While those words are not evil in general, some answers use them for something like "as in the above answer...", which is pretty useless when the poster refers to a sorted-by-vote view which may have changed over time.

Example: here, stating "While both of the above answers...". In this case it's easy since there are only two other answers (unless others have been deleted), but in other cases the reference gets lost.

I propose a tooltip, stating

"for reference to other answers, a link, e.g. [this answer](http://....), should be used instead of a relative reference that might change over time"

edit Grace convinced me (as usual...), so I turn this into a discussion

  • 1
    I would expect above and below being used much more in a sense of FF version above 3.5 than referencing answers. One maybe would have to look for patterns like answer[s] above and above answer[s]. In that case I would propose a popup list of answers to choose one or multiple from. Enhanced code completion.
    – malach
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 11:46
  • @Ralph: Unfortunately that would always miss creative formalisms like it's not as easy as mentioned above. Maybe the filter should not respond to version XXX [and] above + permutations. I know it's hard to implement, but I'd prefer false alerts now to confusing references later Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:01
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    Answers are editable by anyone with sufficient rep, so what is the problem? The only place where this can be really confusing are comments. Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:01
  • @Georg Fritzsche: Well, for that example question, no one edited. Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:14

4 Answers 4


This is very much a similar situation to this earlier question.

While there aren't nearly as many permutations of "above" and "below" that we would have to account for as compared to other scenarios, this is actually much worse because the words you are proposing to catch are very commonly used in scenarios other than pointing to answers. So just like with the above link (see what I did there?), you're going to catch a whole lot of false positives.

Is it nonintuitive that people give positional descriptors for answers, especially when other users simply have a different sort order? Yes, it is confusing. But the real solution would be to just edit them into links, or suggest in a comment if you don't have enough reputation. Don't give us warnings to bog down the great many users who will use these very common words for legitimate and intuitive use cases.

  • Of course you’re right that a tooltip wouldn’t help. But here’s something interesting: I recently ran a query against posts containing “the below” and discovered it to be a surprisingly strong predictor of posts in desperate need of editing to reword them into something that looks like it was written by a educated adult. Almost always there is something else that can be improved in posts that contain “the below”, not just that part alone; it was over 90%. That means that someone looking for a meaningful Copy Editor badge could use this search as a proxy to easily locate posts to improve.
    – tchrist
    Commented Aug 28, 2015 at 12:54

I agree with the answers above.

The above post gives reasons why this feature cannot be implemented effectively.

The answers and comments presented above already shows possible false positives, like

To reuse the previous answer in Python 2.0 or above, use the "_" variable.

or false negatives as I will illustrate in the example answers above and below.

There is a solution better than the one above. Just use $('.foo bar:hover:not(baz)').

The previous answer by XYZ is wrong, because one cannot use jQuery in Perl.

To match all cases above precisely we need a language analyzer, but it is not cost-effective. If that bothers you, get a 2k user and edit all the above's into links.

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    I just refreshed the page and this was not the bottom answer any longer. So please edit all the above 's into above and below ;)
    – malach
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:41
  • +1 so this makes less sense :) Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 13:35

This should not be implemented for the reason that Grace alluded to.

False positives are a terrible user experience.

If you warn someone not to use the word "above", they are going to be confused. If you explain it very clearly (so they are not confused) they'll end up feeling patronized and angry.

  • ok, convinced. But at least, you didn't write as Grace stated above but kept it very exemplary Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:17
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    @Tobias. I couldn't possibly say "stated above" because I assume I'll soon have more votes than he. :) I should've said "stated below" though. Funnier.
    – devinb
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:29
  • As a matter of interest, what syntax did you use to link "alluded to" in this answer? Just noticed that it actually points to another URL than the one I'm looking at, which results in an unnecessary - and annoying - page load.
    – Bobby Jack
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:42
  • @Bobby Linking to an answer on the same page uses a syntax of questions/<qid>/<slug>/<aid>#<aid>. Where qid is the question id, slug is the title slug, and aid is the answer id. The /<aid>#<aid> is what causes the page load, and as this is a permalink it is necessary in the case that the answer is on a separate page (in the case of questions with many answers).
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:45
  • If you want to avoid page loads, consider looking at this thing.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Commented Aug 26, 2010 at 12:46

As this is a rather hard linguistic problem which I would doubt is fixed using patterns, one would maybe need a different approach.

In my remark to the question above ;) I used the word code completion. What if we could press ctrl-blank after a word and get some intelligent completion proposals. So if I use key words like `first answer' or such, it would pop up a list of answers to select from and insert a link around the catch phrase.

Maybe other catch phrases would have to be included, like user names that in this context can be expanded for @links, tag specific key words etc.

This would be a neat little exercise for a computer linguist.

Yet it would need to be highly usable in many situations for the users to catch on, and mostly used by people that know the system well and therefore know about the problem of relative position of the questions to each other.

Therefore I second the other answerers and commentators: editing might just be the right tool for this.

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