How To Ask Questions the Smart Way


I stumbled upon this article and, although it’s related to mailing lists, I think it has many great points that coincide with the use of these (and similar) forums. And, as John pointed out below, there is some slight profanity, but nothing major or overdone.

Veterans: there is also a section on how to answer questions in a helpful way, which wouldn’t be a waste of time to read.



[li]Introduction[/li][li]Before You Ask[/li][li]When You Ask[/li][li]Choose your forum carefully[/li][list]
[li]Web and IRC forums directed towards newbies often give the quickest response[/li][li]As a second step, use project mailing lists[/li][li]Use meaningful, specific subject headers[/li][li]Make it easy to reply[/li][li]Write in clear, grammatical, correctly-spelled language[/li][li]Send questions in accessible, standard formats[/li][li]Be precise and informative about your problem[/li][li]Volume is not precision[/li][li]Don’t claim that you have found a bug[/li][li]Grovelling is not a substitute for doing your homework[/li][li]Describe the problem’s symptoms, not your guesses[/li][li]Describe your problem’s symptoms in chronological order[/li][li]Describe the goal, not the step[/li][li]Don’t ask people to reply by private e-mail[/li][li]Be explicit about your question[/li][li]Don’t post homework questions[/li][li]Prune pointless queries[/li][li]Don’t flag your question as “Urgent”, even if it is for you[/li][li]Courtesy never hurts, and sometimes helps[/li][li]Follow up with a brief note on the solution[/li][/ul]
[li]How To Interpret Answers [/li]
[li]RTFM and STFW: How To Tell You’ve Seriously Screwed Up[/li][li]If you don’t understand…[/li][li]Dealing with rudeness[/li][/ul]
[li]On Not Reacting Like A Loser[/li][li]Questions Not To Ask[/li][li]Good and Bad Questions[/li][li]If You Can’t Get An Answer[/li][li]How To Answer Questions in a Helpful Way[/li][li]Related Resources[/li][/list]


Thanks for sharing Brandon.

My new favorite quote:

Remember: When that veteran tells you that you’ve screwed up, and (no matter how gruffly) tells you not to do it again, he’s acting out of concern for:

(1) You
(2) His community.

It would be much easier for him to ignore you and filter you out of his life. If you can’t manage to be grateful, at least have a little dignity, don’t whine, and don’t expect to be treated like a fragile doll just because you’re a newcomer with a theatrically hypersensitive soul and delusions of entitlement.

It should be noted that the articles Brandon linked do contain some profanity, but not in overly bad form.


Thanks Brandon … good resource.

Regarding the section on answering in a helpful way, I think this point is especially relevant here:

If you don’t know for sure, say so! A wrong but authoritative-sounding answer is worse than none at all…


How do you start a thread? I couldn’t find a link.

  1. Go to the page that lists the different forums:
  1. Click on the appropriate forum.

  2. Click the “New Thread” button a the top left just above the list of forum topics.


spam reported


Thanks for the link! It sounds like a very useful article, and I appreciate you posting it for us! I’ll probably read it tomorrow, since I don’t have enough time tonight to read through it completely.


reported ^


I recognize the Jargon file when I see it. Good on you, Jimmy!