In answering many of the frequently asked questions on Unix& and on AskUbuntu, I use canned answers.

I have written answers that, while generic, will usually solve the problem.

Is this contrary to The Way?

I have answers on:

cron job execution context.

WiFi slowness (MTU).

Device (or other) access via groups.

System "freezes" (swap)

Several on using journalctl to find out.

I improve these answers as I can, but would accept help.

I have recieved a complaint about use of "duplicate" answers (but they were the same problem, misstated differently).

Is the use of prewritten answers for constantly recurring problems discouraged?


4 Answers 4


It is not acceptable to post identical answers to multiple questions.

This has been brought up on the main StackExchange Meta site as a FAQ:

The reply to that question is "No". This is an established policy.

Copying and pasting the same answer to multiple questions can cause different reactions depending on what answer you're pasting. The acceptableness of this behavior ranges from "highly frowned upon" to "completely unacceptable". (Note that it never reaches the "acceptable" end of that spectrum.) If you catch yourself or someone else doing this, please evaluate the answer and see if there is a more correct thing to do.


Answers that solve over-generalized problems are not as useful to questions — they should be tailored to address the specific needs that each question has outlined.

The answer on the Meta site is longer than this. Please read it in full at the link above.

  • 3
    Seconded, particularly the "Could the answers be more specific to each question?" part -- the goal of SE is to have answerable Q's with accepted A's, so if the Q's not a duplicate, then it has a specific answer. Thanks for finding the Meta SE post that covers this situation.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Sep 24, 2021 at 14:14
  • If it's a dupe, flag it as a dupe (i.e. Vote To Close). In many cases, this will also apply to trivial or minor variations of previously asked questions.

  • If it's an extremely common FAQ (like whitespace issues in sh or parsing ls), flag it as a dupe to one of the canonical Q&As (e.g. Why not parse ls (and what to do instead)? or Why does my shell script choke on whitespace or other special characters?)

  • If it's not a dupe, adapt your pre-written answer so that it is specific to the question. Or rewrite it from scratch. Sometimes this is appropriate for an FAQ if you feel it's useful or necessary to tailor the advice in the canonical Q&A to the specific question.

  • When appropriate, add links to related/relevant questions (in your answer, or comments, or both). I keep a text file with a list of links to common answers like these, in the markdown [title](url) format for easy copy-pasting.

  • If you're closing a question because you think it's a dupe or FAQ, add a comment explaining why that is so....especially if the fact that it's a dupe may not be obvious to a novice or newbie. The goal is to help them, not to be a jerk.

  • "this will also apply to trivial or minor variations of previously asked questions" this is something important. The best way to determine if two questions are duplicate is to remove/modify details from the question and see if the problem changes. If it doesn't then, they are duplicates.
    – Braiam
    Oct 3, 2021 at 22:08

When a user posts identical answers to different questions, the system raises an automatic moderator flag. That is already a pretty strong hint that this behavior isn't welcome. Also, in the more than 7 years I've been a mod, I believe I have seen exactly one example where the questions were indeed substantially different and yet the same exact answer did apply. In all other cases, either the questions were duplicates or the answer needed to be tweaked, at least a little, to fit the question.

So no, please don't do this. It creates a lot of work for moderators and it is almost always unhelpful. Far better to close the question as a dupe in most cases or, in those few cases where the questions really aren't duplicates, at least take the time to put in the minimal effort to adapt the answer to the specific details of the question.


IMO: If you take the trouble to collect canned answers to post, you could instead take the trouble of collecting links to earlier questions about the same thing, and vote to close as duplicate.

(of course, that's easier to say if you have the gold badge in , since it lets you single-handedly close a disproportionate amount of Qs on the site, but hey, that's how the site works.)

Given the nature of the site, it's totally natural that certain things get asked and answered over and over again. (Heck, there's probably some subjects I've written an answer on five separate times myself...) But repeating the same answers identically is not such a good idea: Closing as duplicate would allow collecting the answers in one place, so if there's need to review that answer, it only needs to be edited once. Also other users can post their own answer in the same place, should they come up with new solutions.

While writing an answer on the same subject from scratch is not optimal, a new answer at least has the advantage that it can be personalized to the question, and not just present the general concepts. Canned answers can't.

  • But how much personalization is necessary if the Answer is on the order of "Tie your shoes"?
    – waltinator
    Dec 1, 2021 at 3:48
  • @waltinator, none, and you should use the "Vote to close as duplicate" function in those cases.
    – ilkkachu
    Dec 1, 2021 at 10:43
  • But if you can answer that the user should tie their shoelaces (probably not the shoes themselves), because in this particular case, the loose laces might get caught in the thingy they're talking about in their question, and that they might want to read this other answer which explains issues with loose shoelaces in general, this and others included, then that would perhaps be worth answering.
    – ilkkachu
    Dec 1, 2021 at 10:47

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