Possible Duplicate:
Answering comment-answered questions

I see that so often: on a basic question (like a code sample where it lacks a semicolon or something like that), someone answers as a comment to the question.

I know this have been discussed before, but nothing is concretely done to discourage that.

I personally find it very annoying, and maybe I am not alone. The main reason is that the comment is the first thing you see when scrolling the page. OP or other people having the same problem might stop reading after having seen the answer in the comments, so the answer/voting/accepting system becomes useless.

Some of these answer-in-comment even get more upvotes than real answers. Another reason is that you can't downvote a comment. So the poster of the comment takes no risk, and you can't share that this comment/answer is not good. This is not the way Stack Overflow is supposed to work.

Now I've made my point, I don't have anything specific to propose except flagging comments as "Should be an answer". IMO the comment should NOT be made an answer, because that would encourage to do this. The poster of the comment should lose points for example.

I am completely open to any suggestion though. The main point is that this practice should stop because it's not how Stack Overflow works.

  • 9
    I answered this as comment, because I know this has already been asked, so I know it will eventually get closed.
    – YOU
    Apr 29, 2011 at 13:44
  • 1
    Neither of the duplicates are actually duplicates of this question, the first is about unanswered answered questions and the second is solicting opinion on why people do it. This question which has been closed is asking what can be done about the practice.
    – Toby Allen
    Jul 6, 2012 at 7:27
  • @TobyAllen Thank you, yes this is not a duplicate, and the answers given below are off (as I explained in the comments) :( Jul 6, 2012 at 12:45

2 Answers 2


The author of the question is supposed to respond to the answerers and others in the question by posting comments. This is encouraged by having the "comment" box open initially, while the "answer" box is hidden, thereby guiding the author to post comments.

On the same vein, for anyone else that visits the question that does not already have an answer, the opposite is true. People are directly guided towards the answer box because it is initially open, while posting a comment requires clicking an expansion link first. Furthermore, posting a comment requires reputation, which has among other reasons an explicit intent to have users understand what comments should not be used for.

Anyone who posts an answer as a comment, also, already loses points because they cannot earn reputation for what would've probably been a useful answer. Making them lose reputation for doing so seems pretty contradictory - people lose reputation for junk or information that is not useful, and this would be making them lose reputation for information that actually is useful, just not in the right place.

If you see an answer in the comments, and that answer is not in the answers, you have two pretty good options. Suggest the user to post their answer properly, or you just post the answer yourself.

It is indeed against how the site is intended to function, as well as not useful to our readers, if comments are containing the answers instead of answers. But if our goal is indeed to have answers, then I think our priority is better focused on getting the content of that comment into an answer before it is punishing the commenter by making them lose reputation.

  • 7
    I sometimes give "you have a missing semicolon" type answers as comments because it's plain embarrassing to gain 80 reputation points for that kind of information. If it were up to me, such questions would be closed after they're answered, and all rep gain rescinded - pointing out a minor syntax error is a service to the fellow programmer, not a real answer; and if somebody has to ask those kinds of questions all the time, they need the boot until they learn the language first.
    – Pekka
    Apr 29, 2011 at 13:57
  • @Pekka - As true as that is, after an hour of banging my head against the wall I'm just as grateful to someone who points out a stupid mistake I've made. Apr 29, 2011 at 14:04
  • @Pekka Personally, I've had a problem solved by comments for something similar... but I deleted the question, because the problem turned out to be completely unrelated to the question I asked and the question was actually rendered meaningless as a result. Which just goes to show, comment debugging can be extremely useful for that. It would not have been a proper answer because the question I asked was about a problem that never existed. So aye for that.
    – Grace Note StaffMod
    Apr 29, 2011 at 14:06
  • @Justin absolutely - I'm not saying anything against asking. I'm just against rewarding these kinds of answers with heaps of rep. @Grace that is another great point why debugging in comments is good - the syntax error (or whatever you want to point out) may be completely unrelated to the question
    – Pekka
    Apr 29, 2011 at 14:07
  • Well if you don't want to gain reputation because of a simple problem/answer, the problem is elsewhere... Semantically, your answer is still an answer, not a comment. It's like adding <br> in HTML instead of using <p></p>. Semantic should be respected. Apr 29, 2011 at 14:40

I don't see this as a specific problem. If people who read questions and answers stop at the very first comment that they see and then take that as the word of God, then that is their problem if the simple solution provided by the commenter doesn't work.

In most scenarios, I think we leave answers as comments when the answer is too small to justify gaining rep. So although there is no risk in actually leaving an answer as a comment, there is also no gain.

Also, sometimes I like to leave suggestions to the original poster, such as, "Try installing Firebug, the debugger should point out what the problem is and will help you solve similar needle in a haystack problems going forward."

People love downvoting answers such as this, since it doesn't actually answer the question. However, this answer isn't necessarily bad because teaching someone how to solve their own problems is a good thing.

In scenarios where I believe the poster should have added their comment as an actual answer, I generally leave a comment for them asking if they can post their answer as an answer so they'll get rewarded.

  • 1
    Well if you don't want to gain reputation because of a simple problem/answer, the problem is elsewhere... Semantically, your answer is still an answer, not a comment. It's like adding <br> in HTML instead of using <p></p>. Semantic should be respected. Apr 29, 2011 at 14:40

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