Skip to main content

Responding to comments

Any time you ask a question, you should be prepared to receive comments. It’s in your best interest to take these comments seriously and respond to them quickly so that you can improve your question and avoid downvotes and closure. The following are some tips for working well with commenters.

Post your question when you have time to respond

It’s better not to post your question at the end of your day when you are not going to see the comment and be able to respond. Many times, community members will see your question within a few minutes and [add comments asking you for details or clarification] needed to solve the problem. If you [take too long to reply], the community might lose interest in the question entirely, vote to close it, and move on to something else. Do not assume that an answer will be waiting for you when you return to work. You should post your question when you’re available to interact with the community, which increases the probability that you will get the help you need.

Use the mobile app to get notifications

Consider installing the Stack Overflow mobile application, which will notify you of messages in your inbox, and enable you to respond to comments more quickly.

Assume that the commenter is trying to help

Sometimes comments appear that don’t seem to address the question directly. Maybe they are questioning why you posted, recommending a completely different approach, or just leaving an opinion. In a majority of cases, the commenter is genuinely trying to be helpful, even if they aren’t answering your question directly. We strongly recommend making the assumption that a commenter on a question on Stack Overflow is trying to be helpful rather than offensive, and respond to it kindly.

Unfortunately, Stack Overflow is known for some amount of toxicity. If you are in serious doubt that a commenter is genuinely trying to provide helpful advice, flag the comment with a valid reason and leave it to the moderators to handle the situation.

When interacting with the community, in all cases, it’s our recommendation to follow our suggestions for etiquette as a guide to keep things as friendly as possible.

Use @name to reply to a comment

When someone leaves a comment on your question (or answer), you will receive a notification in your inbox. Similarly, if you want the commenter to see your comment in their inbox as soon as possible, you should use the @ character to start typing their screen name. The input box will give you a suggestion for how to complete the name correctly. When you receive that suggestion, simply click it to insert it into your reply and continue typing.

Here are some additional suggestions about tagging people in comments:

  • You can tag only one person per comment, so if you want to notify multiple people, you must leave multiple comments.

  • Do not try multiple times to notify someone if they don’t respond. That could be considered harassment.

  • Do not tag people with requests unrelated to the question or answer. These can be flagged for removal.

  • Comments on a question or answer always go to the inbox of the person who posted it, so there is no need to tag in those cases.

Edit the question to add new information

In many cases, a commenter will ask you to provide additional information necessary to answer the question. If a comment asks you for additional information, you should edit the question directly to address this request. Do not just leave that information in another comment. You can then use a comment to reply saying that you did so.

When adding new information to your question:

  • Do not just append it to the bottom with an “edit” statement. People can see the individual revisions (“diffs”) of your content, so there is no need to be explicit about what you added. You should just rewrite the text of the question to best include the new information as if you had originally intended it to be there.

  • After you make changes to the question, reply to the commenter to notify them of new information. The commenter may also delete their comment, as their feedback has been addressed.

  • Don't change the nature of the question unless you were specifically asked to do so. The commenter should explain why a different question is better (probably because you are posting an X/Y problem).

  • If you figure out an answer on your own, that’s great! Now, do not make any edits to add your solution within the question itself. Instead, post your results separately as an answer, then accept it as correct. This allows the site to recognize that the question has been resolved, and makes it easier for others to find your information in the future.