I have seen a great deal of questions which had very well researched answers referencing many studies etc...

But getting to an actual answer to a question (e.g. "yes/no/depends on factor XYZ") required reading a 2-page-long essay masquerading as an "answer" :)

Basically, what the answers lacked was an executive summary.

Some examples: (I can come up with more/better if requested):

Will getting your feet wet make you sick?

Q1. Does the community feel that having an executive summary is a big plus for an answer that is so well researched that it has very many references/studies, some with not-100%-clear results?

Q2. If you agree, is there some mechanism by which this can be encouraged? The most obvious one (votes) is Not A Good Thing, since the answer is usually already good enough to easily warrant an up-vote.


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    Before I answer, I want to be sure what you're asking: you want to know whether we should encourage user to summarize long answers with a TL;DR at the bottom? Is that correct?
    – Borror0
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 23:14
  • 1
    @Borror0: Almost - with two minor caveats. (1) it should be at the top; as I learned in numerous business communications classes. (2) Just to be clear, I'm more concerned with the info contained in an answer than with its length; as an example, Larian's Pakistan OBL answer was VERY long but IMHO didn't really need TL;DR - but an answer like the one I linked to is much less "an answer" to the question being asked - it contains 100% of the info but needs to be fully and carefully processed by the reader to get to "yes/no/depends on XYZ" conclusion
    – user5341
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 2:03

1 Answer 1



As you pointed out in your comment, it is a good practice for communicating clearly. We should encourage many techniques for clearer writing; this is but one of them.

I don't believe it should be considered mandatory, just good practice.

The most direct way to make this happen is is to go directly in and edit the answer. Another way is to ask nicely in a comment on the answer. I've used both techniques.

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    I think this is the way to go. Especially directly editing--the comment may sound like "I couldn't be bothered to read your answer, so..." which isn't nice :-)
    – Sklivvz
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 6:11
  • Fair point, @Skivvz. Here is the example I was thinking of so you can judge whether I was nice enough. The answerer had provided a link to a paper, but didn't explain what was in it. After my request, they added a summary of the contents of the paper. I edited it further to add a one word summary of the paper's summary.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 9:57
  • @Sklivvz, I normally have trouble with the number of v's in your name, not the number of l's. Sorry.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 12:19
  • @Odd - I gave up ages ago and just copy/paste :)
    – user5341
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 13:29
  • @Sklivvz - is there any way to communicate this guideline as well as Odd's recommended course of action (directed both to answerer and to moderators/editors)? Thx
    – user5341
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 13:31
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    @DVK: I would consider adding that as an answer to meta.skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/868/… While it's not mandatory, it's good practices.
    – Borror0
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:56
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    @DVK &Oddthinking: You two might love this Greasemonkey script then: stackapps.com/questions/2051/reply-links-on-comments It makes replying to users with weird names so much easier.
    – Borror0
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 15:58
  • 1
    What a great idea, @Borroro... @Bororr0... @Borr0rro.... [Installs script] @Borror0!
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Commented Jun 28, 2011 at 16:12
  • @odd you only need to use the first 3 chars to get a match. Commented Jun 30, 2011 at 1:54

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