‌​因此后者就限制自己只是提供评论而不是任何‌​答案。 – user6065 Oct 14 at 15:49

In other words, there appears to be infighting in some Stack Exchange communities, so people who are afraid of downvotes write comments instead of regular answers.

  • 4
    Then this is a symptom of a greater problem to be addressed by moderators. If the moderators have the ability to correct this situation and don't, then the moderators should be replaced. If moderators cannot fix the issue of serial downvoting / bullying because of software constraints, then the software is poorly designed. Commented May 27, 2017 at 14:56

Because very often that "answer" isn't really an answer, but more like a hint or a suggestion. Which might be enough for some OPs, while not for others (and yeah, for some anything less than gif-me-teh-codez isn't).

Also, it's expected that answers are more profound and elaborated. For example one-liners are subject to deletion even if they actually answer the question.

  • 7
    I've looked high and low for something to substantiate this claim. I see this in one form or another over and over again, "it's not complicated enough to be an answer." Where is the profound/elaborate/LoC minimum for answers specified on Stack Exchange? Commented May 26, 2015 at 5:09

If I vote to close a question because it's not appropriate for SO, etc., but it is a question that I know the answer to, I will often add the answer as a comment to be helpful but not encourage other answers.

Other times, like when my answer is really a joke and the question isn't CW, I'll choose to answer with a comment so that it isn't confused with a real answer to the question.

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