Most of us have been here before. We've had an answer that hasn't been getting any up-votes (or maybe even getting nothing but down-votes). So what can a person do to get the internet points they deserve?

Here is a list of things that might be causing other members of the community to scroll past your answer without casting that elusive up-vote, or even worse, causing them to stop just long enough to cast that terrible down-vote.

Note: These answers are summaries of what we as a community expect out of our answers, so feel free to edit them, or at least leave a comment, if you think they're too far from what you think we should expect from our community.

Of course, everyone is free to stop by the chatroom or here in Meta if more personalized advice is needed as to why an answer isn't being seen as a good one.


10 Answers 10


Link Only or Video Only

Similar to the one-line answer, a link-only answer conveys a sense of dismissal. If our answer to a question is to provide the person with a link to another site, then there is no reason for us to exist. We're not a search engine, so why should we be giving search results?

One of the problems with links, is that they are subject to change over time. At any given point in time, a link-only answer can end up with a broken link, and what then? Our goal is to provide current and future users with good quality content. If our content breaks, then the future users have been invalidated. It's also unreasonable to expect everyone to keep track of all the links on the site to make sure they're always up to date and working. So it's important that we make it so that any links in our answers aren't required for the answer to be valid. The goal is that nothing will be lost if for some reason the link doesn't work for the viewer.

And issue that's even worse, is that when you ask the viewer to follow a link to another site you lose control over whether or not they come back to the site. Viewers who are new or unattached to the site are one click away from going to another site and never coming back, so by telling them to go to another website for an answer, that's what we're asking them to do. Leave and never come back.

The same thought applies to answers that rely heavily on videos. The easiest thing you can do to fix this, is to use the video as a source instead of a link. While they might appear the same in text, it's all about how you use them. Let's take a look at the difference real quick:

"Check out this video. It answers your question."

Holy wrong video Batman! How does that help the viewer with their turtle's stomach ache? It doesn't!

"Here's a video from the popular TV series Teenage Mutant ninja Turtles. In the video you'll notice that the turtles are jumping and performing acrobatic feats, not seen in wild or captive turtles. What's more, if you examine this video you'll find that the turtles are actually drawn cartoons. This supports my argument that turtles can not be trained as ninjas."

Here we've summarized what is in the video, so the viewer can watch it to verify it if they want to, but all the information is contained in the answer. Keeping down the risk of losing the viewer after they've gone to a different website. Remember, a viewer that gets lost in the suggested cute kitten videos, is a viewer that doesn't come back to up-vote your answer.

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/778/481)


Arguing vs. "Arguing"

Everything is an argument. This post is my argument as to why we should be careful as to how we argue.

ar·gu·ment noun \ˈär-gyə-mənt\

: a statement or series of statements for or against something

: a discussion in which people express different opinions about something

: an angry disagreement


Notice how the first two uses of the word argument sound peaceful? That's because they are. An argument is simply an attempt to convince others that the position they hold is the correct one.

When arguing with someone that the argument is with the subject and not the opposing person. The view should never feel that you think they are inferior in any way, nor should you berate them. Using an improper tone of voice while arguing is the fastest way to drive a viewer away from you argument. The goal is to have the viewer come to your side of the argument on their own, something they cannot do if they've become defensive from your argument.

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/781/481)



Sometimes we just know the answer to a question, and it seems simple to us. Things we've known forever we tend to think that it's common knowledge. The problem is that even if it is common knowledge, that doesn't mean that everyone knows it.

Let's say that someone asks a question that to most people who have kept fish probably know.

"Why am I not supposed to clean my fish tank with soap?"

The answer is pretty straightforward: It would kill the fish.

So then we've answered the question right? That's what we're here for, isn't it? To give people answers to their questions. So why is it wrong to give a short answer?

Well, the thing about short answers, is that they're acceptable sometimes, but it's nothing more than that.. Acceptable. The real question is, do we want acceptable answers? Or great answers?

Here are some of the issues with writing a short, acceptable, answer:

  1. It conveys a lack of caring. If I were to take the time to write out a question I had, and someone wrote an answer with only two sentences in it. I'd feel pretty dejected. People are coming here to learn, so what we need to do to facilitate that, is to show some consideration and make sure that we put a little bit of effort into our answers.

  2. If an answer brings up more questions, is it really an answer? In the example, if I were to receive that answer, I would still be left wondering why. Because while I was told that soap kills fish, I wasn't told why soap kills fish. Furthermore, why should I believe some random person on the internet? It could be a joke, or misinformed. There is always more to elaborate on, so use that to argue why your answer is the correct one. For more tips on writing a good answer, take a look at the section: "Down-Voted or Ignored".

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](https://pets.meta.stackexchange.com/a/777/481\)


Misuse of Quotes

"While quotes are fun, they can be misused and misattributed." - Mark Twain

One thing you have to consider as a writer, is how the viewer is directed through your answer. All writing should have a clear direction, a path from the beginning to the end, and when writing you should do your best to keep the viewer from straying from the path.

Every time you add a quote to your answer, you're asking the viewer to take a step off the path you're setting, and listen to part of another person's argument. If the quote is not carefully selected, or even too long. The viewer might not return to your argument with the same mindset as when they "stepped off".

This is why it can be bad if too many quotes are used in an answer, if the viewer doesn't know who's speaking to them, it can distance them from the argument. Using too many quotes can also harm your credibility, as it can lead viewers to think that you aren't versed in the subject enough to be able to argue on your own.

The worst thing that can happen with quotes is that they can be misattributed or taken out of context. Misattributing a quote can happen accidentally, a lot of quotes that are supposedly from Mark Twain (including the one above) aren't actually from him. But what's the big deal right? A quote is a quote, does it really matter who we say it's from?

Absolutely. The thing is, misusing quotes is deceitful. When the viewer sees a name that they recognize, with a quote that's supposedly from that person, that quote automatically holds more weight. Now that weight can go both ways, if it's a person that the viewer hates, then the viewer will instinctively distance themselves from the argument (which could be argued why you shouldn't use quotes from controversial people or celebrities).

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/780/481)


Wall of Text

A wall of text is something that viewer hate running into. Even if a viewer loves reading, the volume of text on a page can be enough to drive a viewer away from it.

Think of it like a textbook. Certainly there are those textbooks that can put you to sleep right away, and there are even some textbooks that are easy to read, and then there are some non-fiction books that can not only be easy to read, but enjoyable. So what is the difference?

Part of it is probably the writing style. I mean, let's be honest, people don't go into writing textbooks because they love writing, they write textbooks to share information. So what ends up happening is the writer starts putting everything they want to share into the book, and before they even realize it, they've got pages upon pages of pure text. While this might get the point across, it becomes impersonable, and a list of data that the human brain can't handle.

There's a funny little "switch" in the human brain that dislikes text, and when it sees a lot of it, it becomes frustrated and "turns off". Fictional writers have it easy, as they can create places and scenarios that demand attention from the brain, keeping it 's attention. But that's a bit more difficult with non-fiction.

So what can we do if we have a lot of information that we want to share with the viewer, but are finding ourselves writing a wall of text?

  • The easiest thing to do is break it up into sections. Not necessarily like chapters, but movements into a new topic or thought. This helps with the flow of the page and keeps the viewer's mind from switching off. Sort of like the old saying "Variety is the spice of life".

  • Put your best foot forward. Sometimes you can cheat, and put the most important parts of your argument at the front. That way even if the viewer doesn't feel like investing the time to read all of your answer, they might still walk away feeling like they've gained something by reading the first part.

  • Break t up with pictures and formatting. If it's relevant, why not show some pictures or diagrams to help your argument. Pictures speak louder than text, and the human brain likes ordered lists.

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/788/481)


Not An Answer / Is a Comment

Stack exchange is a bit different than other sites. Most other sites are set up to be a forum, where people can have discussions with each other. Stack exchange isn't a forum, rather it's a method of sharing questions and answers with other people who visit the site.

When you post a response to a question, it is expected to be a direct answer to the question. There are comments and chatrooms that allow you to converse with other members, but both will require just a little bit of reputation in order to do so. Reputation is gained by having a question or an answer voted up by other members of the site.

If you find that your answer (or someone else's) is a better fit as a comment, moderators have the ability to convert answers into comments; simply flag the answer as being "Not an Answer".

Similarly, if you've come across a question because you want to know the answer to it as well, it's best not to leave a comment as an answer saying so. The proper thing to do is wait for people to answer that question.

If you find that the answers do not help you, a bounty can be placed on the question to encourage more people to answer it (If you don't have the reputation to place a bounty on the question, it won't hurt to ask someone to place one for you).

I don't think [this is an answer](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/789/481)


Down-Voted or Ignored:

Here is the text that you see when hovering the mouse over the down-vote button:

This answer is not useful

So what does this mean? Well, it simply means the viewer didn't think it was useful, it is based on the viewer's point-of-view after all and you can't please everyone. But, since you're here reading this, chances are it's a more serious problem than one or two people who disagree with you.

Really the only difference between a down-voted answer and an ignored one, is that the viewer felt strongly enough about the answer not being a good one that they voted it down to appear below other answers.

What you want to check is why the viewer doesn't think your answer is a good one. Most likely they think there's a problem with the structure of your answer. Make sure your answer is a clear one, and isn't Anecdotal. An good answer should read like a (good) essay, starting with a clear thesis, supported by a strong argument, and concluding with a decision.

In reference to our site, you want your answer to include the following three things: What is happening, Why is it happening, and What can be done about it.

The beginning of an argument is the thesis. This is your opening statement saying what your position is. If someone asks you "Why does my dog fart?" then your opening statement (your thesis) could be: "Dogs that fart usually suffer from social anxiety." What's happening is the dog is suffering from social anxiety.

Having a thesis at the beginning of an argument is a good thing because it instantly gives the viewer your position on the topic, and in our case, it gives the person an answer to their question immediately (instant gratification). It also benefits you as a writer because it gives you a better sense of direction.

Now we could leave it at that, but by itself it's just a statement, a One-Line answer. We want to avoid that, so let's take a look at what comes next: The supporting argument. This is where we want to convince anyone reading our answer that we're correct. Why should the viewer take your side? Here are some suggestions of methods you can use that can make your answer great, and convince others that you're correct:

  1. Sources are always great. Giving someone a source instantly gives them a sense that you are telling the truth, and it lets the people reading your answer learn more about the subject and (hopefully) reach the same conclusion you have. Just make sure that when you use sources, that you're not relying on them for your argument to work, Otherwise you'll just have a Book of Links. Your argument should stand on it's own without the sources. The sources are just there to make it stronger.

  2. Statistics! People love numbers, and they love charts and graphs even more! Using relevant statistics can be very informative for the viewer. However,these can be tricky to use as they're easily faked. If you are using a statistic or a graph in your argument you will need a source for where your numbers are coming from, otherwise you risk turning your viewers away even if they're correct! Likewise, overusing statistics can drown out an argument, making it Unclear.

  3. Give both sides. If you can tell the viewer, in a short summary, what the argument against yours is. You can then provide a counter-argument against it, preventing any possible comments in the future questioning why your answer is the correct one. Not only that, but providing views from both sides instantly gives a sense of trustworthiness, especially if everyone else is only talking from one side of an argument.

  4. Use examples. Even if you haven't experienced the exact same problem, if you have any related experience, you can use it to make your argument stronger. It shows that you are talking from experience and not conjecture.

Now that you've identified the problem and explained what's causing it, it's time for some problem solving in, the conclusion. Here you'll want to take everything you've put together and explain why it's useful. Say you've just explained why dogs with social anxiety are more prone to gas, so now is the perfect time to explain what needs to be done to solve the possible problem. Maybe some tums will help?

I think this answer could be improved. See: [Why is my answer being Down-Voted or Ignored?](https://pets.meta.stackexchange.com/a/775/481)


Unclear and/or Lacking Detail

When arguing, the true enemy is a lack of understanding. In order to agree with an argument, one must first understand it.

Keep organized, keep focused, and be as specific as possible.

The worst thing that can happen is losing the viewer halfway through an argument. Arguments that are vague drive people away.

Ask yourself, "what" and "why". "What" is the problem, "why" is it the problem, "what" is the solution, and "why" is that the solution.

Don't ever worry about over-explaining something to your viewer. It could be useful to someone visiting your answer sometime later on.

If you find yourself struggling to stay on topic, or someone has mentioned to you that your answer seems to be pretty vague or unclear. The best thing you can do is revisit your thesis.

  • A thesis statement should identify a specific purpose, a specific way to accomplish the purpose, and oftentimes a specific audience (depending on the type of essay).
  • A thesis statement should assert something about the essay.
  • A thesis statement should be easily identifiable by a reader and should be clear and not ambiguous.


Your thesis is the whole premise for your answer. If someone asks why their dog is scratching so much, I could answer that it's because it has fleas. Their dog having fleas is my thesis, and I would then provide my reasoning for why I believe it has fleas. It might look something like this:

I believe your dog has fleas. Fleas are little parasitic bugs that live in the fur of dogs and drink it's blood. In order to drink blood, the fleas have to bite through the skin, which in turn, causes the dog's skin to itch as part of a reaction to the flea's saliva, and the healing process of the new open wound.

I found this answer to be [unclear and/or lacking detail](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/1812/481).


Duplicate Answers

Is your answer the same as someone who answered before you?

While you both might be correct, multiple answers that say the same thing aren't seen as useful and the answer that appeared later can sometimes be subjected to some downvotes.

I think this answer is a [duplicate of an existing answer](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/1860/481).



  1. a short account of a particular incident or event, especially of an interesting or amusing nature.
  2. a short, obscure historical or biographical account.


An anecdotal answer focuses more on telling a story than it does with answering a question. While anecdotes aren't bad things to have, they can severely detract from an answer if they're used incorrectly.

Anecdotes can be useful when an argument about social norms comes into play. For example, a child being told that their bedtime is a normal time, might call to attention that their friend's bedtime is different. The suggestion that their bedtime being at a normal time is dispelled by the knowledge of one other bedtime being different.

On the other hand, the way anecdotes are normally used, is to give an anecdote and project it as evidence. For example, I use anecdotes and now my cat chirps like a bird. There might be another reason why it chirps like a bird, but since I'm talking about anecdotes, it's come up in my brain as relevant. There's nothing wrong with telling a story in the chatroom or meta (I'd say it's encouraged), but in an answer it takes the focus away from the original question, and risks the viewer missing the point of the answer, or even coming to a wrong conclusion.

I think this answer is an anecdote. Please see Meta about [Anecdotal Answers](http://meta.pets.stackexchange.com/a/776/481)

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