Tangents are Good, in Moderation
Our current highly-upvoted guideline on 'showing work' explains:
It's OK to a degree for an answer to include personal anecdotes and
other tangents, where this adds flavour and character, so long as the
main line of an answer is supported, connecting the dots starting from
the text. It's also ok to include opinions so long as they are
relevant and labelled as your opinion or belief. Opinions and tangents
should be garnishes, not the entire meal. If a post is essentially an
opinion-based argument or testimony, it doesn't fit and will need to
be removed or edited.
But the question remains, how much is too much?
You might have too much tangential information in your answer if...
- ... an entire section of your answer can be removed without causing your post to cease to answer the question.
- ... you've made a point that's somewhat related to the paragraph before, but not at all related to the point of the post as a whole (keeping in mind that the main point of the post should be to answer the question).
- ... your answer primarily consists of statements beginning with "This is just a guess but", "I think that", "Maybe that, "I would guess that", "In my opinion," "Personally," or any other term that suggests speculation rather than certainty.1
- ... you're extremely passionate about what you're writing about (see next section).
Passion Contributes to Tangents
When you're passionate about the topic you're writing about, you're more likely to go on a tangent. I imagine that we're all passionate about the Bible, otherwise we probably wouldn't be here. But as stated in our site distinctives,
"Answers are intended to be dispassionate, logical, and
illustrative of what Biblical experts think. If your goal in writing
an answer or a question is to 'make a point,' then sadly, you've
missed the point of this site!"
When you're passionate about something, everything you have to say about it seems relevant to you. And that's why it helps to have a second set of eyes help you keep your answer focused on answering the question, without too many distractions for readers. Users who edit your answers are helping improve them.
Obviously the solution isn't to change how you feel about the Bible. I hope you stay extremely passionate about the Bible and the things it talks about! But I also hope you are receptive when edits are made to your content, as this improves the site for everyone. Posts that are primarily tangential should be edited when possible. This can be done in a variety of ways (footnoting superfluous information, placing short tangents in parentheses, writing short but unnecessary statements as comments instead of putting them in the post, etc.). If answers cannot be edited, they should be removed.
1 Although good answers sometimes contain speculation, so long as you 'show the work' for these speculations you should be OK (don't just tell us what you think, tell us why you think it). If no work is shown and you use a lot of these statements (or similar), you have probably given what Skeptics.SE considers a pseudo-answer.