(Full disclosure: I have a horse in this race; I think the answer is 'no, but'.)

An answer of mine was closed because a moderator thought it was a clarifying question. However, it was really a leading question, that is, it contained an answer disguised as a question, but the question mark led the moderator to delete, and a potentially useful answer was hidden from view.

What should we do about answers like this? Should we ask posters to repost them more clearly as answers? Edit them to make it clear that they are answers? Delete them and let posters resubmit an answer-looking question?

2 Answers 2


Maybe you could start your answer like this:

Ask yourself, "did I drop fertilizer all over my lawn?"

Otherwise, yeah it should be a comment since you're really asking for clarification.


This is the question you're referring to, and your answer which was deleted was:

enter image description here

I do agree with Robert here in that this should've only been a comment, asking the OP for clarification. However, I also see merit in your point that in an open question like "Why does my grass have green patches", fertilizer burn is a valid answer. Here's what you can do to make it more like an answer:

  1. Make it clear that it is one of the possible explanations for patchy lawns.
  2. Explain what happens when you drop fertilizer (why does it burn, why does it lead to patches).
  3. Fertilizer burn patches might have distinct looks to it that helps differentiate it from say patches due to uneven mowing or disease or missed watering. Explain those.

Now if you'd like, I can restore your previous post (since there are some comments on it) and delete the new one and I hope you'll try to edit the answer to make it more informative.

  • I'm actually more curious in the general answer to this question than in an action on my comment, though I appreciate that offer. What do we do with people answering in this fashion, in a way that promotes community while making the rules clear? Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 18:08
  • 2
    @Alex - I agree with yoda's post above. To be fair, I originally parsed your question as an answer, but it wasn't a great answer. As a general answer: you should remove ambiguity by elaborating on the answer. If it looks like it is just a clarifying question, it will probably be deleted with a note like Robert's. FWIW, SO is loaded with "answers" that are really (a) comments or (b) new questions ("me too"). Spend a couple of minutes reviewing answers on any popular tag on SO and you're bound to be able to flag a few as non-answers.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 18:27
  • 2
    It should be made very clear that the ANSWER box is for answers and nothing else. One way to do that is removing stuff that isn't answers with gentle instructions to the poster about the right way to do it.
    – bstpierre
    Commented Jul 1, 2011 at 18:28

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