Scrolling down the ell feed, one can see that the majority of questions do not have accepted answers. StackExchange as a website has a strong emphasis on accepting a useful and/or correct answer and I feel new users should be reminded (either by the system or other users) that they generally have to accept an answer if they found it useful.

I see this issue has been raised a couple of years ago here but it doesn't look like anything has changed. This is obviously a problem across all of StackExchange, but it seems particularly bad here.

Accepting answers incentivises answerers to keep answering questions, so what can we do about this?

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    Related: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/62013/…
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 9:58
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    Related: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/questions/2493/…
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 11:52
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    Advice from a guy who's been hanging around SE too long: the sooner you realize this doesn't matter, that in fact the whole rep system doesn't matter, the happier you'll be, and counterintuitively, the more you'll enjoy StackExchange. I know you won't believe me now, but you will in a month or two or twelve, and you'll remember this comment and think "oh yeah, that random dude was right".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 15:24
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    On the other side of the coin, keep this in mind - Not so fast! (When should I accept my answer?). Over time I learn to recognize in each site the users that consistently give meaningful answers. To me this carries more weight than how much rep. they have.
    – user3169
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 16:25
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    Trust me, getting 15 rep really isn't that big of a deal... Also, the system does remind users to accept answers... assuming they have under a certain amount of rep. See meta.stackexchange.com/questions/69775/… for info.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 19:56
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    Just as an illustration, take a look at How can native English speakers read an unknown word correctly?. What harm does none of those answers being accepted do? I think there is actually a benefit, because it may cause some readers to look over more than one answer.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 12:25
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    Related: meta.ell.stackexchange.com/q/215/230
    – user230
    Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 22:34

1 Answer 1


It is supremely ironic that you (and indeed SE) are asking learners to choose what they think is the correct (or even best) answer. How are they supposed to know if either is the case? Learners vote on the answers, which is also ironic and serves little reliable purpose other than a popularity vote. How can learners be expected to perceive the difference between what they think is the correct answer, even when backed by high upvotes (which again is not a reliable judge of an answer's correctness) and an actual correct or best answer that they don't perceive as such?

Also when it comes to language questions, few answers can offer comprehensive explanation. Many questions are partially answered by one person and partially by another.

Also, it is very often the case that more than one answer offers equally useful (correct) information and expecting users to choose between them serves little real world purpose. It may serve an SE purpose, but that's another matter.

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    Accepting an answer is not meant to be a definitive and final statement indicating that the question has now been answered perfectly. It simply means that the author received an answer that worked for him or her personally, but not every user comes back to accept an answer, and of those who do, they may not change the accepted answer if a newer, better answer comes along later. From ell.stackexchange.com/help/accepted-answer Accepting an answer has nothing to do with "correct", "best", or "complete".
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 17:26
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    All of these arguments apply equally to (almost) all SE sites, yet, somehow, voting and accepting are features learners can use on all SE sites! Curious. Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 21:50
  • I guess so @ColleenV. After all, if I recall correctly, the ELL intro page says Ask a question. Get answers. It doesn't say get correct answers. I could say the whole SE model or system provides a service of dubious worth at best, but if I did the fan boys will come out in force Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 3:32
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    It's not constructive to preemptively start calling people who might not agree with you names. I could be as dismissive of your opinion but I won't, because it would be pointless and mean. Choosing an answer to accept is a privilege given to the asker to reward one of the folks that answered their question for whatever reason the asker would like give them a tiny bit of reputation for. Look at ell.stackexchange.com/q/39863 and tell me how much it matters which of those answers has a green checkmark.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Jun 19, 2016 at 5:05
  • @AlanCarmack Stack Overflow, the first and original site in the SE network, is well known for its high quality content. The system works, and is proven. In fact, SO is often regarded as the best resource in its field. But SO had years of learning in which the users could figure out how to deal with stuff, and newer SE communities have to go trough that learning phase much quicker. Saying that the SE network is worthless is not only baseless (although the system might not work equally well for all topics), and also futile - why are you using it, if its so bad?
    – Polygnome
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 21:14
  • @Polygnome I use it to try to help learners. Despite its many many many faults. As an addendum, we have no way of knowing how many EL learners have been dissuaded to be repeat users because of the SE system. Commented Aug 24, 2016 at 14:05

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