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This site is not just another place on the internet; an explicit (SE) goal is to have a good signal-to-noise ratio. "Wall of text" questions and answers are noise — they show a lack of effort, a lack of respect for the reader, and often lack clarity of expression. "Here, you figure out what I mean."

While I occasionally assist in making such answers look like intelligible answers, that at best addresses the symptom. Such behavior, doing the work for the badly presented question or answer, sends the signal that making noise is acceptable since "someone else will take care of it."

This answer in its original, unexpurgated form is what drew my attention to this issue, but it's not the first.

How does this site make it clear and unambiguous that wall-of-text is not an appropriate format for presenting questions and answers here? I had in mind a meta or FAQ that we can link to in comments like the How Are We Different Than Other Sites meta.

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    I normally comment saying something like "Whoa! Please edit this to add some paragraph breaks!" – curiousdannii Jul 8 '17 at 7:06
  • this is enabling the behaviour – TRiG Jul 9 '17 at 22:58
  • @TRiG Enabling is the adjective, behavior is the noun. You engage in enabling behavior when you do stuff that enables behavior in the family member you are trying to help get off of the substance. – KorvinStarmast Jul 10 '17 at 0:58
  • @Caleb I edited this again to state the objective more clearly. – KorvinStarmast Jul 10 '17 at 10:51
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If you see a "wall of text", I recommend the following protocol:

  1. Judge its quality:

    • If it's bad, down vote the post. Additionally flag it as Very Low Quality if you think it also has issues besides formatting and needs to be deleted entirely.

    • If there is good content buried in the blob of text you don't have to do anything. It would be nice if you edit some breaks in really quick, but it's no biggie if you don't. Formatting is part of a good answer, but if the author didn't break up their thoughts while writing it is not incumbent on site readers to fix this. Vote according to how useful and accurate the post is in answering the question that was asked.

  2. Comment if you feel inclined. Something like I've edited your answer to make the formatting more readable. I added line breaks. Click [edit] to see how to do it. or This answer is good, but hard to read because it has no line breaks. Please take the time to [edit] in some paragraphs.


I find there's two types that make "wall of text" answers, and neither is really worth investing much time in to educate about the site's standards. Those are:

  1. Drive-by users
  2. Technically ignorant

The first type frankly doesn't care and such answers are typically bad enough that they are deleted. My experience is the user likely won't come back. It's your time, but I won't waste mine on this type.

The second type may have made a good answer, but didn't take the time to figure out markdown for the formatting. It's easy enough to figure out that they'll get it on the next try or two if they come back. But I find they usually don't come back either.

Sometimes you might see the second type actually did try to make paragraphs, but they put a single line break between lines, instead of a double. They did:

 Line 1
 Line 2

Instead of

 Line 1

 Line 2
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  • You're missing the most important action that should be under point 1: vote. If the quality is bad, downvote. Flagging is a second line of defense for particularly egregious posts that need a moderator to intervene. It should not be used if the offense is just being a "wall of text". If it's otherwise a valid answer but poorly constructed, the vote mechanism is the tool to reach for. – Caleb Jul 9 '17 at 4:52
  • @Caleb I don't know. Low quality answer combined with wall of text formatting? Sounds like grounds for deletion to me. By themselves, no. Together, yes. – 3961 Jul 9 '17 at 5:39
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    I mean, if you're going to post crap, it would at least be polite to post well-formatted crap. – 3961 Jul 9 '17 at 5:42
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    Maybe deletion is in order for some of these posts. My point was the first tool you should reach for in such cases is the DV button, and there are vanishingly few cases that should get flagged as VLQ without having also down voted. Don't pass the buck to a moderator without first using the tools you have. Still flag if you think it needs deleting, but "flag and you're done" is incomplete advice. – Caleb Jul 9 '17 at 6:32
  • @Caleb I made a slight edit – 3961 Jul 9 '17 at 15:48
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    @Caleb A sound reminder to use the tools we have. – KorvinStarmast Jul 10 '17 at 10:52
  • I started with a minor edit to fix an apostrophe, then to drop the awkward placement of "you're done", then realized there were a few other things to that could be explained. Even so "judge its quality" is kind of left hanging. I expanded on that for the 'good' section, but for the 'bad' bit one is left hanging a little bit. Do we have a meta post somewhere on the use of VLQ flags? – Caleb Jul 10 '17 at 11:10

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