I have noticed a lot of answers basically amount to "you can't do anything". Does this site consider such answers acceptable? For example the most up voted answer on How to ask friend not to leave so quickly, or at least let me know if he doesn't plan on staying very long? contains no actionable steps. I have only asked one question but noticed this in several others.

  • 1
    Maybe related: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/3301/1599 . There's been more discussions about so-called 'frame-challenges' on this site, an answer that doesn't give actionable steps while the question asks for some could be said to be a 'frame-challenge' or one that doesn't respect the premise, based on how it's written.
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Dec 23, 2021 at 8:05

1 Answer 1


I have noticed a lot of answers basically amount to "you can't do anything". Does this site consider such answers acceptable?

The answer to this is going to be: it depends. I wrote a lengthy answer to this question that I also linked in the comments, but I'll summarize it a bit here. Basically, there are three types of 'you can't do anything' answers:

  1. The first type tells the user 'you can't do this', lives up the citation expectations, explains why the asker can't do the thing they want to do, but offers an alternative way to meet the same goal (sometimes with warnings that even this approach may not get them their desired results). For this to work, the question should have a clear goal, and included a bit about what the OP has thought of doing/tried doing already.
  2. The second type tells the user 'you can't do this', but doesn't meet the citation expectations and/or offers no alternative approach to reach the same goal. These answers usually express the opinion that the asker should have a different goal, they are disagreeing with the premise of the question and instead answer a different question, based on a different premise.
  3. The last type tells the user 'you can't do this' and offers no alternative approach to reach the same goal, because the goal/purpose of the question is unclear. We usually get these when questions ask to do a thing that's usually rude (like asking a woman if she's pregnant), show awareness that this is trying to do a rude thing, but don't clarify what goal the asker is trying to achieve by doing something rude.

Only the type of answer in point 1 is acceptable on this site.
Answers as described in point 2 can be flagged as 'not an answer', and are usually then deleted for not meeting the citation expectations or not answering the actual question (but a different one with a different premise).
Answers as described in point 3 are not acceptable, as the question should've been closed as unclear/lacking a clear goal, not answered. They are either deleted when the closed question is deleted, or judged upon their merit after a question is edited and reopened: do they answer the actual question, help achieve the goal, meet the citation expectations?

NOTE: This goes for newer Q/A pairs, mostly written after May 22 '18. You may probably find a lot of old questions and answers from the early days of this site, when standards were still developing, questions hit HNQ all the time, and moderation was different. We had meta discussions about that too, and the consensus then was to focus on moderating our new content, and not hunt down/delete all the old posts.

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