How To Ask Good Questions

This document explains how to ask good questions. You have been sent to read it because you asked a question in a discussion forum or newsgroup. However, you either asked in a way which shows you did not do enough research first, or you asked in a way which means it is difficult to help you. People are very busy, and so asking good questions greatly increases the chances of getting a helpful reply.

This document is a reduced version of a much longer document, Eric Raymond and Rick Moen's How To Ask Questions The Smart Way. Please note that neither Eric, Rick nor the author of this document can help you with your problem. Please do not contact us directly about it.

1. Before You Ask

Before you even ask a question, first try to find the answer by:

  1. Reading the documentation
  2. Reading the FAQ (the list of Frequently Asked Questions)
  3. Searching the archives of the forum you plan to post to
  4. Searching the Web
  5. Experimenting
  6. Asking a skilled friend
  7. Reading the source code (if you are a programmer)

Take your time, and consider each item on this list. You will increase your chances of getting a helpful response if it appears that you have made a reasonable effort to solve the problem yourself.

2. Asking A Question

When asking a question, consider the following when preparing the post. If you don't understand why something is on this list, do it anyway. For further explanation and discussion from the original document, click the "more..." links.

  1. Make sure you are asking in the right place (more...)
  2. Start a new thread or discussion for your question (more...)
  3. Use a meaningful, specific Subject line (more...)
  4. Send questions in plain text (more...)
  5. Write in clear, grammatical, correctly-spelled English (to the best of your ability) (more...)
  6. Say what you are trying to achieve before describing what you did (more...)
  7. Describe, clearly and concisely, how your problem shows itself (more...)
  8. Describe what goes wrong, not your guesses at the cause (more...)
  9. Say how you have already tried to find a solution - see section 1 (more...)
  10. Be explicit about what your question is (more...)
  11. Don't say your question is "urgent", even if it is urgent for you (more...)
  12. Don't ask people to reply by private email (more...)

3. When Your Problem Is Solved

If you manage to solve the problem, post a follow-up message describing exactly what the problem turned out to be, and how you solved it. You will be grateful for people who post such messages when you are searching for solutions in the future.

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