It surprises me that the official FAQ for SO - https://stackoverflow.com/faq - does not contain guidelines on how to answer questions. Stuff like: "An answer should be complete, accurate, clear, ...".

I'm asking because I stumbled upon this question - HTML type string parsing question! - in which one of the answers is off-topic. The answerer based it on his guess, and he thinks it's OK to post incomplete, inaccurate and unclear answers as long as the answerer thinks that the answer might help the OP (somehow).

Such a practice should obviously be avoided, but I am unable to find an official statement that points that out.

Feature request: I'd like to see guidelines on how to answer a question on the SO FAQ page.

  • Isn't that what the voting system is for? To highlight helpful answers and to push unhelpful answers out of view?
    – ale
    Jan 27, 2011 at 17:16
  • 1
    @Everett No. The voting system is just an indicator. Helpfulness / unhelpfulness is subjective. Jan 27, 2011 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


There is the How To Answer page that is presented to new users who have not yet posted an answer. The link is always /questions/how-to-answer.

Admittedly, the main purpose of this page is to try and steer new users away from posting their junk answers such as follow-up questions, comments, and thanks. However, it does still provide some notes about completeness and clarity in general, and features links to other resources as well.

  • Yea, that's not enough. And the FAQ doesn't even link to it. ... Jan 27, 2011 at 16:22

The page that Grace Note referred to was adapted from my "Answering technical questions helpfully" blog post. It's not official, but it may be useful nonetheless.

I have a parallel post for asking good questions, if that's any use to you too.

  • The definite guide for Question askers. +1
    – Trufa
    Jan 27, 2011 at 17:29
  • It's kind-of tl;dr :) But its seems, it's the best that we got for now. Jan 27, 2011 at 17:48

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