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I made a question: What is the plural of octopus , and I got many answers. There are some different answers, so which one should I believe as the right answer?

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The purpose of the 'accepted answer' (the answer you select) isn't to "pick the right answer." Hopefully the folks here are vetting the content by up-voting good content, so ideally, the the best answer rises to the top. But the purpose of the 'accepted answer' lets you indicate which answer helped you specifically.

So, simply stated, select the answer that helped you the most.

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Your question is a good one; I don't know if you should necessarily believe any of the answers.

We are striving for a community where we share expertise. Hopefully, most of the answers you get here will be reliable to some extent.

However, we are all fallible, and there is no screening to become a contributor. Anyone can join and start answering – and even provide erroneous information.

The upvote/downvote system should alert you to bad information. Comments help, too. If someone sees something they believe to be incorrect, they are likely to react.

This is one reason the Stack Exchange discourages questions that are opinion-based (like, "What is the best way for me to build my vocabulary?"). There's no right or wrong answer to that question; consequently, from a reliability standpoint, it's a minefield.

This is also why contributors are encouraged to back up their answers with links to credible sources.

If I say:

Don't use octopi; that's erroneous.

Why should you believe me?

But if I say:

I've seen octopi before, as one reporter wrote:

One such tradition is the throwing of octopi onto the ice at Red Wings games.

However, some think this is not the right word to use. Under its entry for octopus, NOAD says:

enter image description here

So, even though you might see octopi from time to time, I would recommend octopuses.

What is there to disagree with? I've linked to the story, I've taken a screenshot of the dictionary note. If you don't like my answer, your beef isn't with me; it's with the NOAD editors.

So, you shouldn't accept any Stack Exchange answer on blind faith, but a substantiated answer has at least as much credibility as its quoted sources.

Lastly, before accepting an answer (in your mind, or with a green checkmark), give it time. Let the community have time to chime in. I've seen cases where some pretty bad answers were given and accepted in a matter of hours. It's best to let it sit for a couple days, so that the community has time to evaluate, react, and weigh in. If you want a trustworthy answer, you may be able to find one here – but you need to be willing to wait a day or two, and analyze how things unfold.

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    I would recommend that ALL readers pay close attention to that last paragraph. I can't speak for all Stack Exchange users, but I almost never leave answers where that checkmark is present. "Obviously", I think to myself, "the poster has been helped, so I don't need to add noise." Only if the accepted answer were blatantly wrong or missing vital information would I add another answer. I haven't seen this happen before on ELL, and on a smaller (relative to Stack Overflow) site like this I don't expect to see it often, if at all. Wait a few days and you will get more answers. Jun 11, 2014 at 18:11
  • @Jonathan - I have seen patently bad answers accepted on a few rare occasions. The worst example happened just a month or so ago on ELU, where, shortly after a user's answer was accepted, it received 7 downvotes. Sadly, the O.P. never logged back in after accepting the answer, and thus never saw the ensuing comments/downvotes which indicated a sharp disagreement from the community at large, nor the 3 additional answers that offered a contrary opinion after the green checkmark was issued. I think we agree, way too many answers are accepted in less than 120 minutes.
    – J.R. Mod
    Jun 11, 2014 at 21:34

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