Asking for clarification on a Question is not only permissible but is welcomed. See this question asked by Caleb on Meta 2016. He asks “When should the comment feature be used and when should it be avoided?” When is a comment not a comment?

My question has to do with the use (and perhaps abuse) of posting comments to Answers. This is what Caleb suggested:

>Comments on answers…

may ask for clarification about how a point answers the question if it isn’t clear.

may ask the answer to further explain some aspect of the question not originally addressed.

may correct factual details that can be reasonably corrected by the author without changing the substance of the answer.

may inform the author that they missed something about the scope of a question (or that a question was edited) that they should take into account in their post.

should not provide alternatives to a completely wrong answer. If an answer is just wrong and you feel the need to set the record straight, vote it down and then hit up that answer form and submit a better entry.

should not explain how the beliefs described in an answer are wrong theologically. If they wrongly represent the theological tradition asked about in the scope of the question that’s one thing, but if they are just flat out wrong then stay away from that comment link.

What if a comment is argumentative and the person who posted the answer is disinclined to enter into what looks like a debate on theological differences? Is the person who posted the answer obliged to respond to comments? Or are they at liberty to disengage and leave their answer as it stands?

P.S. I have no idea what tags are applicable here, so please feel free to add some.

  • What does "obliged" mean specifically? I think it might mean something different depending on your proximate distance from the birthplace of Sam Weller, as the recalcitrant cabman said to the general's madam.
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 19:40
  • 1
    Although I was born some 400 miles avey from Sam Weller's birthplace, and am unfamiliar vith his dialect, the specific meaning of "obliged" (as I have used it) is "to bind or constrain someone to do something". In this case, it means specifically to respond to a comment or a challenge. I do not use the word to imply indebtedness or gratitude to someone. (Source: Collins English Dictionary 1979) Although I appreciate Charles Dickens' prose I am more familiar with 20th century English. That's why I keep my 1979 dictionary, to remind myself of what some English words originally meant.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 10:19
  • @lesely, much obliged
    – Peter Turner Mod
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 1:06

3 Answers 3


Agree with @kutschkem. Just adding a tip that if you think the comments are by

  • new visitors unfamiliar with how the site works, or
  • users ignorant of the policy (in good faith, i.e. willing to be educated), or
  • users who know the policy but couldn't resist to misuse the comments space (I'm sometimes guilty of this)

(if you so inclined) you can create your own boiler-plate "final notice" text that you can copy and paste such as one that I might use myself:

I see that you disagree with my position but the answer comment space is not the place to dispute a position. I might respond to constructive suggestions to clarify the position described in my answer or to improve my answer in other ways.

This is a version I might use for a "final notice" in a question:

I see that you disagree with my position but the question comment space is not the place to dispute the truth of a theological position. I might respond to constructive suggestions to clarify the theological scope requested in my question or to improve my question in other ways.

Of course if the user is rude, a troll, or is on a personal crusade to advocate their own position, the user may post their own aggravating / inflammatory "final comment" even after our "final notice", in which case we have to exercise our Christian virtue to bite our lips, be gracious, pray for our "enemy", silently suffering, and move on to greener pastures. But if their "final comment" is flag-worthy, then we can still do a "final act": flag that comment to perdition :-). We can also leave matters for "higher powers" to act on our behalf: moderator cleanup.

There is God in this place, even in Stack Exchange! God is the ultimate judge and rewarder of the good acts we do in secret.

  • 1
    I am humbled by your advice to "exercise our Christian virtue to bite our lips, be gracious, pray for our "enemy", silently suffering, and move on to greener pastures." And I smiled at the ultimate sanction - to flag a comment to perdition :-) Nice one!
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 17:01
  • @Lesley Thanks :-). To me C.SE is a learning, fun, sharing, and ministry place. It helps to think in those terms depending on who we are interacting with. It's a secular idea marketplace "in the world" where Christians can make the gospel intelligible to people coming from various backgrounds. Our conduct matters, but at the same time we don't have to sacrifice our intelligence or get abused. The moderators here help make this a safe and a potentially flourishing place. You, your posts and others make this place worth visiting for me and others. Thank you for your contribution! Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 18:13

There is no obligation to enter into discussions that shouldn't even be there. In fact, one probably just shouldn't, to discourage the behavior.

If a user posts an answer, and someone comments how to improve the answer - great, I encourage you to do so - but I don't see an obligation to actually improve the answer.

I don't see any obligation to even read what some other random person on the internet had to say. Even less to actually respond.

Can it mean a question might get closed because it was simply bad (but could have been improved if one just listened)? An answer downvoted because it didn't meet quality standards? Sure, but that still does not put one under any kind of obligation to do anything. Presumably, you are using your free time to participate here.

Disengage and ignore all you want, this is much better than arguing.

  • "Disengage and ignore all you want, this is much better than arguing." I wholeheartedly agree.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 16:55

If a comment on an answer, or even on a question, is argumentative, and would lead into a debate about theological differences, the best thing to do is not to respond, but to flag it for moderator deletion.

The boilerplate reasons for flagging a comment are:

  • It contains harassment, bigotry, or abuse. This comment attacks a person or group. Learn more in our Code of Conduct.
  • It's unfriendly or unkind. This comment is rude or condescending. Learn more in our Code of Conduct.
  • It's no longer needed. This comment is outdated, conversational or not relevant to this post.

If none of these apply, the final option is:

  • Something else. A problem not listed above. Try to be as specific as possible.

If the "something else" you enter is something along the lines of, "It is argumentative and not helpful in improving the answer," it will likely be deleted by the mods.

I have had to flag many, many comments on my questions and answers because my theological position (Swedenborgian) is a minority one, and not popular with mainline Christians, who commonly want to tell me how wrong I am.

But comments are not the place for that.

Occasionally I'll respond with a brief comment saying that I've flagged the comment for deletion, and why. But that's not really necessary. And if you do that, once the offending comment has been deleted, you should delete your responding comment as well.

TL;DR If a comment is not helpful in improving your answer, simply flag it for moderator deletion. There is no need to respond to it.

  • You are quite right to say that comments are not the place for trying to show that your theological beliefs are wrong. I do sympathise. I also agree that if you tell someone their comment has been flagged for deletion, and if they then delete the offending comment, you should likewise delete your responding comment. Sound advice.
    – Lesley
    Commented Nov 2, 2022 at 17:26

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