I just found this answer to a question on SO. While it provides a source for the (very long) quote, I do not like the fact that the answerer just posted the quote, without adding anything. Maybe add highlights/emphasis or remove uninteresting passages. Or skip the quote altogether and write a short summary. I feel, in the current form, this should have been a comment that just links to the original article.

Am I too pedantic? Should I flag this as not an answer? Should I downvote it? What do you think about such answers?

  • If you have time and motivation, the best solution (for the community) would be to improve the answer. (Highlight important parts, remove irrelevant parts.)
    – Heinzi
    Apr 28, 2011 at 11:21

4 Answers 4


Should I flag this as not an answer?

Does it answer the OPs question? (That said, what's the copyright on the excerpted document? Would this be considered "fair use". IANAL so I don't know, nor care! :)

Should I downvote it?

Again, does it answer the OPs question? If it does, leave it as is, or up-vote it. If it doesn't, or is incorrect, down-vote it. Don't down-vote an answer merely because you dislike the style of answer. That's not what down-votes are for. Down-votes are to indicate you think an answer is wrong and thus fails to answer the original question.

What do you think about such answers?

I don't like them, they're lazy and I feel that people who copy wholesale should at least take time to trim fat from the quote and add some (appropriate) commentary.

  • 2
    On the one hand, I agree that it can be lazy in one sense, but I do prefer the "link and quote" style to "just link" style because it saves time and is less susceptible to link rot. To just copy/paste and not discuss how it's relevant to the specific question is lazy, but sometimes there's a reference that has everything already and deserves to be displayed. Apr 28, 2011 at 14:57

What do you think about such answers?

Personally, I have a strong dislike for answers which quote other sources without offering even the merest explanation from the answerer. The value in asking SO questions comes from harnessing the combined experience, wisdom and eloquence of the community, and this is sometimes lost in the dry text of quoted sources.

I'd argue that there's less value in solely parroting (occasionally impenetrable) sources, particularly when those reading the question and the answers offered up (now and via future searches) will be of wildly different levels of experience and understanding.

For me, a quote from a source gives greatest value when it's used in support of a plain-English answer or explanation, rather than being posted as an answer in itself. This answer, for example, quotes the C++ standard to great effect, whilst offering adequate explanation from the answerer.

Should I flag this as not an answer? Should I downvote it?

I'd stop short of flagging or downvoting, unless the answer fits the criteria as being incorrect, not-an-answer, etc. I guess my view is that a 50-line quote with no explanation which is correct is still a correct answer, even if it's being communicated in a poor fashion.


Why didn't you edit the answer to pare it down?

  • I don't know. I usually reject this kind of suggested edits.
    – user138231
    Apr 28, 2011 at 15:00
  • 3
    @Chichiray: Why reject an edit that makes the post better? That makes no sense.
    – user1228
    Apr 28, 2011 at 15:02
  • I know I still don't feel comfortable editing others' answers, unless an obvious typo or code error.. not sure I would even presume to pare a quote, especially given the replies in this thread, maybe some do prefer answers like this - maybe just me though
    – clairesuzy
    Apr 28, 2011 at 16:43
  • 2
    @clairesuzy: I can appreciate the feeling, but it is one of the goals of letting high-rep users edit posts is to raise the overall quality of the site.
    – user1228
    Apr 28, 2011 at 17:28

Should I flag this as not an answer?

I wouldn't if it really is an answer

Should I downvote it?

again same as above, however what about a comment to try to persuade the answerer to expand or highlight parts of the quote, if enough people agree with you (and that would be me btw ;)) that this a "dry"form of answer then the comment will get upvoted which may teach answerers that this is not wrong, but not a preferred style of answer

What do you think about such answers?

don't like them.. some who ask questions may have already spent too much time reading and digesting long articles as the result of a search (benefit of the doubt.. remember), to want them re-quoted in an answer. A link with a short quote is fine with the answerer giving a plain English explanation of which bit he/she thinks may be relevant. their recommendation of why to read the link would be way more important to me than a copy/paste

And in this case if it was all relevant (I haven't clue!) then all the answerer had to do was quote a bit, and say they believe that it's important and "be sure and read it all it's worth it!" there's more chance IMHO that someone will take the time to read a longer piece if upvotes/answerers rep gives them a backup reason to so, but it's all too easy to glaze over when presented with a large grey blockquote

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