As the question suggests, I'm unsure of what to do with flagged answers that only have a quotation and no other commentary. For context, I came across a review today with this answer, which fits this criterion. It was flagged for being low quality, which can be seen below:

enter image description here

I agree that it is low quality because it doesn't have any attempt at a substantive explanation related to the question or the quotation. However, it doesn't really fit into the normal reasons for deletion as far as I can tell (it does attempt to answer the question, just not in a great way). For questions like these, what is the best course of action?

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    $\begingroup$ Since my name appears in the image, I suppose some explanation might help. My moderation philosophy has evolved. Whereas I used to immediately close posts that are not on topic or don't answer the question (almost always with a comment, of course), but are otherwise harmless, I now leave them open and check in after 24 hours to see whether the comment has been addressed. If not, I then close the post. This seems to provoke fewer negative reactions from newcomers and often results in constructive changes, even though it takes more work to do that daily review. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Jun 11, 2023 at 15:29
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting method. Thanks for making that clear. $\endgroup$ Jun 12, 2023 at 0:12
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    $\begingroup$ FWIW, during my daily review I have determined that the OP has had an opportunity to read my comment asking for clarification and has had time to respond, but did not do so. Because this is an answer, my options were to move it into a comment or delete it. Because it's not a useful comment in this thread, it is now deleted. $\endgroup$
    – whuber Mod
    Jun 12, 2023 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ This seems close to the question about whether to provide quick-and-dirty answers, and the community was resoundingly in favour of that: stats.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/5402/… $\endgroup$
    – mkt
    Jun 26, 2023 at 9:02

2 Answers 2


This is an impeccable example of how a quote-only answer should not be written.

For the sake of context, quote-only answers aren't forbidden unlike link-only answers. But those are not preferred. As has been accentuated in the answers to this Meta SO post:

We prefer answers to be your own original work, contributing something new to this site specifically, not just copying something entirely from somewhere else. ... Note that even if you find the complete answer somewhere else that can be copied (with proper attribution), surely there is still something you can add on top of it ...

How does the quote apply? Does it directly engage with the question? Does it clear up a misconception underlying the question? Does it explain how to think about the problem? Something else? ... What are you trying to get at with this wording? How does the explanation apply to OP's circumstance?

Quote only answers are poor in the sense that even if those are self-evident, the poster ought to explain how a post of this kind helps OP's cause. Otherwise those would be prone to misinterpretation and dearth of communication would raise questions (as done here by whuber) all the more showing their lack of ability to construe a coherent quality answer. Being new to the platform could not be a pretext, for answering properly with a cited quote is a common protocol.

Now, how to handle such answers?

When the answer came at the First Answer review, then the feedback could have been shared:

As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.

I assume the reviewer plausibly raised a flag against the post.

But the proper way would be to initially leave an explicit comment to bring up the issue in poster's attention.

Now that there is a legit comment that has already called on the poster to address the relevance of the quote in light of the original question, I would wait for some time in the hope that they might respond and edit their post.

If that doesn't happen, then I would recommend deletion with no comments needed for the existing reasons couldn't be resorted for the same: the link-only answer statement might resemble the tone, but it is not ultimately applicable, imo, here: the citation is there; the quote won't disappear (albeit with no context).

If you wish, you can leave a custom comment why you voted the way you did. But I feel the insouciance and subsequent absence of any reply to the comment raised speaks volume of the action that can be comprehended by other reviewers and the community at large about its inevitable fate.

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    $\begingroup$ I think this logic makes sense. I will go forward and recommend deletion then. They have already been told what to do and maybe it will push this person to do better next time. $\endgroup$ Jun 11, 2023 at 11:28

In my opinion, quote-only answers should not be flagged or deleted - at least not solely because they are quote-only.

Instead, they should be treated just as any other answer. If their application to the question is unclear, one should request clarification, possibly downvote, and if the answerer indeed does not clarify, vote to delete.

However, sometimes a quote is indeed all there needs to be to an answer - for instance, for a question about the correct term for a particular visualization or method, it may be quite enough to paste a quote from a paper.

We have a dearth of answers already, and we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Better to have a quote-only answer than no answer at all, because a longer answer would have taken so long that someone who would have invested the time to post a helpful quote did not have the time to instead post a non-quote answer. (And yes, of course that still presupposes some minimum quality.)

The key difference to link-only answers is that (a) the quote actually includes the relevant content, in contrast to a link only, and (b) that links rot, whereas a correctly referenced quote should be stable.

  • $\begingroup$ I cannot disagree (+1): Instead, they should be treated just as any other answer. If their application to the question is unclear, one should request clarification, possibly downvote, and if the answerer indeed does not clarify, vote to delete. - In addition, I would appreciate at least a single line for contextual purpose even if the quote answers the query; quote only answers aren't discouraged the way linked only answers are treated but often they lack context as in the case pointed by OP. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2023 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ @User1865345-solidarityMods: no, they can't. They can be flagged for mod attention, and you can recommend deletion. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2023 at 14:43
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    $\begingroup$ @User1865345-solidarityMods: thank you, then that was a typo on my part, I will edit. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2023 at 15:00

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