Is it acceptable to reference another answer in my own, like so:

(-some user-)'s answer sums it up, I just wanted to emphasize/add (-some clarification-)

Or is it preferred that I edit the referenced answer and add my own clarifications and additions?

Basically - should each answer be whole and complete, or should they interact with one another?

  • +1 If an answer expands on an existing good point then it is increasing the answer 'surface area' and is therefore valid. I have no better answer than any of the 5 below - so a comment is a more valid response than an answer (in this case). – amelvin Mar 28 '10 at 1:41

I don't think there's a problem, as long as you are adding actual value to the question. For minor stuff you can edit stuff in (a slight inaccuracy, links to documentation, etc.) but at some point if you have more to add I don't see why it shouldn't be in an answer of its own.

One thing I like to do is to get the answer's direct link and copy only the hash value of it and make it the direct link. So I might do [link](/q/12345) or something like that. This has the added bonus that if someone clicks on the link I am providing the page won't have to reload and it'll go directly to the answer. I really think there should be an easier way to this, though, but that's another matter altogether...


If the question is the same, then I would recommend closing it as a dup. If they are different questions, but a previous answer may help (code re-use is good...), then I will happily link to the existing answer as part of my answer. There is no benefit in copying the text unless you are fundamentally changing it, and that way it retains attribution against the original author (who may get some more upvotes from the cross-reference).

  • 2
    I think in this case we are talking about one question - multiple similar answers. Not the duplication between different questions. – akarnokd Jul 12 '09 at 10:37
  • Yep - Marc that was the intent. Care to edit your answer to reflect that? :) – Yuval A Jul 12 '09 at 12:52

In these situations I put a comment on the target answer asking the person to clarify things or I myself add some extra info. When it seems the person did not react to it, I put my own answer and cite the original person by name.

There are cases when I feel I have to add an answer, because the others see a bigger picture when there isn't (e.g. an exact algorithm is the solution, no need for discussion) and don't see a bigger picture when there is (start to give code samples but fail to recognize the OP shouldn't have chosen the original approach in the first place). IMHO - I should add.

So I agree with Paolo Bergantino, mostly :)


I'd reference the other answer as an acknowledgement. I think it's courtesy.

I've seen answer A (say partially correct) then answer B (correct), then Answer A is updated to include answer B. Answer B poster should get credit or at least acknowledgement.

  • One sad point is when multiple persons come up with the same (and correct) answer within a small timespan. – akarnokd Jul 12 '09 at 10:01
  • @kd304: true. All chasing the reputation... – gbn Jul 12 '09 at 10:03

From an answerers perspective you want your answer to be as whole and complete as possible - and interact with the other answers if need be to get there. I don't see anything wrong with editing your answer to include other answerers points (this is a Wiki/Creative Commons like thing) but I like to credit people and upvote them for the help.

From a site perspective it's irrelevent. The top few answers will trickle up to the top and the asker (and google searchers) will find their answer.


We have to be careful here, don't we? Emphasising a point should generally be an edit to the other answer; only create a new answer if it definitively adds something that was missed or improves the overall solution.

As to the referencing aspect, I do find it annoying when you have to jump back-and-forth through 4 different answers to understand one, but it's perhaps a bit silly to copy-and-paste from another answer, even if you refer to it. (It's definitely not acceptable if you don't refer to it.) However, when you're adding something to an existing answer, you often find that it's better to explain the original answer in a different way so that the additions merge in better. In this case, I think it's much better for the answer to be self-contained, but then add a comment to it stating how it relates to other answers (or some lines at the top to that effect; as a purist, I still think a comment is better to separate the solution from meta discussion).

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