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Before you ask, yes, I have read this topic from the help center.

With that out of the way, I would like to ask how to make exemplary answers, that gets everybody to want to upvote your answer.

There seems to be a trend that answers tend to be up-voted a lot more, or around equal to the questions, such as this one and this one. However, I have noticed that my median question votes (24.5 votes, as of right now) is higher than my highest voted answer (19 votes, as of right now).

I find this a little bit confusing, as answers tend to gain higher votes than my questions, as I said previously, despite me having more than 3 times more answers than questions.

So, how does one give an exemplary answer worthy of many upvotes?


I highly discourage people going to my questions and answers and upvoting them, as the nature of this question is about how to answer things well, not to ask for upvotes (and would feel very guilty if this question attracted attention to my posts).

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    \$\begingroup\$ There may be a difference between answering a question really well and answering for the most fake internet points . \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 7 at 22:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ So you've noticed that answers are often more upvoted than questions, but the same is not true for yourself. One response to that is 'how can I improve my answers'. But can I just take the opportunity to say thanks for contributing to this community with so many great questions. As someone whos answers are often well recieved, none of my questions have hit your median. Thanks for what you're already doing as part of this community. \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Mar 9 at 9:35
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Be patient, read lots of questions, and play/run a lot.

It's pretty easy to write answers that get 20 or 30 upvotes: answer D&D questions about rules correctly, succinctly, and first.

But you want to know about exemplary answers. The rule for those is even easier: be expert in the topic you're writing about.

If the question you come across is one in which you have true expertise--wisdom born of experience--then you'll already know whether a short or a long answer is better, whether personal anecdotes or data-mining will provide better evidence, whether to challenge the assumptions in the question or take them as given.

The thing is: those don't come along very often. (For comparison: I've answered ~440 times these last 3.5 years, and I'd point to a half-dozen of those as ones I'm really proud of.)

There's a (roughly) set number of questions coming in per day. The first-order ways to increase the odds of creating an exemplary answer are to expose yourself to more questions (read a lot of them) and to broaden your expertise (play/run a lot). So you've got to be patient. It's not every week, every month, or even every year that you're going to get a question teed up for you to write a great answer. I mean, there's something like 77K answers on site right now, and 143 of them got that badge.

Second-order: answer lots of questions. It'll help you develop your style and instincts, get a sense for where your expertise lies, and you'll likely get lots of useful feedback in the process. And take GreySage's advice.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a really great point. Reading the rules backwards and forwards is helpful, but there just isn't any substitute for experience. \$\endgroup\$ – Miniman Mar 7 at 23:00
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A few general trends that I've noticed in several years of answering/lurking.

  • Back up your answer: Give sources for claims you make, quote rules text (with book/page number next to it), cite your own experience. Make sure other people know that what you are telling them is correct, or at least give them a way to verify it on their own.

  • Be correct: In theory, we should be voting more correct answers above less correct ones; this is the whole point of the voting process. Note that this doesn't always work (sometimes an unpopular interpretation is objectively the correct one, but it doesn't make it less unpopular).

  • Be nice: Even within the realm of the official Be Nice policy, more polite, courteous, and friendly answers tend to be better received than not.

  • Be funny: Use jokes, relevant images, etc. to get people to like your answer not just for it's factual content, but because it made them briefly happier.

  • Use good formatting: Use headers and sub-headers to organize the information in your answer. Make it clear what the overall answer is to the question posted (the tl;dr, if you will). Use good grammar, proper spelling, etc., although most(?) people in the network understand that English isn't everyone's first language and lots of people are willing to give small helpful edits to smooth out both formatting and grammar. Still, every bit helps when you are trying to make a good impression.

  • Write more: If you can express the same information in 6 paragraphs or in 2 paragraphs, go with the 6 paragraph version, provided you have actual content in those paragraphs. (I personally disagree with this trend, but it is an observable phenomenon that longer posts get more upvotes in general.)

  • Answer social problem questions: Social questions (including anything to do with My Guy Syndrome) get tons of attention, and any non-terrible answer will get lots of upvotes.

  • Post your answer quickly: First-to-post answers get upvotes almost by default, and then the highest voted answer tends to attract more upvotes than others (given answer quality is comparable).

You should also understand that the gamification (giving rep, tracking upvotes, badges, etc.) of the stack network is just to increase participation and has no inherent worth on its own, so I advise you to not stress over getting more upvotes and just contribute where you can.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with the "write more" part; from my observation, what gets upvoted is clear, well-cited answers. Sometimes a 1-2 paragraph, straight-to-the-point answer is clearer than a 12-paragraph answers that's rambling and repetitive, even if they both assert the same overall points. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Mar 7 at 21:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I added in a point on formatting, but I have seen many examples of 2 questions having mostly equivalent content, good formatting, useful citations, etc., and still the longer one gets more upvotes. If you have noticed something else you are welcome to write your own answer. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Mar 7 at 22:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a minor quibble, rep does get you more privileges on the site, which isn't strictly the same as increasing participation in terms of Q&A. It's more self-policing, which I suppose could count as site participation. \$\endgroup\$ – Joel Harmon Mar 8 at 3:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think you might be mixing up writing more with explaining more. Being concise is good; if you can explain the same thing in less words it is better to use less words. However explaining more can make for a more comprehensive, useful answer. (Or it can just constitute tangential rambling; there's judgement calls to be made there.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Mar 8 at 11:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even if what you say about longer answers is true (I personally have not experienced that at least not isolated from other factors, eg answering first) this would be good advice only for getting more upvotes. This is explicitly bad advice for a good answer as judged by overall quality. If you can say the same exact thing in less words, it is better to do so. Don't mix up upvotes with actual answer quality — they aren't always the same. \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose Mar 8 at 14:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am tempted to ask you to bold that last clause. ;) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Mar 8 at 23:17

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