Lately I've been perusing old, unanswered questions when I have a few minutes. I come across ones like this one, where the question is more or less fully addressed in the comments. Since these are very old, OP interest is of little concern. But it seems to me that for the benefit of anyone stumbling onto the question, an answer may be worthwhile.

My approach was to answer, with a credit to the comments. But, I'm curious, is there some standard etiquette for answering old questions when a comment-answerer seems unlikely to write a full answer?

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    $\begingroup$ A credit to the comments is exactly the right thing to do, but personally I would rather write "as mentioned in the comments by @Xi'an" instead of just "as mentioned in the comments". (Also, if you think a question is worth answering it is probably worth upvoting too, isn't it? A question you linked to has 0 upvotes meaning that you did not upvote it yet...) Anyway, to answer old unanswered questions is a good thing to do, so +1. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Aug 6 '15 at 14:27
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    $\begingroup$ Meta Stack Exchange (related): meta.stackexchange.com/questions/207638/… $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Aug 6 '15 at 14:58

The basic policy is clear enough -- don't answer in comments, answer in answers. Some SE sites are very strict and simply remove anything in comments that looks like an answer. Others run a bit looser.

If someone does answer in comments and you expand it into an answer, then as long as you give credit where you rely substantially on someone else's text, there's no issue as far as I can see; you're actually doing the right thing -- putting an answer on a question.


I agree that it is better to provide an answer for otherwise unanswered questions.

In general, if there is an answer in the comments that is substantively the same as the answer I would have otherwise given, I just go ahead and give my version despite the fact that it already exists from someone else. They had the opportunity to convert their comments into an answer if they had wanted to.

If you are uncomfortable with this, another option is to just copy the answer from the comments and make your answer community wiki. You don't get any points for it, but the question is answered. You can find an example in which I did this here.

  • $\begingroup$ I have seen people put short answers in comments probably because they felt it was too short or incomplete. Sometimes an OP likes the answer so much that he/she suggests that the writer make an answer out of it and sometimes they will go ahead and accept it as the best answer. But @gung taking someones answer that you have already seen and claiming it as your own makes no sense. You can't be hungry for reputation points! It is kind of like plagiarism. $\endgroup$ – Michael R. Chernick Dec 28 '16 at 1:04
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    $\begingroup$ @MichaelChernick, I give my own answer if it is what I would have said anyway. I don't consider it plagiarism if someone asks 'what is 2+2', & before I say '4', I notice that someone else has already stated that in the comments, YMMV. You're right that I don't need more reputation & am not really motivated by that anymore. $\endgroup$ – gung - Reinstate Monica Dec 28 '16 at 1:08

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