If a "How to ask a good question" FAQ were to be compiled, what do people here think are the top issues that it should address?

On my list are: rudeness, vagueness, spelling and grammar.


Following Jon's answer - I am looking for what people should do, as well as what they shouldn't.

  • 3
    I very rarely see a rude question, and as for spelling, well I am actually quite a literate guy, but not such a great typist. And grammar is very much in the eye (ear?) of the beholder.
    – nb69307
    Aug 6, 2010 at 23:15
  • I wonder how i rank in the how to ask question department. You think i may be good, but i could be awful stackoverflow.com/users/34537/acidzombie24
    – user34537
    Sep 23, 2010 at 6:00
  • Grammar/spelling vary with region. en_GB, en_US, en_CA, en_AU, and whoever I missed have slightly different rules, so don't get too hung up on this if the post makes sense, and doesn't make your eyes bleed.
    – Phil Lello
    Apr 30, 2011 at 22:15
  • Help topic now exists: meta.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask. Closing because this question was about SO. If you have further input about the help, either in general or for SO in particular, ask a new question on the applicable meta site. Thank you. Jul 28, 2019 at 23:39

7 Answers 7

  • Not saying what you've already tried
  • Not giving any code samples
  • Giving code samples which don't actually reflect your failing code
  • Giving irrelevant or overly long code samples
  • Saying "it doesn't work" but not in what way
  • Saying "it throws an exception" but not stating the exception type or message
  • Writing contradictory questions in the body and title
  • Writing one question, and then commenting when that question is answered, "Oh, I meant [some other question]"
  • Not responding to requests for further information
  • Giving arbitrary restrictions without reasons for them (when those reasons may very well rule out other options too)
  • Failing to format code (even when it's blatantly obvious that it looks horrible)

However, I think just a list of things to avoid isn't the right approach. I once blogged on how to answer technical questions helpfully - I'd be happy to write a similar post on asking questions usefully, and for that to used as part of a FAQ entry, if that would help.

EDIT: I've now written that post

  • 13
    No followup is, IMO, the top offender in questions. Aug 6, 2010 at 22:10
  • I would love to see you write up a similar post on asking questions.
    – AnonJr
    Aug 7, 2010 at 0:59
  • I'd suggest also: Asking how to do something awkward or impossible without saying what you're trying to accomplish. Sep 8, 2010 at 14:03

Your suggestions +

  • plz send me the codez
  • not stating platform / framework versions in question

I need it in 10 minutes!

  • 10
    Even better: I need it in 10 minutes because then I'm off to my job interview. :)
    – Pekka
    Aug 6, 2010 at 22:31
  • 7
    @Pekka: ...or already at the job interview. Aug 6, 2010 at 22:58

Don't you hate it when people answer with nothing but links? :D Oh right, we're talking about bad questions, not bad answers...


Not explaining what they actually want to achieve. Zero background information just slamming in a code sample that isn't working for them.

If people would explain what they want to achieve besides what is not working for them the answer could be of better quality, because maybe what they're doing is a (completely) wrong approach besides bad coding.


As to what you should do, I'd is ask yourself this before posting a question:

"If you posted this request for information (and asking for information is a good thing to do) under your real name, would you want your boss and co-workers to read it and know that you posted it?"

But this is a commonplace about the internet, universally ignored.


Not making it clear as to what would be an acceptable answer.

  • Not seeing how this is a "top issue" or how it relates to question quality. Most good questions doesn't detail what an acceptable answer is. Can you expand and clarify on your answer?
    – Oded
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:55
  • I assume this is supposed to be self-demonstrating, but I don't think it works very well. Sep 2, 2015 at 21:48
  • Before I update the answer, I'd like to clarify here to see if the answer would even be acceptable. What I've found is that there are times when people are asking questions and they're not really clear what they consider an acceptable answer. Furthermore, those times when the original poster believes the question is objective, but someone else may not, having some explicit words that says "an acceptable answer would be / would include", etc. This is also useful if multiple differing solutions may be accepted. Conversely, one can also indicate what would not be acceptable. Sep 3, 2015 at 0:45

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