Related to How should we handle this question, most of the answers to which only address the minor/secondary question?

That question addresses how we handle questions that have multiple parts, where most answers only address the secondary question. Now I want to ask how the community feels about answers that only answer part of the question, but ignoring the other, main, question.

Should such answers be flagged as Not An Answer? Should we downvote them?

These three proposed duplicates

are approaching the issue as the answerer. This question is about how we, as the community, should handle these partial answers. The answers have been posted, but how do we should handle these?

Do we allow people to post partial answers? If the answer is no, how do we handle already-posted partial answers?


3 Answers 3


Perhaps the question is at fault (rather than the answer), and it should be made more specific instead of having multiple parts.

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ +1. this is why we generally want "one question per question." \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 17:20
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This answer might benefit from suggesting what course of action should be taken (e.g. vote to close, ask OP for clarification, and/or edit the question to focus on what it's actually asking). It seems like you're suggesting the last of those, but it could use a little bit of elaboration (such as by referencing the "one-question-per-post" guideline mentioned above). \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 0:40

Not getting into "should" but rather "this is what I've seen work"

Responses to answers that are incomplete include:

  1. leave a comment to inspire the answerer to improve the answer.

  2. down vote

  3. both a and b

  4. In selected cases, add what's missing if you know the answer and can support it. This helps that answer, though not all users will want to exercise that option.

    Each is effective to varying degrees depending on the details of the situation.

I have had done for me, and have done also for others, all four of those choices.

I am not convinced that some new policy, nor some sagacious rule, can and will encompass all cases and thus do not feel that there is anything new, or specific, to do. The tools we have should get us where we need to go.

I also concur with @ZanLynx when he points out that a root cause of some bad answers is that the question is bad in the first place and needs work.

Heh, update: I just left such a comment for an answer that is sparse on detail, we'll see if the answerer rises to the occasion.


The answer stands or falls by its quality

There is a whole spectrum running between "doesn't answer the question at all" and "answers the question comprehensively in all conceivable and inconceivable situations now and forevermore". If you're holding out for the latter you'll be waiting a long time.

The voting mechanism exists to separate the wheat from the chaff - comprehensiveness is one of the criteria in a highly personalised and personal voting system.

If a person is consistently posting poor quality answers as perceived by the majority of the community (possibly because it violates community norms) they will either learn what constitutes a high quality answer or stop posting.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ So this comes across as "don't try to learn about our community norms, just click whatever button happens to occur to you at the time and let it all come out in the wash." If you have a more nuanced point, then probably adding some of that additional content would improve this answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 11, 2019 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk on the contrary, feedback is a great way of learning community norms. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 23:54

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