RE: Cobwebbed - The fox in the Attic (comment by CowperKettle) and "Get a free notebook WORTH $2." Where is "IS"? (comment by CowperKettle)

Note that I have asked this same question at English.SE and consider the question here to be a continuation of Let's bring down the number of unanswered questions.

ELL users have the habit of answering questions in comments. I've seen a lot of them over the time I've browsed this stack, the examples from CowperKettle, cited above, are just two examples that I ran across today. I've seen it done by new users and veteran users alike (more at English.SE than here, but that might be a subjective observation).

It is the natural habit to not answer a question when we see that someone has answered the question in a comment. Most especially when the comment is fundamentally correct. We don't want to steal the thunder, so to speak, of the answer — even though the answer isn't an answer but a comment.

What is the preferred behavior when other users find these pseudo-answers that can't be downvoted, edited, flagged for quality by the community, or commented upon without cluttering up the question comment chain? Should we flag them for moderator attention (or another reason)? or should we ignore them?

  • 1
    Point of order: Your first example (the “cobwebbed” example) doesn’t look like an answer to me. It’s a guess, and the commenter says as much, which is why I think that one probably ought to be left as a comment, at least until the question gets an accurate and helpful answer, at which time the comment may have outlived its usefulness. But to answer the questions in your last paragraph, you can always flag a comment, particularly if the “pseudo-answer” seems likely to be more consternating than helpful.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 18, 2019 at 23:46
  • @J.R., but should I flag the comment? As the various meta comments have been pointed to both here and at meta.English.SE, it appears that the most appropriate solution is to basically rob the comment and post the answer. Everybody gives lip service to approbation, but there's a strong current of "they deserve what they get," too.
    – JBH
    Feb 19, 2019 at 0:20
  • 1
    Whether or not you flag such comments is up to you. Once it’s flagged, the mod team will take a look to decide if it should stay or be deleted. When handling such flags, we usually ask ourselves if the comment would be useful to any learner stumbling on the question – not just the OP. Therefore, if the comment is succinct, accurate and helpful, and makes a clarification that’s not covered in existing answers, the comment is more likely to stay and the flag be declined. But if existing answers cover the same point, it often gets deleted, so you might consider answering before flagging.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:45
  • 1
    As for “robbing the comment” and leaving an answer, I think it’s a judgement call. If the comment is only a line or two long, please don’t copy that verbatim and flag the comment. Instead, flesh it out a little bit; that is, use the comment as a start to a meatier answer. Personally, I think that one- or two-line answers can be just as annoying as an "answer-in-comment”. But if the person writing the answer can do what the original commenter may not have had time to do (perhaps add a definition, or an example usage from literature), then everyone wins with an improved answer and tidier site.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 19, 2019 at 9:52
  • Here's a good place to start, if you want to try. As I write this, there is one answer, which has been flagged as low-quality. It reads: "The kid is teasing the dog with a cookie" is exactly right. (That seems more like an opinion than an answer.) There is also one comment, which reads: There's nothing wrong with teasing, if that's how you want to describe the behaviour. I like the comment more than I like the answer, but the question could still use an answer that substantiates the assertion somehow – yet it may not be trivial to do.
    – J.R. Mod
    Feb 19, 2019 at 10:08


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