Is it kosher to include an anecdotal illustration in an answer, to make the answer stronger and (hopefully) more entertaining? If not, would a solution be to put the anecdote in a comment after the answer? See https://parenting.stackexchange.com/posts/20597/revisions


3 Answers 3


There are a number of cognitive biases that make anecdote unreliable; and a number of reasons that make an accurate anecdote irrelevant to a correct answer. Anecdote distracts from evidence.

Opinion and anecdote do serve some useful purpose on SE.

When a parent is goin through a distressing experience; or when a parent is discussing something that is stigmatised ("child protection social workers visited me. What can I expect?") it's useful to let the asker know that they're not alone and that other people have been through the same experience. ("We had similar inspections when my husband had a first episode of psychosis whilst deliverin the children to school. Here's a link to good sites, here's a description of what's on those sites".)

Or where there are two schools of parenting it's useful to let OP know which one you're in. EG: "I like attachment parenting, so I dislike 'cry it out' methods of sleep training".

But it's important to remember that anecdote and opinion should be minimal parts of the answer.

Your question here is good though. It highlights why some parents enjoy other forums (Netmums; facebook groups; etc) over ParentingSE. SE has a distinct style (for good reason) and it's unlikely to change.

  • 2
    I like this answer a lot, particularly "minimal parts of the answer" -- anecdote can provide useful examples to illustrate a point, but they should not overwhelm that point. The balance in a written answer is different from the balance one might strike in a playground chat with other parents.
    – Acire
    Jun 7, 2015 at 11:03
  • "Anecdote ... should be [a] minimal part of the answer" -- helpful! Carrying this idea one step further, I'm gathering that the answers one writes that contain an anecdote should be few and far between. Jun 10, 2015 at 4:14

Please forgive me if I meander a bit, but your question asks more than it seems on the surface to ask.

The Stack Exchange model is not discussion based, but a straightforward Question and Answer model:

Ask questions, get answers, no distractions

where the best answers tend to be to the point, precise and informative.

This is an enlightening video on the formation/philosophy of Stack Overflow (and later Stack Exchange). Two very interesting (and meaningful) comments occur around 21:00 and 21:52-

  • People will do things for free in order to contribute to the world.
  • We want to see people improving the site, making the [question/answers] better and better [through editing], and not obsessing over the ownership of the particular question or answer.

That is the vision of the founders of SE (and I'm understating a bit here): a useful place for good questions to get helpful (and whenever possible, expert) answers to make the internet a better place. Therefore, by and large, an answer should only answer the question. Irrelevant material should ideally be given in comments, where its removal will not affect the quality of the answer.

Because almost everyone likes to tell an occasional anecdote, it's a rare user who doesn't sneak one in from time to time (and I am no exception.) And because this is a community of fellow human beings - even though the questions and answers should stand or fall on their own - it's tolerated to a degree.

The key points to consider, though, are occasionally and to a degree. When it is frequent, and there involves feelings of ownership, personal expression/style, freedom, etc., that falls further and further out of the SE model.

Chat is an informal environment where pretty much anything is allowed and the only moderation done is for spam and offensive content. You can discuss off-topic questions, alternate endings for the Star Wars trilogy or exchange pleasantries.

Comments (obviously the informal use of comments here) fall somewhere between chat and Answers. Some people would like to see as few comments cluttering the site as possible; others are fine with even chit-chatty comments. But comments are by definition unnecessary and ephemeral.

So, that is the long answer. The short answer is that entertaining but ultimately irrelevant anecdotes don't belong in answers. Answers "belong" to the community, and if someone can't tolerate the editing of our answers to make them clearer, more helpful, and more useful, if there's obsession over the ownership, then that's a real problem.

Editing is important for keeping questions and answers clear, relevant, and up-to-date. If you are not comfortable with the idea of your contributions being collaboratively edited by other trusted users, this may not be the site for you.


Additionally to anongoodnurse's answer, I left you a note when I edited your post to tell you it was because of the anecdotal paragraph - and this was precisely one of the reasons you ended up with your previous suspension.

You have posted quite a few answers with good content, hence your Rep score, but when you add extraneous anecdotal information it can actually make it much harder for a visitor to read the answer part of the post.

In this specific answer it is totally irrelevant. Your post was good if you take that bit out; including it adds nothing and in fact detracts from the value of the answer.

So please don't include extended anecdotes or unnecessary commentary in your post, and also avoid putting it in comments.


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