So, someone has answered your question, and you haven't even waited a full hour yet. That's great! As you might already know, the Stack Exchange model encourages you to accept an answer from those given. As one meta post says:

Accepting an answer is important as it both rewards posters for solving your problem and informs others that your issue is resolved.

However, that post also says:

You might wait 24 to 48 hours to give other people a chance to give you a better answer. A question with an accepted answer isn't as likely to receive further attention as one without an accepted answer.

I wholeheartedly endorse that recommendation (I've often said 12-to-24 hours, instead of 24-to-48, but the sentiment is the same: give others time to look at your question before accepting an answer).

I think waiting is especially appropriate for a learner's or a language forum, for a few reasons:

  • Your first answer may not be a good one. Few things on SE are more frustrating than to see someone post a really good question, then see someone else dish out erroneous guidance, and then see the O.P. accept that answer just a few minutes later! That first answer might sound good to you, but how do you know that the matter is truly settled, or that the answer you've been given is even a good one?

  • Your answer may not have been given by a native speaker. This forum has learners helping other learners. I have no problem with that, but, every once in a while, someone will provide an answer that's off the mark. Don't assume every answer you get here is infallible (even native speakers are wrong sometimes).

  • There is often more than one way to look at a language question. Getting a one-and-done answer might work on a Programmer's exchange, where a snippet of code might help you solve your immediate problem and get back to work. But English questions can't be tested with a compiler and a few test cases in the same way a C++ question can.

  • Accepting an answer early makes people less likely to look at your question. This makes it less likely that you'll get another answer, but, equally important, it makes it less likely that people will take a good hard look at the answers you've been given, so a truly bad answer might be less likely to get the comments or downvotes that it deserves.

  • We have users from all over the world. You may ask a question in India, or Iran, or Italy, and accept it an hour or two later. Depending on what time it is, there's a good chance that no one in the United States or Canada has even looked at your question yet – they're all asleep in bed! There are enough differences in AmEng and BrEng that you owe it to yourself to let the whole world look at a question before considering a matter settled; we all might learn something new.

  • Accepting answers quickly may encourage quick answers. Some people might race to answer a question fearing that they'll lose a chance to earn rep if they take their time. However, some questions are tougher than they might first appear; perhaps these should take some more time to answer, or be improved with additional research. Let your question percolate in the minds of the community for awhile.

As much as the person answering your question might appreciate a quick 15 points, please, give it some time. Allow ample time for others to evaluate that initial answer: to offer corrections if they think it's not accurate, amendments if they think there's more to the story, or alternatives if they think there might be more than one good answer to the question.

Your question might end up better as a result, and ELL as a whole might be better off, too. Accepted answers that seem hastily written or downright unreliable will neither bolster our reputation nor encourage newcomers to return.

  • 2
    Can we not have a feature to lock a question for, say, one or two days? That way, people would not be able to accept an answer; they can only vote, answer, comment. Can it be?
    – Usernew
    Dec 5, 2015 at 13:08
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    @Usernew - That would be a Stack Exchange issue, not an ELL issue, and I doubt that idea would gain serious traction across the SE community.
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 6, 2015 at 0:24

2 Answers 2


The worst case I've seen of this happened not on ELL, but on ELU, our sister forum.

Someone posted a question and got an answer just seven minutes later, which was then promptly accepted.

That answer eventually garnered seven downvotes, and was deleted by the community five days later.

The saddest part is this: according to the profile, the user was a 15-year-old aspiring writer who hasn't logged in since accepting the answer, so the O.P. never saw the ensuing debate in the comments of that answer, never saw the final edit made by the person who wrote the answer, and never read any of the three alternate answers that were given. For all I know, that young writer is still afraid to say erudite school because of bad advice on the Stack Exchange:

Can “erudite” be used to describe things other than humans?

For that to be possible, non-humans would have to be capable of knowledge. Knowledge is information gotten from experience or study. So, the essential question rests on whether, say, a butterfly can know that something has happened. That's as far as I can take the conversation, because I don't know anything about cognitive ethology.

ETA: I just read the rest of your question. No, a school cannot be erudite. An inanimate object is incapable of knowing that something has happened. Erudite literally means "having or containing a lot of knowledge that is known by few people." No, the school itself cannot directly contain knowledge. The people within the school can.

The user accepted that answer, and never saw my comment, which was left a mere 20 minutes later:

Not so fast. Since when are words confined to their literal meanings? It may be a bit rare nowadays, but, if you search, you can find references to the "erudite university", the "erudite school", the "erudite business", and the "erudite city". If you aim at appealing only to other craftsmen, it becomes an erudite business. Tarsus ranked with Alexandria and Athens as an erudite university city. That must be the ultimate accolade, not the doffed tassled cap of an erudite university nor a nod from a snobbish neighbor. It will remind us that we are an offshoot of this erudite college.


As I said in my post, the first answer you get isn't necessarily the best answer you'll get – or even a good answer at all.

  • 1
    @CarSmack - I don't think there's any need to be so draconian; the system has enough checks and balances to work rather well as-is. This one particular O.P. just happened to be a "drive-by" who probably only wanted to ask one question. It's an extreme example, but it's useful from the perspective of exhorting users to wait a day or so before accepting.
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 27, 2014 at 18:57
  • 6
    Or perhaps SE could implement a timer requiring 24 (for example) hours to elapse before an answer could be accepted as correct. Trying to do so earlier would display a message to try again later. Rather than trying to explain the logic behind this problem, hard coding would make it automatic and easy to follow, and the delay time could possibly vary for each SE community based on its needs. This would be especially helpful for new users who are not yet familiar with how SE works.
    – user3169
    Dec 29, 2014 at 7:23
  • @user3169 - A solution like that would need to be brought up on SE meta. I think it would be difficult to garner support for such a restriction, particularly if it were to be implemented SE-wide. I believe the current limit is 15 minutes; I'd be in favor of lengthening that, but each SE community is different, and I'd be surprised to see widespread support for such a change.
    – J.R. Mod
    Dec 29, 2014 at 9:31
  • 3
    If it is set globally then I agree it would be difficult. But the question volume and needs of each group are different and it would be useful to adjust as needed. Do you know if it is globally set, or should I ask in SE meta?
    – user3169
    Dec 30, 2014 at 21:28
  • 2
    @CarSmack One of the main keys to the success of collaborative web sites like Wikipedia and StackExchange is that it's easy for people to post errors and easy for other people to correct them. The errors trigger improvements as no attempt to prevent errors ever can. This does mean, though, that the system is not completely reliable, and you have to tolerate the occasional just-plain-wrong answer getting accepted. Would you say that overall, people usually find very good information on ELL, even if not always?
    – Ben Kovitz
    Dec 31, 2014 at 12:51
  • 2
    Increasing the time limit wouldn't necessarily help. A lot of the new users are often not even aware that they could/should accept an answer. In case of your example, the following could have also happened: OP posts his first question, gets an erroneous answer, assumes that to be good advice, and leaves never to return. The end result is still the same. I wish it could be better, but too bad, things go wrong sometimes. Well, at least future readers would be wiser as a result of that question and answer, and there's not much more we can do. :-)
    – Masked Man
    Jan 4, 2015 at 9:02
  • 2
    This is a very useful and necessary post for newbies to SE. Don't you think we should do something to somehow inform every new user of this? I don't know, but first comment doesn't seem very applicable. And just as you say, it's hard for all of SE to have a time limit for accepting answers.
    – M.A.R.
    Jan 8, 2015 at 19:20

It is your question, and it should be up to you when and if you accept an answer. (By 'you' I mean the OP of any question on ELL).

I agree with the advice not to "accept" an answer until at least 2-3 days have gone by. You may want to wait a week, or more, if you still have not received an answer that you are satisfied with.

You also do not ever have to accept an answer. I have posted questions on SE and have received more than one helpful answer and not a single one of them has been more helpful than the others. I don't feel I can "accept" one of them and not accept the other(s). Especially if the information contained in one is not contained in another, or the answers otherwise complement each other. So I upvote the most helpful ones and never "accept" one.

  • 1
    It would be nice if the idea of resolving a question so that it's obvious you aren't actively seeking additional answers could be separated from choosing a specific answer.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 15, 2015 at 19:30
  • 2
    I think when you accept an answer it is not the most useful and complete one, but maybe the one which solved your problem (first), note some people just repeat the other answers in more luxurious ways
    – Ahmad
    Jul 28, 2015 at 20:46

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