There have been a lot of one or two line answers (very brief) on the main site. Most of them, almost all of them IMO, only suggest one or two things to do and never explain why they would work. Though, such answers might be correct, but since sometimes they get upvoted and stick around longer, it is projecting an image that such short answers can be posted here.

I don't want to single anyone out, but this is an example. It suggests to do one thing that the OP would do, but there is no explanation about why it would work. It has been stated that answers here should not be mere suggestions and must explain how and/or why they will work.

Though, we have taken an approach to downvote and comment such answers and it's been doing a nice job. But still, there are more answers like this. And it gets worse when the question gets in HNQ and they start to get more and more upvotes.

On the Workplace SE (though I can't say about other ones), I have seen a lot of one-line answers getting numerous upvotes. And it seems that the similar behavior is now appearing on IPS as well. IIRC, answers on SE should explain why and how.

So, what should be done with such answers? Should we only downvote and comment (or a post notice by moderator) and move on, or we should take stricter action such as deletion?

A related answer has been posted on Workplace Meta as well.

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    Your example isn't even just a one line answer; it doesn't answer the question at all. The "answer" they gave is "I would do this." OP's question was "How should this superfluous courtesy be handled?" not "What would you do in this situation." The person who answered hasn't explained why what they would do is actually a solution to the problem; and therefore is not an answer to what was asked. – JMac Nov 2 '17 at 19:16
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    I found this post because I saw many long answers and asked myself why people don't write shorter answers. I think often a few lines answer the question. Then there might be additional text for more details - but not necessarily. I guess many users prefer to read i.e. 5 short answers instead of 1 long answer. Often short answers are good enough and long answers make the same point just with more words. Many answers don't get better because they are longer. – user8838 Feb 9 at 4:08
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    Judge answers by their merits. – Don Thermidor_Lobster Mobster May 3 at 13:30
up vote 11 down vote accepted

Yes, we definitely need be. I think we even need to be a little more strict on the quality of answers in general, not only the one-liners. An answer of 4 or 5 lines can be just as bad.

Take a look at these answers to 1 question:

These are just 4 examples, of which the last 2 are upvoted (now at respectively 5 and 21 upvotes, not counting the downvotes). We're having a serious problem here, users aren't taking the time and effort to write good answers that

  • Take the question of the OP into account
  • Provide some evidence, experience or back-up for their suggestions.

I'm suggesting a harsher approach. If questions reach HNQ, users will see the not so good answers and things will deteriorate from there, because other users think they can gain some quick rep because 'hey, there's a highly upvoted single line/no back-up suggestion here', let's see if I can get away with one as well!

I have picked up my flagging/commenting.

If an answer only suggests 'say this', or 'do this instead' without explanation, I'm casting downvotes and flags to get things deleted. That's the only thing I can do on answers that are upvoted more than downvoted.

If they are downvoted, I'm not hesitating to use my deletion privileges as well.


See also these 2 meta questions and their answers for some more information as to what a good answer should look like:

Delete them.

We don't want users, especially new users, think that one-liner is tolerated here.

Just like putting a question on-hold allows some time for the owner to improve their question, deleting an answer prevent the answer from gaining upvotes (and downvotes, which rarely get reversed later) and allows improvement.

If you like the answer, please consider to delay your upvote until the answer is edited, or even downvote the answer (if you are willing to reverse it later).

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    I've mistakenly judged the answer earlier. It should've been deleted. – Vylix Nov 2 '17 at 6:50
  • 'and allows improvement' is the crucial point that makes deletion not a negative but a constructive measure @Vylix. If the author is willing to improve the answer substantially then I am sure members will vote to undelete the answer. – English Student Nov 2 '17 at 11:57
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    Simply voting to delete or down vote does not allow for improvement if 'new users' don't know it is required to justify answers. The whole point of the comment section is to improve the answer. Perhaps commenting first is a more appropriate approach than simply voting to delete. – CramerTV Nov 3 '17 at 0:17
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    @CramerTV it is at the discretion of the reviewers. Personally, I would vote delete regardless of the time if it is in low quality queue, and flag NAA only after 1 hour. – Vylix Nov 3 '17 at 1:15

As an alternative to @vylix's answer, I'd offer that education through commenting is a better teacher than a simple vote for deletion. This very thing happened to me - no comment was offered. Just a down vote and vote for deletion. Fortunately apaul linked to this meta question so I could learn.

Absent constructive feedback users will not get the message that one liners are inappropriate for this SE site.

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    Forgive me for not adding the comment part. I think it's a standard to comment and vote (for deletion) to allow improvement, but then I realize that it's not unusual that people cast a close-vote or delete-vote without giving any comment. As a community we should work on that. – Vylix Nov 3 '17 at 4:53
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    IMO, if we're downvoting and further voting to delete the answers, it's better we left a comment asking for improvement. If it gets improved, we can reverse downvotes. If the post is deleted during this, the OP can flag it for moderator attention requesting to undelete the post. – A J Nov 3 '17 at 5:10
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    Please see this answer and this deleted one as proof that comments are often happily ignored. Yes, I leave comments, but often they lead to nothing but discussion or even a simple 'NO' from the OP...I'm glad to see the exception here... – Tinkeringbell Nov 3 '17 at 6:21
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    Your answer is btw suggesting the same thing this answer from 4 hours earlier also suggests: Use humor. Only the joke is different....So it may not have been only the one-liner approach that got you downvotes – Tinkeringbell Nov 3 '17 at 6:27
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    @Tinkeringbell, Fair enough - but again, indicating such would be helpful. It just feels like folks are assuming everyone knows the rules and let's burn them at the stake if they don't. It's everywhere. The first time I went to a motorcycle desert race everyone just assumed I knew what to do, where to go, how hard the race was going to be, etc., etc. Newbies are important to any ecosystem/culture/etc. and they must be treated with respect instead of brutal totalitarianism (not that anyone here is giving 50 lashes or anything like that. ;) – CramerTV Nov 3 '17 at 16:20
  • @Tinkeringbell yeah, I once gave some suggestions for how to make an answer better and the writer got very angry and said that "this answer is fine, you're just an elitist". I just flagged and moved on. Later i came back and the answer had 6 downvotes, and the OP edited the answer to say "this is a good answer, why are people giving me downvotes." That seems to be common, the writers getting very defensive and hurt by comments asking them to developer the answer further. I've lately just linked the "how to write an answer" page and left it that. It has seemed to work better. – user3316 Nov 3 '17 at 18:12

The accepted answer says,

Provide some evidence, experience or back-up for their suggestions

I'd like to reference Good Subjective, Bad Subjective -- which suggests that good answers are based on references and/or personal experience:

The folks at Moms4mom owned up to the subjective issue and came up with a set of principles to create useful subjective discussions on parenting: the "Back It Up!" principle. "Back It Up!" means that your answers must be based on either:

  • Something that happened to you personally
  • Something you can back up with a reference

Should we be more strict about one-line answers?

One line answer: If the answer is simply "Try this: ..." and there is no "irrefutable source" (Example: Help Center > Answering) then we run the risk of going against the purpose of the Stack Exchange sites.

It is possible for a one-liner to be OK, just make certain that it is.

Would my answer better convince you if I continue writing, adding several more paragraphs.

Some things are simple, and so is the solution. Some things are complex, and require establishing a specific set of conditions (or assumptions) under which the provided answer would apply.

...


Specific examples from the Tour which explain the goals of StackExchange:

  • We build libraries of high-quality questions and answers, focused on each community's area of expertise.

  • Ask questions, get answers, no distractions.

  • This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.

  • Good answers are voted up and rise to the top. The best answers show up first so that they are always easy to find.

  • Our goal is to have the best answers to every question, so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them.

  • Use comments to ask for more information or clarify a question or answer.

As one can see the Tour page is rich with helpful advice.

If there are suggestions for improvement of the Tour page they can be put forward by 'asking a question' (even if it's more of a "suggestion" than a "question") on the Meta (you are here) of the site in question.

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    We specifically prohibit "try this" answers because they do not explain whether the person writing them has any experience to back up their answer... for all we know, it could be a random guess they pulled out of thin air. It works on a programming site because you can literally try it in your code and validate that it works - and if it doesn't, you just undo the change. We're dealing with people's actual lives. A "solution" may look good on the surface and have major negative consequences. – Catija May 3 at 4:41
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    That said, if you can be more specific about what on those pages states that we're going against the purpose of the network - by quoting it - that would improve your answer.... so, to answer your question in an answer - absolutely!. Fleshing out your answer would absolutely make it better. – Catija May 3 at 4:42
  • An example of a three word answer, consisting only of linked words, is here: english.stackexchange.com/a/428667/246019 - A little editing from me and some from the community improved the answer, ultimately it scored a few UpVotes and became the chosen answer. There are many cases where a short answer would not be acceptable - despite that Help Center > Asking clearly states: "Chatty, open-ended questions diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. Your questions should be reasonably scoped.". – Rob May 3 at 6:44
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    @Rob : can we really compare an answer about a synonym (1 word = 1 word / where 1 or 2 words give the meaning, and a Copy/Paste of part of a dictionary makes the explanation and the answer a little more fluffy) and an IPS problem? Why not compare a question about politics or philosophy and a proper way to replace one word by another? The in-depth of the latter won't be the one of the former I guess. – OldPadawan May 3 at 9:10

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