Recently, we've been getting a lot of new users who don't know the Stack Exchange way and provide answers to questions that are little more than anecdotes about a similar situation. These frequently end up being deleted since they don't add any value to the Q&A.

Some, however, have the grain of a proper answer in them, and with a little more detail in them, could be useful to the OP and future readers. Now, moderators can add notices to a post that needs some TLC. The two most commonly used on this site are "insufficient explanation":

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

and "citation needed":

This post does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this post by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.

However, neither of these really address the types of posts that we're getting. "Insufficient explanation" doesn't work for a 500-word rant about roofing contractors (for example), and "citation needed" doesn't sound right asking for a link to some product, or a description of a technique.

Over on Pets Stack Exchange, they get a lot of anecdotal answers too, so they asked for and received a custom post notice to specifically address these kinds of answers:

Thank you for sharing your experience! Pets Stack Exchange answers require more context than an interesting anecdote alone can provide; this story-based answer really needs some authoritative references to support it. Please add links to help support the experience you're describing, or this answer might eventually be removed.

Should we ask for a new post notice for these answers, and if so, how should it be worded?

3 Answers 3


I agree we can use something. Here's my first attempt at a custom notice, but maybe someone can do a little better job with the wording. Our goal is to guide users in the right direction, be informative and cautionary, without scaring them away, and I'm not sure I did that.

Stack Exchange is a Q&A format site where we are looking for answers that help resolve the question. Story and anecdote based answers work better in forums and and may be deleted here since they do not fit well in our format. Please help improve this post by rewording it to focus on the steps needed to resolve the question.


I'm going to repeat what my excellent colleague Tim said on the Pets post:

Let's take a second, though, and talk about when we're going to use these - it could be a great tool but is also easily overused.

When you find a post that:

  • Someone has obviously put a good bit of time and effort into writing
  • Could be a well balanced answer if authoritative sources could be woven into it

.. then it's a good candidate for this notice. What I'd like to accomplish with it is something much warmer and more welcoming than the usual [citation-needed], for folks that enjoy typing coherent and interesting things into our text boxes.

If it's not a great post to begin with, a comment followed by deletion should definitely be the route you take - don't polish up broken ornaments to hang back on the tree.

As long as this is kept in mind, I see no reason not to make this happen. Just let me know when you've settled on some text - or if I should just plagiarize Tim's work again ;)


I feel a little uneasy voicing an opinion in a discussion between users who's rep so vastly outstrips my own, but I feel strongly that anecdotal answers do (or at least can) have a place here. People can Google up factual answers from anywhere, they come here to benefit from our collective experience. As such, occasionally we can best serve the OP's by giving answers that the only applicable (or necessary) citation is our own depth of real world experience. I humbly submit this Q/A as an example of how anecdotal information can be satisfactorily informative without need of an external citation or conforming to a rigid "steps 1-x" format.

Is it okay that framing in houses is sloppy?

Admittedly the question is a bit...nebulous but hopefully the point stands.

  • 1
    I'm not against anecdotes in general, I'm against anecdotes that don't answer the question. This is about getting standardized built-in support for a way to ask a respondent to improve their answer, in the cases where they need a little more detail to be useful. Consider the difference between "I had the same problem. I bought X at the store. Fixed it for me!" and "I bought X (link) and followed the directions except that when it says to do Y, I did Z instead. Here's a photo...". Both are anecdotes, but the second is far better; I want a way to nudge the user towards that style of answer.
    – Niall C. Mod
    Nov 27, 2014 at 17:48
  • My misunderstanding, i interpreted the post as trying to find a way to discourage answers from being overtly anecdotal but I see now what your saying. Should I delete my answer?
    – user23534
    Nov 27, 2014 at 18:18

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