How to ask a question

I have helped out with a few different subjects on a few different IRC channels and even some forums. This was created because it seems that people find asking a question very difficult, so this is a short how-to-ask-a-question guide.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Always ask yourself… “What information do I want to know?”, once you know the answer to this question, ask the question that will get you that information. For further understanding, read below…

Google it!

Educated questions are far better, try and google your issue first before you ask in public, as you may end up humiliating yourself.

RTFM

Now, are you sure you read the manual?

Read it again just in case you missed something, BEFORE you ask your question.

Is it a question?

One way to ensure people know you are asking a question is to put a question mark (?) at the end of your sentence.

This will ensure that people are aware you are asking a question, and not just making a statement.

To most this will seem obvious, but sometimes it is overlooked.

Don’t ask to ask Just ask!

If you have a question just ask it, don’t ask to ask.

Don’t take surveys

Questions starting with (but not limited to) the following are bad:

  • Anybody use…
  • Anybody know…

You can bet somebody will know, or at least point you in the right direction… so just ask your question!

Moving the goal posts is not allowed

Example:

> How many men are there?
< About 10
> No, How many men are there in the UK?

Avoid this by asking your question with all the requirements and specification in the first place.

Try it first/Make a test case

Have you actually tried to do what you’re asking about yourself first? Try it out, make a test case. Tell whoever you’re asking that you have tried it, show them what you tried, and tell them the results.

Have you made a test case? Making a test case will make it far easier for you to identify the problem.

Use your own domain/website

If you need help and it involves use of your domain, use your domain, or if you are using a hypothetical example, use one of the example domains (such as example.com) as according to RFC 2606.

It’s simple really, use your own domain, or the example one.

Showing us your domain/website can help us help you in many more ways than you think.

We’re not out to get you, so just tell us, save the guessing.

If it looks like a fish, smells like a fish…

Chances are it’s a fish. Avoid stupid questions by assuming the obvious. Only when you are still unsure should you ask.

Do not use private messaging without permission

The reason for this is that more than one person may be able to help you. If one person shows explicit interest and requests you to private message them, only then should you do so.

If your question is long…

Always try and make it as concise as possible.

Remember a picture speaks a thousand words, try a screenshot.

If all else fails, use a paste bin!

Remember…

Always be polite and say thanks where due.

Help is a privilege not a right.

If you find the solution, let us know so others can benefit.

Further reading

Note: Only leave comments about this article, don’t ask questions here. Thanks.

3 Responses to How to ask a question

  1. Morn says:

    Nice. If only people who needed to read this would be capable of reading this, then it would be a good start :P

  2. Pingback: fonosfera » Blog Archive » Comment policy

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