There is endless Q&A here and on SE Meta on comments vs. answers. Some things are clearly comments (e.g., requests for clarification, critique of a post). We have guidance on what constitutes a good answer vs. a low quality answer. There is a lot of discussion on the desirability of answers being in answer posts. We have mechanisms for handling "answers" posted as comments. There is discussion on whether a VLQ answer is still an answer (that goes to issues surrounding something originally posted as an answer).
However, the standard SE help topic has a big gray area. There is no "thou shalt not post answer information in a comment". Going back almost to the dawn of SE, comments have routinely been used for situations such as:
- posting a helpful hint that the author didn't feel met the requirements of an answer or as direction and encouragement for the OP to pursue their own answer
- posting speculative information or information the author isn't sure about, often as a placeholder until they have time to research it
- posting a piece of a complex or multi-part answer when the entire answer will take time and the piece, alone, doesn't really answer the question
- posting the kernel of an answer with the expectation of potentially expanding it later into an answer or providing fodder for someone else to develop into an answer
- a choice at the time between posting nothing or something potentially helpful because the author was not yet in a position to post what they consider an answer
- trying to be helpful on a question that should be closed, without encouraging more off-topic questions or risking making it difficult to delete the question if an answer gets upvoted
- the question is extremely basic, likely has been asked before, and can be answered briefly and with less time and effort than searching out duplicates
On some SE sites, like Super User, high quality answers are a very high priority. Posters are actively advised to post as a comment in some of these situations rather than as a low quality answer. A useful comment can be expanded into a good answer, but a VLQ answer ruins it. What might have had potential tends to be lost once an answer gets heavily downvoted. Going in the other direction, there are plenty of established ways for people to deal with comments that they think should not be comments, including:
- encouraging the author to repost a worthy comment as an answer
- expanding on the comment themselves in an answer
- flagging a comment for deletion or movement to chat
I've posted some comments on ELL based on reasons such as listed above. On several, someone posted a suggestion to turn it into an answer and on several, another user ran with it and expanded it into an answer (both being standard solutions for answer information posted in a comment).
However, a number of ELL users view comments in the "thou shalt not" category. I've received feedback that comments are only to be used for critiques or seeking clarification, and that a VLQ answer is preferable to answer information in a comment. I'm wondering whether the culture may be different on ELL than my experience on some other SE sites.
I post answers when I think what I have to post qualifies as an answer. People's standards vary in terms of what they find acceptable. I won't knowingly post a VLQ answer. In situations such as listed above, my choice is to leave something that I think is helpful in a comment or leave nothing at all.
So my question: on ELL, given a situation such as this, what is the preference?
- post nothing at all
- post a comment
- post what would have gone in a comment in an answer that would be VLQ