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It seems this question hasn't been asked on this meta (or I was not able to find it): is it allowed (or good, or acceptable) to provide an answer in the comments?

This question has been asked on other SE sites I know more. But as newcomer to this French Language SE site, I'm wondering if the usages are the same here. Nothing obvious.

Additionally, I've been asked today, by a more experimented user here, to write an answer replacing my little comment.

Here are the reasons why I think a simple comment is OK.

  • The answer is (or can be) contributive but is short, can not be considered as a reference answer

  • The comment can be helpful, but I don't have time to write a full answer

  • I'm not sure of what the OP is meaning and the answer is an hypothesis

  • I'm new here and I don't want to provide an answer that should be a comment

  • The answer could be subjective or incomplete or opinion based

  • Commenting is not bad as what matters is to provide information to the OP

  • Other answers have been given and my comment is just a complement/suggestion

But I may be wrong: what is the good attitude for French Language SE?

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    I find the invitation to turn a sound hypothesis in a comment into an answer is always fitting, but the suggestion that an undeveloped comment be deleted is unproductive. I too use comments when I feel I have something small to contribute that I don't have time to research or am not certain about. I'm not the most experienced user here, but I haven't been asked to delete such comments if I don't choose to turn them into answers. – Luke Sawczak Sep 14 '17 at 1:33
  • @luke you should post this as an answer :) – Tensibai Sep 14 '17 at 18:13
  • @Tensibai... yes, but no (I've though about the same kind of comment)... but I'm sure that Luke commented as a second degree answer! : ) – lemon Sep 14 '17 at 18:16
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    This is meta, the network wide guideline is to post our opinions as answer, so others users less comfortable to word the same opinion can up vote and those disagreeing can down vote, there's no rep involved and the main goal is to bring material to questions. (I agree with the idea of 2nd degree, my own comment was also a kind of pun over it, but for the site sake this should still be the way to go, prepend in it with 'I was dubious to post this as a comment for the same reasons explained below' would achieve the same effect IMHO – Tensibai Sep 14 '17 at 18:21
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    (BTW I may apply my own advice about it, the same reasons (vite as community feedback) stand for main site, I'm on phone and it's a pain to get links, I'll do tomorrow) – Tensibai Sep 14 '17 at 18:23
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You mentioned having read more about it on other sites' meta, but I hadn't yet, so I did a bit of research on four other non-beta metas and found that there is indeed an extensive "literature".

I'd say that just about everything I read on the other sites applies to what I know of French SE. Here's a quick roundup of some of the recurring themes, if not for your reference than for that of anyone who wants some background:

  • The ideal is for answers to be answers, comments to be comments.

  • Everyone posts answers as comments sometimes. They do so because they would rather not "leave something so brief as a full-fledged answer"; they "want to do more research to substantiate their answer but do not have time"; they "feel like their answer is a valid answer but not the valid answer"; they want to give an answer in the form of an (apt) link to a resource and such answers are discouraged; the question can't be formally answered as stated; or they are about to close the question but don't want to leave the OP "empty-handed". High-rep users are among the most frequent advocates.

  • "A helpful comment to an on-topic question is better than nothing -- it may prove useful to the asker, as well as to others who might be willing to write answers. Not making such a comment into a proper answer, for whatever reason, is well within your rights. I would even add that any request for a proper answer more forceful than a gentle nudge would be inappropriate."

  • If a question has a legitimate answer in a comment, that comment will ideally be turned into an answer — people are pretty unanimous on this. The reasons include not being able to downvote comments, making answers more easily findable, avoiding an ephemeral format being deleted, generating long and messy discussion threads, discouraging people from taking the time to write a well-supported answer when the OP has already read their response and gone away satisfied, and more. There are different ways to turn a comment into an answer: ask the user to make their comment an answer; write an answer based on their comment (either significantly developing it and giving a nod to their comment, or making it a Community Wiki to avoid garnering credit and reputation); ask a mod to change the comment into an answer... Similarly, legitimate answers, even if short, should not be converted to comments.

  • Comments that have generated answers in the same vein may be deleted if you choose to avoid clutter and confusion; they're not intended to be a long-lived medium anyway. But if people have responded and it's responsible for some of the context of the answer, probably leave it where it is. No mention of deletion of comments that have not generated answers but been left as they were.

I would say that just about all that's been said can apply to French SE as I've known it.

When I post a comment-answer, I do it for the same reasons: I'm just acting on a hunch or making a comment meant to suggest ways to think about the topic, not offer an answer worthy of French SE. If someone sees more value in such comments than I do, I usually write an answer eventually if I have time. But I've never yet had it suggested to me that I delete a comment because it didn't turn into an answer.


Some of the threads referred to:

English Language Learning: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

English Language & Usage: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Stack Overflow: 1, 2

  • Luke, thanks for this detailed answer. However, I won't accept it (or any other) because I can't be myself judge of what is the best answer in that case. – lemon Sep 15 '17 at 7:27
  • @lemon Every questioner begins in that position, and in most threads I'd say it just means I didn't include enough references to our own SE for you to independently verify what I've said! :p – Luke Sawczak Sep 15 '17 at 12:09
  • Super nice answer covering everything I would have said and even more :) – Tensibai Sep 19 '17 at 9:26
  • Note that once, for some reason my answer was too short and it was turned into a comment automatically by the website (something like "trivial answer turned to comment"). So it seems that the difference between answers and comments is sometimes not so relevant. – Distic Sep 23 '17 at 10:06

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