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I see so many people giving perfectly valid answers in comments to the question instead of answers. Why is that so? Comments cannot be marked as accepted answers, and people coming across the same problem in the future just see a question with no answers.

I know leaving a short comment is quicker than taking a minute to formulate a more formal answer, but I find it really hard to understand why people (mostly long time users) don't use the website as I would guess it's supposed to be used.

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  • Thanks @samcarter, I see some good points there, and it's good to know that people "catch up" answering seemingly unanswered questions from time to time. I think that's good for the long term :) – Superuser27 Mar 15 at 12:12
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    I think there are two main reasons: 1) the questions simply does not contain the necessary information to confirm that a proposed solution does indeed solve a problem 2) the question is likely a duplicate and thus should better be closed as such instead of answered. However finding a suitable dupe often takes some time and one does not want to keep the OP waiting, so posts a quick comment (answering this in comment because I think its most likely a dupe of the before mentioned question) – user36296 Mar 15 at 12:12
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    I often comment with a solution if I didn't (have the time to) test it or if I have an idea about the solution, but haven't fully worked out the details or explanations. Many people here want an answer quickly and I don't think it hurts to suggest something first and if there is positive feedback to work things into a full answer. It also happens from time to time that I suggest something in the comments and the OP replies: I tried that, it didn't work. In that case an answer would have wasted time on both sides (and might even discourage other people from answering). – moewe Mar 15 at 12:24
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    The above does not mean that I only answer 'bad' questions in the comments. Take for example tex.stackexchange.com/q/479258/35864. The question had a good MWE, was very clear and I could (and did) easily verify that the problem was solved by adding the %s. I commented, linked to the suggested duplicate and waited for confirmation instead of writing an answer immediately. That way I avoided writing an answer that has been given elsewhere (in the duplicate) and avoided the possible unpleasant experience of gold-badge-dupe-closing the question immediately without comment. – moewe Mar 15 at 12:39
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    At least people that already have a reputation... just don't want to add an answer that is a duplicate and shows like they are trying to get more points and to "hide" that the question is already a dupplicate and doesn't offer something new. (There is the opposite behavior too in some cases but this is off-topic here)... In these cases, if they don't find a real reason to add an answer instead of a comment (ie some special extra command or the need to be more specific about the result in the specific MWE etc or too low OP's LaTeX skills to adapt the original answer etc) they will just comment. – koleygr Mar 15 at 13:24
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    Just out of curiosity: why do you refer to this practice as "trend"? Do you have any data indicating that this practice is being used more frequently in the more recent past? – user121799 Mar 15 at 15:18
  • Scientifically I admit the word "trend" is off. I'm new to TEX.SE as you might have noticed, but I saw this happening several times over the past few days and it got me wondering as to why, since maybe I too should avoid answering directly sometimes. Through you guy's comments I'm learning a lot, and reading through the SE blog there's also clearly some points where the developers are not seeing their website used as intended. I'm just trying to find a balance between wanting to help everyone and not disrupting the community's way of doing things :) – Superuser27 Mar 15 at 18:50
  • For the true answer please read the above upvoted comments :-) At present @moewe has give the most accepted observations. – user170109 Mar 15 at 22:58
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    I've answered this a number of times, usually in a comment. Often, when I'm contemplating a question, I'm in a position (as I am now) where I'm unable to test an answer, even if I'm pretty sure it's valid. Since I very much dislike having an answer shot down because it doesn't work, I much prefer to make a suggestion in a comment, and say it's untested. If response to the comment indicates that the suggestion works, and an answer requested, I will cheerfully provide one, usually with more information than was in the comment. – barbara beeton Mar 16 at 0:15

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