If somebody asks a question that is similar to a question asked on EL&U, for which the same answer applies to both the questions, is it acceptable to quote the EL&U answer, and use only that as answer?

Generally speaking, I find that not acceptable, as:

  • The answer should be tailored for the audience of the site
  • Who answers doesn't make any effort to write the answer

It would be more acceptable to link the EL&U questions when the ELL question has a more limited scope. In that case, the link to the EL&U question could be given to provide more information about the topic, as to say "I provided you the information you asked, but there is more that you should know, and this is the link to a question where you can read them."

2 Answers 2


I think your parameters for referring to ELU are right on target. I would only add:

  • The ELU answer should be linked to, both in order to give appropriate credit to the original respondent and to encourage cross-site traffic with StackExchange, and

  • The ELU answer must be paraphrased or quoted, for the same reason as any other answer referring to an offsite link: because circumstances (such as deletion, or departure of the respondent) may cause the ELU answer to disappear.

  • To be clear, the question is not about how to quote an answer given on EL&U; it is about how much acceptable is an answer that simply quotes an answer given on EL&U.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 14:48
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    @kaimlaluno An answer is "acceptable" if it's a good answer, regardless of source. An answer which quotes ELU is no different in this respect from an answer which quotes Wikipedia or the OED. If you quote any of these as your entire answer you are saying "I cannot improve upon this formulation of the answer; it is entirely adequate." Feb 2, 2013 at 15:01
  • If the answer is merely a quote of another answer given by another user, the quote sounds more "I cannot bother myself with writing an answer" than "I cannot improve the other answer."
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 15:16
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    @kiamlaluno True. But sometimes you want to get an answer down for OP before the Q is closed. And just yesterday I posted an answer to this question which was nothing but a quote. The question had been hanging around for a day and nobody had answered; I read the comments, I made a guess about what the answer might be - and it was close enough that Googling turned up an authoritative answer. I know nothing about this topic; I had nothing to add that would improve the answer; but OP got his answer. And I learned something. Feb 2, 2013 at 15:48
  • Quoting an authoritative source is fine; I do it myself when I quote what said in a dictionary. When I do that, I am not giving a definitive answer, but an answer that I consider useful the same. That is different from quoting what said from another user. In the case a question should be closed, and the user is sure it should be closed, a comment pointing to another answer is better. Still, I think that linking to EL&U posts is dangerous.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 17:27
  • @kiamlaluno I think we are in agreement. I won't quote somebody else's answer unless I believe it's right. No doubt there are people who do quote or link blindly and parasitically; but they run the risk of referring to a bad answer and being downvoted. Feb 2, 2013 at 17:35

I have answered several questions in this manner recently, so let me explain myself.

The problem is about a good/bad answer to a certainly bad question.

  • If an answer can be found by a simple search query at ELU (e.g. 2,260 hits like here), it is no longer a "real, practical question". It indicates no research effort by the asker, "asking just for sake of reaping some low-hanging rep points". Hence, the question must be closed as either NRAQ or offtopic.
  • If a question has nothing to do about English Language Learners, e.g., native English speakers also can ask it (especially if they have already asked it at ELU during the years of its existence, and the question is open), it's an offtopic / belongs to ELU.
  • When a question is already here, any answer (including an answer that cites ELL) is a good/bad answer to a certainly bad question. Indeed, if an asked has failed to search for "the more", someone else has to do it. And I agree, some answers at ELU are full of terminology, so the answerer must either adopt an existing one or find another, more suitable, one. This is an effort.

You are right, however: bad, easy-to-answer questions require less effort. The worst ones, NRAQ's or obvious duplicates, require almost zero effort.

Preventing bad questions and cross-dupes being asked, the whole problem of "answers that merely quote an existing answer" will be dramatically reduced.

What I see now is exactly what I was afraid of:
ELL is rapidly sinking into a clone of ELU. A worse clone.

To avoid it, we must meticulously check the questions for their conformance and burn with fire those asked just for sake of asking:

  1. Is the answer to the question obvious to a native speaker? No → offtopic / belongs to ELU;
  2. Is the answer can be found for another ELL question, regardless of the subject of another question? Yes → duplicate;
  3. Is the question has been already asked elsewhere, and can be googled by a simple query? Yes →
    1. Is it, e.g., request for a dictionary article? Yes → NRAQ
      • except a special context where the meaning is unclear; A context must be given within a question;
    2. Is it a third-party site? Yes → Valid question, own answer is OK and encouraged;
    3. Is it ELU, and the answer at ELU clear for a language learner? Yes → offtopic / belongs to ELU;
    4. No → A valid question.

In any case, when anything relevant can be easily found, a question must contain relevant links to indicate a research effort and it must mention what the asker did not understand from the existing answers.

  • 2
    Your reasoning is flawed. First, the fact a question has been already asked on another site doesn't mean the question is not anymore a "real, practical question". Probably you are not used to questions that are on-topic on more than one site, but if a user asks on Drupal Answer a question that has been already asked from another user on Stack Overflow, the question on Drupal Answers is not closed because it is not anymore a practical question about a problem the OP is facing; surely, if the questions were carbon copies, that would be different.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 13:42
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    Second, on EL&U there are many questions that could be asked from an English learner too; the fact some of such questions were tolerated is simply because EL&U was the only site about English, and those questions didn't ask about a black and white situation.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 13:43
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    Regarding the first point: sometimes it is difficult to say if it a question is google-searchable. I know by myself that some people are not that skilled in internet searching. Especially, when you see a question by a new user, it can be that it is his first here (we all had it) and he just seeks for an answer as fast as possible. I think this is the job of community (by not up voting) to point out bad questions, and job of moderators to point out off-topic ones but it does not mean that the question cannot be answered.
    – MasterPJ
    Feb 2, 2013 at 13:58
  • @kiamlaluno It is given (in your question) that a certain Q has been be answered on ELU. If that answer can be googled by a simple query (without special keyword tricks like question ID or usernames), and still was asked here, to me it means the OP has not searched. Is there any logic flaw here? Feb 2, 2013 at 13:59
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    ELL is rapidly sinking into a clone of ELU. A worse clone. Well, we have a lot of work, it will not become a great site by itself : )
    – MasterPJ
    Feb 2, 2013 at 14:00
  • @MasterPJ "it is difficult to say if it a question is google-searchable" -- correct, it is subjective. How can we evaluate if it is? Correct, with trying. If a naive attempt succeeds, isn't it an evidence a question is google-searchable? Feb 2, 2013 at 14:09
  • @MasterPJ "when you see a question by a new user" -- what about a user with 20k+ rep on ELU? :( Feb 2, 2013 at 14:10
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    The fact a question has been already asked on EL&U has nothing to do with how the question on ELL is answered. Merely quoting an answer given on EL&U is not the kind of answer we should see on ELL.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 14:45
  • @kiamlaluno I did not say that every question asked on ELU is bad for ELL. My answer contains more or less specific criteria, improvements are welcome. Still, no research is no research -- everywhere across SE. Feb 2, 2013 at 14:49
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    The point you are missing is that the fact a question has been asked from another user on EL&U doesn't mean the same question cannot be asked from a different user on ELL, as long as the questions are not carbon copies of each other. The fact a question has been already asked on EL&U is not an excuse to simply quote the answer given on EL&U.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 15:08
  • @kiamlaluno This logic is flawed. If we believed that "...it is not an excuse to simply quote the answer given on elsewhere," we will end up with a conclusion that this, this, this, and this answers are bad and have to be deleted. I think they are great. Should I retract my upvotes? Feb 2, 2013 at 15:24
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    Don't confuse things: I am quoting a dictionary, while you are quoting another user. The reason I am quoting the dictionary is allowing somebody else with that dictionary to find the part I am quoting. Quoting another user is different. If you think her/his answer is correct, then write your answer with your own words. You can also link the original post, although I think dangerous to keep linking EL&U.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 17:37
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    Do you need to quote another answer to say, for example, that an is used when the following word start with a vowel sound? I hope not! In some answers, quoting an answer given on EL&U seems only to have the purpose of saying "See? This question has been already asked on another site." If that is only done to suggest the question didn't search before answering, then that should be a comment, not an answer.
    – apaderno
    Feb 2, 2013 at 19:08
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    A certain Q has been answered on ELU. If that answer can be googled by a simple query (without special keyword tricks like question ID or usernames), and still was asked here, to me it means the OP has not searched. Is there any logic flaw here? Yes, there IS a flaw with your logic. Just because one can find an answer using a search tool doesn't mean one will find an answer using a search tool. So, perhaps the OP has not found, which is NOT the same as has not searched. The "has not searched" is only assumed on your part; that assumption may (or may not) be correct.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 2, 2013 at 20:09
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    Perhaps you could have said something more along these lines: "The easier an answer can be found via Google, the more skeptical I am that an O.P. has done sufficient research." You'd probably get more people to agree with that (myself included). My problem was with your sweeping generalization ("if I can find it, anyone can find it") and rash conclusion ("if they didn't find it, they must⋅not⋅have⋅searched"). I'm not excusing shoddy research; your XYZ example – would I call that effort? It seems unlikely, but my point is: we don't know how much effort was expended, we can only guess.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 2, 2013 at 20:41

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