Sometimes there are simple questions, often by newcomers, that could be answered by a one-liner (e.g. "What method to use for my data?"). In most such cases I provide a comment rather than answer since it seems to be more consistent with the general answering policy. However, often such one-liners are helpful and seem to be enough for OP. Would you consider converting such comments to answers as a good or bad practice? The answers would be low quality, but in many cases would get approved (= more closed threads).

Some recent examples:

In both cases comments could be possibly turned into answers and would probably get approved.

In practice we often have not enough manpower (and we are lazy) to answer the simple questions. This produces thousands of unanswered simple questions, many of them that received some comments (basically, see any of the https://stats.stackexchange.com/unanswered - most have on-topic comments, often helpful). In many cases lazy comment-one-liner is the only thing that OP receives on this site. The question is: is it better to provide them, even if low quality, as answers or leave as they are?

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    $\begingroup$ I think a few examples help with these kind of questions. My initial reaction is that good, full answers to simple questions are probably already on our site somewhere, & finding them & linking to them would be better than providing a new one-line answer. $\endgroup$ – Scortchi - Reinstate Monica Nov 24 '15 at 10:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Scortchi OK but for "What method to use for my data?" the "my data" part is hard to find and link to. In such cases you could write an extended answer describing what linear regression or ANOVA are, where we use them and how they work, but it does not seem to be necessary and such questions not often seem to ask about it. $\endgroup$ – Tim Nov 24 '15 at 11:54
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    $\begingroup$ The related question of forcibly converting comments to answers is addressed at meta.stats.stackexchange.com/questions/832/…. $\endgroup$ – whuber Nov 24 '15 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ It's worth noting that some users have an obvious preference to only post elaborate and insightful answers, and upon seeing a rather trivial question would much rather post a comment with a brief answer because such a brief answer posted as an "answer" would be below their personal standards. The most striking example is cardinal who only ever posted carefully crafted meticulous (and usually brilliant) answers and has a higher rep-per-answer than anybody else here, with a large margin :-) He mentions that it's his personal policy in the thread linked by @whuber. $\endgroup$ – amoeba Nov 24 '15 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ My comment [insert obvious meta-comments mentally] is to say "Wait and see". Sometimes a quick comment seems all that is possible and/or (all too common) one is glancing at a question but has no time or inclination for a full answer. But if the thread is revisited and it becomes obvious that there isn't a better reply, then it can be worth expanding the comment to an answer. Similarly, if the question is initially too brief or too cryptic to deserve or allow a full answer, but then the OP responds well to encouragement, then a full answer may seem sensible and appropriate. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Nov 24 '15 at 20:50
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    $\begingroup$ Another comment is to be responsive to peer encouragement. I've been grateful several times for suggestions from other members to take my comments and make them into an answer. (Often, this may be where a series of ideas added intermittently can be combined and fleshed out into a fuller answer.) I turn I hope to do this (more) for other people. $\endgroup$ – Nick Cox Nov 24 '15 at 20:52
  • $\begingroup$ Some of the discussion in this thread is relevant here: stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5402/… $\endgroup$ – mkt - Reinstate Monica Feb 16 '19 at 14:46

As long as the question is on-topic, not duplicate and well posed, answering with comments is a bad practice, because it can leave the post officially unanswered, which is bad for our site statistics. Also, the comment can't be voted down (likewise, if it is a correct answer the author will not receive credits for it; which is also bad). Moreover, regarding good content, an answer posted as comment will not have the visibility it would have if it was posted in the answer box, which is bad because future readers might overlook it.

There is always the possibility to expand the one line answer with an example, a complement covering other possible situations, etc.

Below, there are CV meta related questions which are worth reading:


Here is a query in Stack Exchange Data Explorer (SEDE) to help finding unanswered questions answered in comments (in this post I write about options on how to proceed with them).

  • $\begingroup$ OK, agree, but sometimes with questions like "What method to use for my data?" one-liner + reference is enough to be said and is what OP wants while this does not really qualify as acceptable-quality answer. $\endgroup$ – Tim Nov 24 '15 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ Who said it doesn't? In my opinion, if the question is on-topic, not duplicate and well posed (perhaps 'what method for my data' would require a data sample, an explanation of what OP is trying to achieve, etc); this kind of answer is fine. However, it happens that chances of someone come and post a more complete answer are not small, and if this happens the other answer will receive more credit. example 1; example 2. (@Tim) $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Nov 24 '15 at 11:58
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there is the possibility of explaining why that method is being recommended, besides providing a reference. $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Nov 24 '15 at 12:01
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I absolutely agree. But in practice we often have not enough manpower (and we are lazy) so there are thousands of unanswered simple questions, many of them that received some comments (!). In many cases lazy comment-one-liner is the only thing that OP receives, the question is: is it better to provide them, even if low quality, as answers or leave as they are? $\endgroup$ – Tim Nov 24 '15 at 12:02
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    $\begingroup$ It is difficult to answer objectively. For example, in the first example you provided Peter Flom expanded the comments in his answer, in the second one, all your comments could be compiled in one answer. I think it is better having answers in the answer box. @Tim $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Nov 24 '15 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ I think this post also has some peripheral relevance to the question, because it's about questions that are hard to answer other than as a comment: A difficulty with self-study like questions of the form "is this correct?" $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Nov 25 '15 at 9:36
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    $\begingroup$ @Glen_b, feel free to include that post in the related posts list in this answer. I'm not sure if you suggested this, but I think it's a good idea. About questions which the possible answers are yes/no, I think they should be off-topic, especially when the answer is 'yes, you are correct'. If it is 'no, you aren't correct', it will depend if it can be complemented with more info. I based my opinion on this post, which was written in SO's context, but with some modifications could also be applied here. $\endgroup$ – Andre Silva Nov 25 '15 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Andre thanks for that link $\endgroup$ – Glen_b Nov 25 '15 at 15:48

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