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I posted a question on mathematics.SE. English is my first (and only) language, and someone posted an answer which I could not understand to any useful extent. I do not doubt the poster's good faith, and I admit the possibility that what he posted was some kind of representation of a correct answer. My knowledge of geometry is limited—but sufficient, I believe, to understand a well-written correct answer to the question. However, I am certain that any attempt at correspondence with this poster to explain the present answer would be futile.

Somewhat sadly, I conclude that the least rude, while honest, response is just to do nothing. Is there a better response in this situation?

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    $\begingroup$ I must be missing something, but I see three answers all written in English. Yes, there's a new answer, but it doesn't seem to include attempts to communicate with the answerer. $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila Mod
    Mar 23 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ It seems you received three answers, yet accepted none of them. I think it is worth it to ask the answerer you refer to (newest answer, which seems understandable) for clarification if you need it, but you need to be specific about what you do not understand. I think you are making a big mistake by concluding any conversation with the answerer will be futile. You cannot know that, unless you try. And you have not tried. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, there is a far better response than you judging and pretending no answers were posted: interact before judging. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ FYI There are dozens of users on this site whose native language is not English, but who would likely put you to shame in any spelling test, vocabulary test, or examination of correctness of grammar. Do not judge users by their language of origin. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 18:45
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    $\begingroup$ If you do not understand an answer, it's on you to ask for clarification. If you won't because you've prejudged the answerer's capabilities, you chose not to, you maide that choice, which is on you, but in which case why the heck are you asking this question on meta?? $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ @amWhy : You say that the newest (and relevant) answer seems understandable. I would be grateful if you, or anyone else who understands the answer, would edit it. Of course, I accept that you may not have the time or inclination to do this. $\endgroup$ Mar 23 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ @John Ask the answerer for clarification! Stop pretending there is an insurmountable chasm separating you. That you have not tried is not because you don't want to be rude, it's because you just don't trust communication can take place. That's a risk you have to take. If not, please delete the meta question as "not a sincere question". $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 19:20
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    $\begingroup$ You are treating the answerer as a non-existent entity, wanting others you assume speak English natively to intervene. I will not participate in your xenophobia. To answer your title question: You can ask the answerer for clarification. Any one of the three answerers, none of which you asked for clarification, despite your four-year-old post. Just don't post questions on meta when you've refused to do the obvious, for four years. $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ The newest answer to your question on main states "Let me know if you have a question." This makes it appear that the user is eager to provide feedback. Did you let the user know you had a question? If not, then why not? $\endgroup$ Mar 24 at 1:52
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If you don't understand an answer, add a comment to the answer asking the OP for clarification. Sometimes this gets nowhere, but there's absolutely no point in not at least trying. In particular,

I am certain that any attempt at correspondence with this poster to explain the present answer would be futile

is an extremely strong and rude claim. Of course you're under no obligation to interact with every answer, but claiming without even trying that it would be worthless is, frankly, ridiculous.

(The one exception to this is if one has past interactions with the poster in question. There are certainly a few posters on this site who I no longer interact with based on extensive negative past experiences. If that's the situation, then yes, the right call is to do nothing. But that doesn't seem to be the case here.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Well written, Noah! $\endgroup$
    – amWhy
    Mar 23 at 20:19

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