Is there any established etiquette as far as accepting answers? In particular, if there is a correct answer posted, are there any guidelines for how long one should wait before accepting? Similarly, is there a length of time beyond which it would be frowned upon if an answer was not accepted, given that there are satisfactory answer(s)?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 21 down vote accepted

I think it depends on the question (and on the answer). If the question is "what's wrong with the following calculation?" and the answer is "in the 17th line, you wrote $2+2=3$," then you smack your forehead and accept the answer right away. You're not going to get a better answer, and the people who are dissuaded from looking at your question will not be missing much.

If you do decide to wait a few days before accepting an answer, I think it's polite to leave some comment to show what you're doing, lest it seem that you have abandoned the question. For example, you might try to explain what you're looking for in an answer beyond what's already been provided. More than once I've left a comment on a question along the lines of "you've had four good answers, and two days to think about them, and you haven't raised any objections, and you haven't accepted an answer - what's up?" Maybe I'm just a hothead, but I suspect more than a few people agree with me, they just aren't as rude as I am.

Having said all that, I do agree with Qiaochu's bullet points.

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I strongly agree with you (and probably at least as rude as you are :-)) –  Asaf Karagila Jul 10 '11 at 13:01
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@Gerry, @Asaf: I think two days is a very short time for such a comment. Nobody wants a answer accepted that hasn't been understood. At least for me it often takes several hours at a stretch to thoroughly verify a proof or follow up on a hint. Some people just don't have that time every day of the week. –  Stefan Walter Jul 11 '11 at 17:01
    
@Stefan: I usually comment about these things when they are a couple of weeks old. I do think that without at least a comment to say that you try to understand the given answer is impolite (to the least). –  Asaf Karagila Jul 11 '11 at 17:18
    
@Asaf: If we're talking about a couple of weeks, I agree. –  Stefan Walter Jul 11 '11 at 17:45
    
@Stefan, the kind of problem where I'd get rude after two days is the kind where, making my best guess as to the mathematical abilities of the asker and the sophistication of the answers, I think two days is more than enough. I went back to have a look at the last time I left such a comment and found my memory had failed me: the asker had, not two days, but five months to think about the four answers on offer. And I see that one of the answers has now been accepted, so I've deleted my rude comment. –  Gerry Myerson Jul 12 '11 at 1:49

It is good practice to wait a few days, for the following reasons:

  • People are less likely to look at a question with an accepted answer. Delaying acceptance means that more people will see the question, hence contribute votes or new answers.
  • People are less likely to answer a question with an accepted answer. More answers means you may get a better perspective on the question and/or a correction to an answer that you were originally going to accept.
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I suppose I should try this out by refraining from accepting this answer immediately? :) –  guy Jul 10 '11 at 0:55

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