I am trying to contribute effectively to the community, but I am not clear on when to Comment and when to Answer a question?

I see many 'answers' in comments and I am not sure why they chose not to answer instead?

  • 1
    Hint for future posts: multiple begging words do not improve posts, and might attract downvoting. (the downvote is not mine) May 24, 2019 at 10:37
  • @RuiFRibeiro Desperation escaping through the fingers there ;-) Thank you for the edit! Whoever thinks it's a question worthy of a down-vote obviously does not know that I have sifted through countless questions already trying to figure it out... Alas! May 24, 2019 at 10:40
  • @UlrichSchwarz Crazy! I've been to so many of the StackExchange pages, I actually just joined the "meta" community and thought I was in "meta" when I posted my question. May 24, 2019 at 10:43
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    @RuiFRibeiro 'begging'? Being polite and saying 'please' is not 'begging'!
    – terdon Mod
    May 24, 2019 at 12:15
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    I'll also bring in an image that may help distinguish "Answers" from "Not an Answer" -- just in case it helps: meta.stackexchange.com/q/225370/307535
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    May 24, 2019 at 19:13
  • I comment when I'm not an expert. Imho, answers should only be given by people that have a large amount of experience in the field and can be considered authoritative. If that withholds me from answering a question, but I think I can still be helpful, perhaps - I add a comment instead - which has more the status of an opinion.
    – Carlo Wood
    May 24, 2019 at 22:17
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    @Carlo unfortunately that doesn’t work too well because comments can’t be downvoted. If you post what you think is the answer as a comment, people who know better can’t downvote it if it’s wrong (and flagging to delete because it’s wrong isn’t really appropriate either). I’ve seen many comments which seem correct at first glance, and thus get drive-by upvotes, but are wrong. If you post it as an answer, it can be upvoted and downvoted as appropriate, and you can edit it as you find out more. May 27, 2019 at 12:37
  • @StephenKitt One has to see comments are worse (less reliable) than the worst answer therefore. One can "take note" of it, but should be cautious to rely on it too much, after all, it is just the opinion of one person. When I do not feel authoritative on a subject I don't want to write an "Answer", but not adding my 2 cents because they can't be downvoted isn't the solution either; obviously I still think my "answer" comment is still valuable or I wouldn't add it :p.
    – Carlo Wood
    May 27, 2019 at 18:02
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    @Carlo many readers don’t make that distinction between comments and answers. Please write answers, even if you’re not sure, instead of writing comments. I’ll be blunt: if you’re not requesting clarification, and you don’t want to write an answer, IMO the correct approach is to not write anything. May 27, 2019 at 18:28
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    Carlo, keep in mind that comments are intended to be temporary. Answers should be, at a minimum, an attempt to answer the question. Ideally you'd have some sort of documentation or testing to back up your claim that your answer solves the problem. You do not need to have a large amount of experience to answer! Because of the collaborative nature of Stack Exchange, any small adjustments to your answer can be added in by others. I've learned new things (and unlearned bad habits) in my time writing answers here.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    May 30, 2019 at 1:52

2 Answers 2


I'll refer to our Help Center's section on the "Comment" privilege, in part:

When should I comment?

You should submit a comment if you want to:

  • Request clarification from the author;
  • Leave constructive criticism that guides the author in improving the post;
  • Add relevant but minor or transient information to a post (e.g. a link to a related question, or an alert to the author that the question has been updated).


When shouldn't I comment?

Comments are not recommended for any of the following:


  • Answering a question or providing an alternate solution to an existing answer; instead, post an actual answer (or edit to expand an existing one);


This has come up before:


...when to Comment and when to Answer a question?

If the response is not a complete answer, then it's a Comment. If you have not provided all the information needed for the Original Poster to solve the problem, but have something constructive for them (i.e., 'relevant but minor or transient information'), that's a good comment; for example, if you remember part of a solution, but not the entire solution, that's a useful comment.

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