English language learners seem reluctant to cast a vote even after receiving a thorough, time-consuming answer. This is rather discouraging for teachers or English speakers who wish to contribute. Unlike other sites (e.g. Spanish language), where the tendency is to receive several answers as well as votes and there is a much higher predisposition for exchanges between questioners and answerers, English language learners ask lots of questions and only receive a few answers, most probably from people who don't care about wasting their time or are not aware about questioners' laziness to at least cast a vote or say "thank you."

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    When I ask a question on ELL, as a learner, it implies that I don't know the answer. Now, in some ideal cases, it might be possible for me to decide whether an answer is correct or not (one virtue of a useful answer, in my humble opinion, is that it's correct), If that's the case, I wouldn't be hesitate to cast my vote. However, in many other cases, I wouldn't know whether it's correct or not, and I sometimes regret casting my vote when I find out later that I've up-voted the wrong answer. Last but not least, I don't think we should encourage our learners to cast votes to mean thank you. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:10
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    Having said that, I agree that we need people voting good answers more often. I always wish to see teachers, rather than learners, vote answers by others more often than we do. Then again, I understand that we're all have only limited amount of time to contribute to the site. Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:13
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    Of course a lot of things can be done to increase the amount of votes on ELL. What's important is whether any changes would actually improve the current situation, or you would end up with a lot of bad answers being upvoted.
    – M.A.R.
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:17
  • I get your point. However, it is unfair on those of us who invest time in producing the best possible answer to no avail. Would a thank-you note as a comment be asking for too much? We'll see how this develops. I might not feel like answering any more questions, except those of participants I regard at least grateful (not necessarily upvoting).
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:18
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    Good quality questions attract more interest and therefore are more likely to have their answers voted on. If you find an interesting question, you may want to make sure that the tags and title reflect its content, and that the body is formatted and touched up so it's easy to understand what is being asked.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 18:58
  • I suggested to a-new-to-the-site OP who accepted an answer, that s/he upvote the answer as well. I think we need to teach as we go along. As long as we are polite, we can teach how 'we' want things done. I know I appreciate help. I need it and like it when someone suggests a better way -- or even the way the site members prefer.
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 18:49
  • That's interesting, suggesting upvoting accepted answers.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 19:22
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    RE: Suggesting that a newer user upvote an accepted answer: Sure, you can suggest that, but I think it seems more altruistic when you do that for an answer other than your own. Maybe it's just me, but I've never liked seeing the "You can upvote my answer if it was helpful" comment under someone's own answer. It comes off as rep-grubbing.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 11:35

2 Answers 2


I disagree with quite a few of your sentiments.

Here's what I've learned after about 5 years on the Stack Exchange, mostly in language forums:

1) Don't expect there to be a proportional relationship between the work you put into an answer and the number of upvotes it gets. More often than not, some of the more highly-upvoted answers are a result of a question getting a lot of views. (A question might make the "Hot Question List" and subsequently get a lot of traffic, and many of those viewers will see an answer that pretty much mirrors what they would have written had they seen the question earlier. Click. Upvote. Meanwhile, the question you spent 45 minutes answering is collecting proverbial dust. Oh, well, all's not fair in love, war, and the Stack Exchange.)

2) Don't let Lesson #1 dissuade you from writing a good answer. The opportunity to help learners around the globe should be rewarding enough in and of itself.

3) Many good answers WILL attract upvotes – although maybe not as quickly as you might have hoped. I just took a screenshot of some upvotes I've had in the past week; most of these questions were asked over a month ago, and some of them were asked more than a year ago! Yet people still find these questions, and upvote answers.

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4) Not everyone is as addicted to the Stack Exchange as you are. Sometimes I'll spend a lot of time writing something I think was a pretty good answer, and then hear nothing. But a couple weeks later, my answer gets accepted! (Or maybe another answer will get accepted, right around the time when I get an upvote.) Accept that some people might ask a question and then wait a few weeks to look at the answers.

5) Comments that say "Thank you!" are generally discouraged on the Stack Exchange. Not everyone agrees with this cultural phenomenon, but enough do that it's a widespread and prevalent sentiment. (See the relevant discussions here and here, e.g.). You may feel underappreciated when you don't get such comments, but it might help you to realize that some users might be refraining from leaving a comment deliberately and as a matter of politeness, wanting to adhere to SE customs.

Personally, I don't see a need to exhort users to upvote more. As was said in a comment here, I'm afraid that such encouragement might result in more mediocre answers getting upvoted, and, generally speaking, I'm more disappointed with a bad answer that gets upvoted than I am with a great answer that's not being upvoted – even when that answer is my own.

  • Thank you for being so frank and for taking the time to share your experience with me. I'm quite new here and was surprised not to see at least one vote after writing a full page about different past tenses, as well as after writing other shorter answers. My expectations about getting at least some sign of gratitude or recognition were perhaps fed by what I've experienced at the Spanish Language site, where you always get, if not an upvote, at least a comment. However, as the saying goes, all sorts make the world, right?
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 16:23
  • I've found that many longer answers never got too many upvotes, perhaps because the rank-and-file didn't want to read through such a long answer before voting. But I'm not going to go into less depth just to try and game the system and get more upvotes. Some questions need a lengthy explanation, whether there are upvotes at the end or not, and I'll step up to the plate if I feel like I can write a very helpful answer.
    – J.R. Mod
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 22:02
  • The answer I'm particularly referrring to was in reply to a question asking about the use of different past tense forms in around ten sets of sentences, which being different from one another required a long collection of short explanations. However, after reading what J.R. wrote above, I'm still hopeful they will be of use, if not to the questioner, to somebody else.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 7, 2017 at 22:11

It is unclear if you are criticising questioners or answerers, or both.

Very few on-topic questions are left unanswered in ELL. If some questions receive only one answer, it may be because they are rather basic and one (obviously correct) answer is sufficient to meet a questioner's needs. Also, a lot of questions are answered with comments, and if they are basic, no one may feel that it is worthwhile providing a formal answer.

If questions are not up-voted, it may be because they are very basic. I must admit that I do not up-vote basic questions. Perhaps I should if they are well-presented. Of course, if I suspect that they are homework questions (which are not explicitly off-topic), perhaps I shouldn't.

Answers to basic questions may also not receive any up-votes. However, I find that a well-worded and properly referenced answer generally receives one or two upvotes.

As for questioners not accepting answers, there may be several reasons for this:

  • The first (and fairly obvious) reason is that they may be pushed for time, and if they have asked the same question on another site, they may not return here if they have already got an answer elsewhere. Bad manners, I know, but what would you do if you were in a desperate rush to complete an essay?

  • Another reason is that users may (mistakenly) think that the accept button is to be used only for selecting the best answer when there is more than one, and if there is only one answer, then this action is not appropriate.

  • Finally, SE generally recommends that you do not accept answers straight away, but rather leave it for at least a day. More savvy users may know this and simply forget to come back.

I don't think that the regular answerers mind too much if their answers are not accepted. If they did, they would quit the site. The one behaviour that is irksome, at least to me, is when questioners delete their questions once they have got what they want, but that doesn't happen too often.

Finally, if questioners do not thank answerers for their work, remember that this is SE policy, and thank-you messages are generally considered to be "noise".

  • I was actually criticizing questioners who sometimes don't seem to appreciate one's hard work, but we can't expect others to always act as we would or as we wish they would, can we? I guess this question and the comments and answers I received helped me vent a little bit. Thanks.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Feb 6, 2017 at 20:37

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