3 Tips to Help Us Help You

These are three things to keep in mind in order to make sure you get what you need and no one has to keep guessing at what you want.

Tip 1: 5W it.

The 5W's are Who, What, Where, When, and Why
However, questions that use three of these or less often result in poorly given advice that makes no sense. Most posters will take you at face value so whenever you post 150% (too many unrelated details) or 50% (too little related detail) of a story no one knows to question it; it is the exact same as going to a doctor and saying "My tummy hurts" and just expecting them to fix it without investigation. If your doctor does this he is a poor doctor. This is a breakdown of those components:

  • "Who" refers to the effected parties and effective actors in the scenario. Often questions tell about how awesome your BFF Brad is for three paragraphs and then two sentences on Mark, who the question is actually about, or you'll get questions specifically about others such as a partner when the question is really about the asker or vice versa. The latter is the worse of the two because instead of presenting an objective problem it presents an emotional set of disturbances that rarely produce any suitable answers.
  • "What" refers to the actual problem. That sounds simple but generally speaking this is the portion that gets messed up most; people don't tell the entire problem so there's half (or less) presented for the reader to figure out. You get this often in relationship questions specifically surrounding "fairness" where a person frames the situation to their advantage such as "My partner mistreats me and won't give me what I want!" despite the fact that the partner has adequate, sound, or even clearly obvious reasoning.
  • "Where" refers to the stage. This is not always a physical place but can refer to a place in time and generally does. "We've been together for 6 months" etc. When this is off generally speaking it's implicit but important nonetheless. The most common question regarding this is "When did this start?" specifically to set the stage for the conflict itself.
  • "When" refers to the timeline. The timeline refers specifically to the area around the "Where" when it's a moment in time. This is usually the portion that is most grievous to get wrong even though it's not the most common. Think of it as important "backstory". You remember that tricky sentence showing the power of punctuation?


"Let's eat grandma!" vs "Let's eat, grandma!"

  • This is no different. Some questions go from "This is difficult" to "This is obvious" when adequate backstory is given.
  • "Why" refers to reasoning or consequence. There isn't much to explain. Make a strong effort to make sure that the details are useful to the reader since often real reasoning is often not ever shared or there's some backdrop to it that isn't shared until much later.

Tip 2: Use Notepad

Brevity and Organization.
In three words the message was delivered. The same thing needs to be true of any effective question. Talking about how wonderful someone is for four sentences and then using half a sentence to cover the issue is not wise yet its incredibly common. Use Notepad because it gives the writer the ability proofread, re-read, and edit seeing as once posted no questions can be edited. Read it as a "stranger" and see if you understand it since most of the time almost all questions are written as though you were there in an emotional, not objective, manner. If the question is not understood in Notepad and clear as day it will definitely flop here; it's going to the doctor and basically babbling incoherently about the issues rambling on about how great Brad is while they wonder what that has to do with why you have persistent headaches. All the writer does is spread those persistent headaches.

Tip 3: Help Us Help You (HUHY)

If a reader asks a question relating to the asker's post as the asker it is your responsibility to answer to the best of your ability.
I know that sounds stupidly simple but since most questions lack the 5w system behind them someone is going to have to ask, if they genuinely want to help, for the portion you lacked or for a clarification of a detail. I understand that you are the Master of your own reality but getting upset and taking it out on the readers doesn't help you. You have to actively help yourself by helping us help you. If you refuse to go this route don't bother; there is no value to you being offended if someone questions the statements made and doesn't immediately take your side or is more objective than to answer directly to your clearly biased or slanted (and sometimes slanderous) statements relating to other people, places, or ideas.


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