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This is for all more or less new users that posted questions here and searched for help, but got much negative feedback from the community in form of downvotes and closing their questions.

I want to give you some tips on how to write better questions in the future:

  • This site is about Ubuntu and official Ubuntu derivates (list can be found here) only.

    For example Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu, but not officially acknowledged by Canonical, so questions about Linux Mint are off-topic here and must be asked on Unix & Linux instead.

    If you observe the problem on both an official and unofficial Ubuntu flavour, ask about how to solve the problem on the official flavour and only add a little side note that the unofficial one has the same problem. Otherwise your question will probably get closed.

  • Do not rant and do not use offensive language.

    Ranting never solved a problem. Instead, you're going to prevent getting answers if your question is full with rants about Ubuntu or anything else (except Windows maybe ;-D).

    It's perfectly acceptable if you don't like Ubuntu or anything related, but this is neither a necessary fact to solve the problem, nor do you have to emotionally express it. Especially as most users here love Ubuntu, they feel offended when somebody strongly talks bad about it. Of course, reasonable critics are always ok when you can explain it, but if your entire post is just critics and does not contain a specific question - well, then it isn't a question. And we close question posts that are no real questions.

    Bad example:

    Ubuntu is such a crappy OS. It's not even capable of supporting my fucking wifi card. How can anybody use this horrible shit?

  • Use code formatting for command outputs.

    In many command outputs, the formatting is pretty important because it's e.g. a table or similar. It really increases the readability in any way though if you use code formatting for that.

    To format a passage as code, select it in the question editor and click the {} button or hit Ctrl+K.

    how to format text as code

    Also don't use the inline code formatting (by surrounding the code with backticks: `code`) when you have code blocks consisting of multiple lines.

    Use code block formatting instead by indenting 
    the line with 4 spaces in the editor.
    

    Bad example:

    NAME MAJ:MIN RM SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT sda 8:0 0 465,8G 0 disk ├─sda1 8:1 0 9,7G 0 part /boot ├─sda2 8:2 0 1K 0 part ├─sda5 8:5 0 186,5G 0 part / ├─sda6 8:6 0 261,4G 0 part /home └─sda7 8:7 0 8,2G 0 part [SWAP] sr0 11:0 1 1024M 0 rom

    How it should look like:

    NAME   MAJ:MIN RM   SIZE RO TYPE MOUNTPOINT
    sda      8:0    0 465,8G  0 disk 
    ├─sda1   8:1    0   9,7G  0 part /boot
    ├─sda2   8:2    0     1K  0 part 
    ├─sda5   8:5    0 186,5G  0 part /
    ├─sda6   8:6    0 261,4G  0 part /home
    └─sda7   8:7    0   8,2G  0 part [SWAP]
    sr0     11:0    1  1024M  0 rom  
    
  • Please avoid using the CAPS LOCK key in your posts.

    Whole words and sentences in uppercase letters are interpreted as shouting in web posts. And nobody likes to be shouted at. It's also less readable. To emphasize something, use bold or italic text, but pay attention that you don't overuse it. An all-bold text will also scare the people away.

    Bad example:

    MY UBUNTU DOES NOT INSTALL SOFTWARE ANY MORE! WHAT SHOULD I DO?

  • Prefer full stops (.) over exclamation marks (!).

    Especially never use more than one exclamation mark. The more you use, the more stupid it looks.

    Bad example:

    I can't watch videos in my browser any more!!!!!!!!! Flash games also don't work!!!!!!!

  • Begging for help repeatedly and pushing for an urgent solution is counterproductive.

    This won't speed up the process, it just annoys the community.

    Bad example:

    I really need help, please. This is very urgent! Help me ASAP! Pleeeeeaaaassee!

  • Make sure to leave the unnecessary noise out.

    Restrict yourself on facts that are related to the problem.

    We don't care for example about your personal opinion of your graphics card manufacturer or whether you tried to fix that all the night or whether the lost data was your collection of dirty videos... It's irrelevant to solve the problem and just makes the question longer. Of course long questions are more effort to read, and the easier one can understand your problem, the more likely someone will come up with a solution.

    This also includes greetings ("Hello Ubuntu fans", "Thanks in advance", "Best regards") because they do not add any value to the question. The communities here decided to rather leave this out and focus on the content. You don't have to be ultra polite in a question. Just be nice.

    Bad example:

    Hello people.
    I found this issue after having watched sweet kitten videos on youtube together with my aunt. When I set the volume level to 100%, it crashes and there's no sound any more at all. It's not a problem with the speakers, they costed 245.99$ and have golden connectors. They work with higher volume when I connect them to my CD player. So I had to reboot to get sound again, but rebooting takes soooo long on my old laptop. I also have to close all my browser tabs and other applications before and open them again afterwards. I don't want to do that too often. Usually I just reboot once a week or so and use standby all the time. Thank you for helping me. Best regards, KittenFriend

  • Don't add personal details or contact data.

    Sometimes I see pretty personal information in there that could be used to identify you and maybe even harm you. Some users also voluntarily share their contact data like phone number, email address or skype name and hope to get personal support by anybody.

    We don't do that here. Nobody does that. The aim of this site is to build good Q&As (Question & Answers) that help as many people as possible. It is not intended as a personal support desk. Therefore the entire problem solving process must be public and on the site, not through other communication channels.

    Bad example:

    My name is Max Mustermann and I live in the Mozartweg 23 in Berlin. I need help to install this new hard drive I bought and install Ubuntu on it. Could anybody in the area please come over and help me? Please call before you come so that I will be at home. My mobile number is 0123 987654321. Thank you.

  • Please use proper English and no web/sms slang abbreviations.

    This is not really a big deal, but it's much more pleasant to read a well worded question with (mostly) correct spelling and grammar than to decrypt posts like this:

    Bad example:

    My Buntu dnt work. I get no updatez. Always da same error msg. Help me pls ASAP. THX.

    My all-time favourite funny Q&A in that style:

    Q: I need to do XY. Is that possible? Help me pls, it's very urgent!
    A: As you don't even seem to have the time to write "please" correctly, I answer "No" because that's shorter than "Yes".


Please respect those tips the next time you post a question here and I promise you that it won't receive a negative score.

For further reading, I recommend taking the short tour and reading the articles in our help center, especially the one about How do I ask a good question?.

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  • In case you have additional tips, don't hesitate to post them as well.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Mar 18, 2016 at 8:52
  • 6
    I think this post could profit from the [featured] tag...?
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Mar 18, 2016 at 10:27
  • - Usage of M$ (though that does not happen that often anymore). - Add details to the question when asked, not a new comment (comments delete formatting for instance, and comments get deleted far easier than ). - Simple:Treat everyone with respect and others will respect you.
    – Rinzwind
    Mar 18, 2016 at 10:36
  • @Rinzwind respect: sust. doing homework before asking for help.
    – Braiam
    Mar 19, 2016 at 22:50
  • BTW, this post is not even show to new users in the CB.
    – Braiam
    Mar 22, 2016 at 14:15
  • If we see any very low quality questions from new users, we could comment to let them know that their question should be improved, and link this question in the comment. There wouldn't be any issue stopping the user seeing this would there?
    – Arronical
    Mar 28, 2016 at 13:46
  • Suggestion: make the question community wiki so everyone can add their own improvements points to it
    – Ferrybig
    Mar 28, 2016 at 14:28
  • @Ferrybig I would rather like to see suggestions in comments and answers... Or the people with higher rep could edit it anyway.
    – Byte Commander Mod
    Mar 29, 2016 at 6:23
  • 0 down vote A very good list. Any way to get it as a sticky or such that a new user has a chance to actually read that before he/she is asking a bad question?
    – CatMan
    Oct 16, 2017 at 20:44
  • Also, maybe we can ask new users not to post YouTube tutorial links which they followed and it did not work? Instead, they need to properly write down the steps they followed. Hardly anyone has the time to watch a YouTube video to understand what the user did and what went wrong. Oct 29 at 15:54

1 Answer 1

5

All of the information in this question is wonderfully presented. I have a few more tips based on my notes about questions that haven't received positive responses from the community.

In particular, following these tips will improve the response from the community and increase your chances of getting a helpful answer to your question.

Pretend that you have to answer your own question with only the information you provided.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to assume that we know more about your problem than you do. You may believe that you know very little about Ubuntu or Linux, but you are actually the expert when it comes your own experience!

For example, you are the only person who has physical access to your device and the only person who can interact with your system. You are the only one who can see your screen. You are the only one that can tell us what actions you've taken on your device. You are the only person who can share your research with us.

Someone reading your question might possess the knowledge and ability to answer your question, but if they can't understand what you're asking, or if your details are insufficient, they won't be able to answer.

Include clear, specific, complete, and reproducible details.

To increase the chances that your question will be clear to others, avoid ambiguity as much as possible. Remember that the only information we have to answer your question is the information you provide to us.

In particular, avoid statements that sound like details, but don't actually contain any details. Here are some examples:

Don't say How to improve...
"I searched everywhere" Share links to the information you found in your research. Tell us what you found and why it didn't work for you.
"I tried everything" Tell us exactly what you tried (input) and provide exact details of each attempt (output). For example, if you ran a command in your terminal, you should provide the entire command that you used and then copy/paste the entire output of that command. If you made multiple attempts to fix the problem, include each input with the corresponding output.
"...doesn't work" Elaborate on what you mean by "doesn't work". To avoid ambiguity, add three pieces of information-- First, tell us the exact steps needed to reproduce the problematic behavior. Then, tell us the behavior that you expected to happen after taking these steps. Finally, describe the actual behavior exactly as it presents itself. (If you have error messages, please copy/paste the entire error message.)
"I followed the guide" / "I did everything right" If you are following some guide, make sure that you provide a link to the resources you are using. If the link contains a lot of different information, cite or quote your source so we know exactly which parts of the guide you have followed. Tell us about any instructions that may have been unclear or unsuccessful on your end.

Your question title should be brief, but it also needs to adequately summarize your question.

The question title is the first thing that people will read! This is the best opportunity for you summarize your question so that the community knows at a glance exactly what you need.

In terms of logistics, a brief, descriptive title is important because Ask Ubuntu is organized entirely by question titles. Please do not use overly generic titles like "I have a problem with Ubuntu", because a non-descriptive title will need to be changed so that it adequately describes and identifies your question among other questions on our site.

Leave out personal narratives and other statements that aren't useful in asking or answering your question.

If you have gotten to the point where you need to ask, then you may be frustrated. We have all had this experience! But please don't include statements about your frustrations. These statements do not provide information that will be useful to answer your question and they detract from information that is actually useful.

Greetings and signatures and "chit chat" should be avoided. Our Q&A format does not lend well to conversational speech. It's better if you remain on-topic. Greetings in particular are unwanted because they push useful information out of the question summary.

If you have some other unrelated problem, past or present, please do not bring it up unless you believe this other problem is somehow related to the problem you are asking about.

If you think another problem is related, please provide details explaining why you believe they are related. If you've also tried to work on this other related problem, be sure to provide the details of the solution(s) that you have attempted so far. If you have another unrelated problem, please ask separately.

Proofread!

This may seem overly pedantic, but please try to write to the best of your ability using proper grammar, spelling, and capitalization. We are not here to judge your proficiency in English, but if your question is filled with errors, typos, and other inconsistencies, it can be hard for other people to understand what you wrote.

Organize the order of information so that it makes logical sense.

If information is presented in a disorganized or chaotic manner, it will be hard for others to follow. In general, it's most effective to present information in chronological order. Break up "walls of text" with new paragraphs whenever you transition between different pieces of information.

Keep your question up-to-date and edit your question when people leave comments asking for more information.

If people are asking you for more information, it's usually because they believe that additional information may help in answering your question. Take your time and make sure you have addressed all of the points raised in comments.

Comments are temporary in nature and frequently deleted, so instead of adding new information in comments, be sure to edit your question so the question will always be up-to-date. Remember that Ask Ubuntu is not a chat room or threaded forum. A new person who comes upon your question should not need to read back and forth replies. When editing, add the new information where it makes the most sense logically. Then proofread your question again to make sure it makes sense to someone reading your question for the first time.

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