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After answering this question I noticed this comment that says pretty much the same thing I said. Should I delete my answer because the comment was posted first? Should the commentator have written the comment as an answer instead?
Personally, I think that if a statement answer the question, even if it's just a few words long, it should be posted as an answer and not as a comment, but I may be wrong.

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Personally, I think that if a statement answer the question, even if it's just a few words long, it should be posted as an answer and not as a comment

Yes, that is correct.

Should the commentator have written the comment as an answer instead?

Yes, they should have.

Should I delete my answer because the comment was posted first?

No, you shouldn't. One common option, for the sake of politeness, is to preface your answer with "As was mentioned [by X user] in the comments...", but it's not even strictly necessary. Answers shouldn't be given in the comments. If you don't want your comments to be repeated by someone else as an answer, post it as an actual answer.

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    $\begingroup$ Remember that comments on all SE sites are ephemeral - could disappear at any moment. (Or, be moved to chat where they are effectively disappeared.) $\endgroup$ – davidbak Mar 19 at 18:04
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Why is an answer sometimes given in the comments?

I personally find myself sometimes commenting because I feel like my answer is incomplete or only partially correct. Though I agree with the other answers here that comments should not be used for answering and only to ask for clarification, providing relevant links etc and I try to avoid posting answer-like comments - often, they can be transformed into a "proper" answer with some more research.

So even though I don't know if I can speak for users other than myself, the reason comments are being "abused" for answers could be that it is sometimes not clear whether the comment actually is an answer.

(I actually was close to posting this as a comment...)

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    $\begingroup$ I think there is a pretty simple test: "Is what I want to say a question asking for clarification from the OP or suggesting improvements the OP can make to the post?" If the answer is no, then don't post it as a comment. If the question is, "Is what I want to say not enough to constitute an answer?", then this is what you use to discern if you post an answer or not, not to discern if you should post it as a comment or not. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 20 at 11:36
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Comments should only be used to ask for clarifying questions from the OP or to suggest improvements to the question. Comments referring to further/related information are usually fine also.

Comments should not be used to answer questions, give hints, side remarks, etc. This is a Q&A site, so having posts loaded with comments doesn't make the finding answers to questions very clear. We don't want users digging through comments to find answers.

Many users operate under the routine of

IF "Is what I want to say a sufficient answer?"

True: Post an answer

False: Post a comment

But this is not how to view comments. There should actually be two routines going on (that users often conflate):

IF "Is what I want to say asking the OP for clarification or suggesting improvements the OP can make to the post?"

True: Post a comment

False: Do not post a comment

IF "Is what I want to say a sufficient answer?"

True: Post an answer

False: Either work up a sufficient answer and then post an answer, or do not post as an answer or as a comment.

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    $\begingroup$ I consider it acceptable to give a hint, especially if the question is going to be closed as a homework style problem and there's an obvious, easily fixed roadblock. Showing a bit of kindness and pushing them along the way. $\endgroup$ – Bill N Mar 19 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @BillN I love helping students learn physics. I am a physics tutor and often help out TAs at my school even though I am not one myself. I just don't think hints on HW questions here are helpful. It sets the precedence of "I know it goes against site policy, but if other users are fast enough I will still get some responses." So IMO giving helpful hints goes against the site goals. And in any case, the comment policy is that you shouldn't give hints, so I'm not going to advocate for that on the meta site that people use to learn about the main site. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 19 at 21:00
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    $\begingroup$ An incomplete answer as a comment is certainly much more useful to the OP than nothing at all. Of course, the problem is irrelevant for trivial questions that will in any case be answered by somebody else. But for more niche topics, a complete answer might never come. In that case, a comment may be very useful. I usually only write down answers when I can do them justice. If I know the answer, but I don't have the time, the energy or the interest to write it down satisfactorily, then I post a sketch as a comment. And I'll continue to do so, site rules notwithstanding. $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Mar 25 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ @YvanVelenik We should be helping the OP, but posts should also be more useful to future readers as well. It is much more useful to have answers posted as answers rather than to dig through the comments for answers. If your comment is truly helpful, putting it in as an answer would be way more helpful to everyone. I am certainly not advocating to be unhelpful, but rather to be as helpful as we can be. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 25 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ Sure. But I post here under my real name, so I do not post answers that I'd be ashamed of ;) . On the other hand, I feel that it would be unfair to the OP not to give him some help when I am able to do that. So, posting a comment is my own compromise. $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Mar 25 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ @YvanVelenik I guess IMO it is also unfair to give insufficient answers in comments that have the potential of disappearing, cannot be improved upon, could be hard to see and find for future readers, etc. I think the harm of insufficient answers in the comments outweighs the utility of it. Why not put in the extra effort to be more helpful to more people? $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 25 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ What harm? They are often already sufficient for the OP (they did thank me for my "answer as a comment" quite a few times). They can only disappear if the moderator act in a crazy way, going on a comment-deletion rampage. And they can be improved on if somebody wants to extend them to a full answer. And they are easy to find, if they are the only reply that the OP gets (which does happen regularly in niche topics). $\endgroup$ – Yvan Velenik Mar 25 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @YvanVelenik I have seen cases where users were looking for answers in the comments they had read that were removed. I am sure that can be frustrating to users when that happens to them. Maybe you are right if your comment is the only one, but when there are multiple it could get lost in the noise, thrown out with other comments, etc. $\endgroup$ – BioPhysicist Mar 25 at 18:05
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Let us not exclude this explanation (quote from one of the links):

Comments cannot be downvoted. For unclear questions, if the question is clarified or other people interpret the question differently then people might downvote an answer that does not answer their interpretation of the question. Also someone may be afraid of losing rep from an answer that may not be what people want to hear if the truth is unpopular or politically incorrect.

In other words, it may happen that people are unsure if the reply they wish to offer is exactly a) what the person asking the Q wants to receive, b) the rest of the users want to see as an answer, so they leave (a short) version of the intended text as a comment (comments do not get downvotes, nor affect the reputation/respondent's self-esteem).

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If you believe that a comment is an attempt at an answer or a real answer, flag it for moderator attention and say something like "This is an answer posted as a comment." The mods are pretty quick to review that flag and either delete or leave the comment.

In some situations, especially for new users commenting, you could also leave a comment for them that answers should not be put in comments. You can go back later and delete your own comment.

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This practice is throwned upon by moderators of the Physics SE, but it turns out to be quite common elsewhere, e.g., in the biology community. The reason is that they adhere to much more rigorous standards for the answers - requiring them to be nearly at the level of scientific publications and including citations (if not, they are mark by a moderator). Thus, when someone wants to give a short answer or do not have time to spend on researching the literature and writing up a comprehensive response, comments is their choice.

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