Often times an answer to a question may raise further questions. Sometimes the follow-up questions might be directly related to the original question, while at times they may be tangential.

This issue would especially come up with source-based answers. Imagine if someone asks a question as to why a particular mitzvah does not have a beracha. Imagine someone posts an answer quoting an authoritative rabbinic source with an explanation. Now let's say there is an obvious question on this (like some other mitzvah that would appear to be in the same category, yet does have a beracha). Should the answerer address this follow-up question in his answer?

It would appear that the original question was technically answered as soon as the source was cited (provided that it meets guidelines such as not link-only, contains translation/summary, etc.). But many readers will still have this follow-up question when reading the answer.

  • Should the answerer include further details that would address the follow-up question, even though it is not the exact question asked in the original post?
  • Does it make a difference how closely related the follow-up question is?
  • Does it make a difference if the follow-up question is answered by the source itself?
  • Does it make a difference if the answer post is already 10 paragraphs long, or just two sentences?
  • Should the follow-up question be addressed in a footnote?
  • Should the follow-up question be addressed in a comment?
  • Should the follow-up question be noted (either in the post or in a comment) with a statement that it is beyond the scope of this answer?
  • Does it make a difference how likely it is for readers to ask the follow-up question?
  • Does it make a difference if someone actually does ask the follow-up question?(I.e. should you edit the post if someone asks the question in a comment?)
  • Any other possibilities that I am missing?

Note, I am referring to a case where the answer itself is clear and understandable. The follow-up question is not asking to clarify what the answer means, but is asking a question on the answer.

  • 1
    If the follow up question is sufficiently obvious the answer may seem more like [the vernacular usage of the phrase] begging the question than providing a substantive answer. – Double AA Jun 10 '18 at 21:37
  • @DoubleAA Might that sometimes be a flaw in the question, not the answer? For example see the original version of this question and my answer and the comments to my answer. While this is not quite the type of situation I was referring to here, it is similar in that because the question was not fleshed out, it could technically be answered with little detail, which gave rise to the follow-up question in the comments. – Alex Jun 10 '18 at 21:47

I'd like to quote a general principle offered by a wise respondent to a previous Meta question:

I think that by definition answering a question is supposed to be an investment of time/effort and one should always want their answers to be as valuable as can be.

And my own Chat-commentary on that point:

We're not here to try to win a game by following its rules; we're here to try to put Judaism information on the Internet in a high-quality, accessible format. Rules define the floor, in terms of topicality, quality, etc. Don't cling to the floor. Reach for the sky. Ask not "do I need to do this?" but "would it be better if I did this?" Emulate best practices.

In general, try to put yourself in the shoes of different kinds of readers who may be interested in this Q&A, and try to make your answers as valuable to as many as you can of them as possible. If you think that readers who share the curiosity expressed in the question post are likely to benefit from the exploration of a particular related point in your answer, then including it is probably a good idea. If you think that such readers would consider the additional point confusing, distracting, or deterring, then including it is probably not a good idea.

If you feel that an additional point would be beneficial for some readers but won't be essential to many readers' satisfaction with the answer, it can be helpful to separate it either rhetorically or using formatting, or both. Some formatting techniques that can be used for this purpose are footnotes, simply placing a horizontal line between the "essential" and "extra" content, and setting off sections with headers. Different forms of rhetoric or formatting are best suited for different kinds of side points and styles of writing.1

1. This answer is a good example of offering bonus information and separating it from the central information using formatting and rhetoric. Here's an example of addressing a limitation in the answer by throwing in another paragraph, integrated into the flow of the answer.

  • Is the implication of this answer that I don't have to be concerned about overburdening the reader (assuming I delineate in the post which parts are the integral answer and which are the ancillary points)? – Alex Jun 12 '18 at 2:59
  • @Alex "If you think that such readers would consider the additional point confusing, distracting, or deterring, then including it is probably not a good idea." You have to use your judgement as a writer to determine whether the addition is a valuable addition and if so, how to add it most valuably. – Isaac Moses Jun 12 '18 at 3:01

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