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How to answer questions The smart way

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How to Answer Questions The Smart Way

This document serves as a reference for a logical way to answer technical questions from others, and the raw Chinese version was written by Eltrac.

This is just a reference document, not any rules, I hope it can help you.

We are not responsible for any loss caused by yourself when following the advice of this document, this is just a reference.

Attention! this document is not How To Ask Questions The Smart Way.

Finally, welcome your valuable feedback and any Pull Requests!

Copyright © 2020 Eltrac (BigCoke233) , All rights reserved.


Thanks to all the people who made contributions to the project!


📆 🖋
Raw Chinese Edition
Proof English Edition


English Edition


Before you read the body of this document, we must emphasize a few more points:

This document is for reference only and is not a standard or rule of any kind.

We only provide content, do not provide any problem solving services, and are not responsible for any consequences.

In addition, this document is a product written and edited by Eltrac and other contributors together. If you need to quote any content of this document, please indicate the address of the project after quoting , or it will be considered copyright infringement.

If you think this document helpful, I hope you can give us a star for support.


  • Introduction
  • Before answering the question
    • Where the questions come from
    • Identify the questioner   - Read the questions briefly
  • While answering questions
    • In-depth analysis
    • Syntactic statements
    • Terminology
    • Pay attention to punctuation
    • Reduce rhetorical questions
    • Basic etiquette
  • Necessary supplementary notes
  • How to refuse politely
  • If the problem is still not resolved
  • What to do if messed up
  • Reward


A programmer will encounter various problems in the process of learning, and we will get stronger in asking questions. One day, we will also actively or passively solve others' problems. At this time, having the strength of technology does not mean that we can answer a question well. This also requires skill and wisdom.

Remember how others answered your question? Among the responses to many of your questions, did they give an irrelevant answer, or were you still unable to solve after a long time with their help? If there's nothing wrong with your way to ask, then it must be because that the person being asked is not very good at answering. Yes, it also takes wisdom to answer.

If you lack the answering skills, you may make absurd mistakes unknowingly. This will not only waste your time, but will definitely waste the valuable time of the questions in solving the problem.

So how to answer the questions of others efficiently?

While answering questions

Where the questions come from

First of all, you need to confirm where you received the question, that is, to confirm the way the questioner asked you.

It may be asking for help on a forum, or sending messages in the group chat / chat room. Such questions are public-oriented and not targeted to anyone, so if you don’t want to answer, you can just treat them as if you didn’t see them. At this time, you and the questioner are equal netizens / group members.

It may also be through the private chat of the instant messaging software, email, face-to-face communication, etc. The question is only targeted to you (the person being asked), and the other party usually ask because of the trust and respect for you (of course, do not include someone who's not good at asking, this is not discussed here), but you should still treat each other with respect.

Identify the questioner

The so-called "identity" here should include the following parts:

  • Are you familiar (stranger / friend?)
  • Do you two have subordinate relationships (colleagues / leaders?)
  • Questioner's technical level (Layman / Starter / Mastery?)

These're important parts. If you are familiar with the questioner, then you can try to recall the mistakes or bad habits that are often made by the other party and see if the problem is caused by these factors; if the other party is your leader or has a high status in the form To your people, then you should be more respectful, even if he/she is turning to you; if you know the technical level of the other party, we can decide whether to use more esoteric professional terms in the description and whether he/she can solve this problem with your help.

Read the question briefly

Don't rush to solve it first, simply glance at the problem and see if it is:

  • Very easy
  • Able to be easily found answers for on search engines
  • Already solved by someone else
  • Mentioned in the documentation provided by the original author if using an open source project

If this question does meet the above conditions, then you have every reason to not waste time and not answer the question yourself. You can tell the other party directly where the answer is, and maybe a link will help the other party solve the problem faster.

Of course, there is another important question that needs to be confirmed: Is the other party exactly able to solve the problem under your description. If this problem is troublesome, for example: it need to make changes in the source file, completely rewrite the code structure, and the other party has a weak foundation, then you can directly advise the other party to give up; if the situation is more urgent, you can also help the other party yourself by file transfer controlling its computer directly.

While answering questions

In-depth analysis

This is the most important part of answering the question. Now that you have decided to help the other party, then the other party is both a beneficiaries and a client. You need to take this matter seriously as your work. At this time, if it is a one-on-one request for help in a private chat, remember to send the other person a "Okay, let me see" and other words, indicating that you intend to help him to solve this problem.

First, answer an information technology related question. Most of the time you should know:

  • Its development environment and version
  • Tools used by the other party
  • Error messages (or logs) provided
  • Actual and expected effects

You have to understand where the problem is. If it is an error, you should first understand the problem from the error messages and logs, and then find the relevant source code. It should be common sense as a programmer. If the source code is correct and no error is reported, consider compatibility issues, pay attention to the environment and version, and if it does not take too much time, you may re-implement it yourself to see if it is a bug or where a conflict has occurred.

As a programmer who can be asked by others, the basis is definitely no problem, and how to analyze the problem needn't be said much.

But please note that after understanding the problem, you'd better read it again from the beginning to avoid misunderstandings and making mistakes.

Syntactic statements

No matter how bad the your language ability is, you must be able to speak it clearly. As long as you express clearly, it's totally fine. Also pay attention to the ambiguity of the sentence. Know that you are describing the solution, not writing a poem.


If the other party has a certain foundation, please use professional terms as much as possible. This will make the expression more accurate, concise and powerful. At this time, you don't need to think too much about whether the other party understands the word correctly, just make sure you use the word correctly.

Sometimes there are some different expressions of the same thing. For example, an Chinese dog can be called both a dirt dog and a Chinese Garden Dogt. At this time, we should try to choose a vocabulary that can be quickly understood by the other party, which is usually a more popular expression. "Dirt dog" are more commonly used than "Chinese Garden Dog". But when you want to use them, selecting "Chinese Garden Dog" will make the expression clearer.

When necessary, use English words to express their meanings more accurately, because many nouns are translated from English, it will inevitably cause ambiguity, such as the Flex layout in front-end design, and not many people will use it Call it "flexiable layout". Not only can English be used more accurately, but it can also be more concise and clearly.

Pay attention to punctuation

Many ambiguities are caused by using punctuation wrong. Think about why there is "Oxford Comma". You don't have to use every punctuation mark in a sentence corrctly. You just need to make sure that this sentence can be understood by others. You can even use only few commas and periods in a sentence.

If you really hate punctuation and annoying, and find it difficult to switch input methods just to type the correct symbols, why not try to replace them with spaces or newlines? Although I do not recommend this approach.

Reduce rhetorical questions

Many questioners do not understand the smart way of asking questions. They do not always give complete information for the questionees to analyze, and we often they need to ask them to get more information. I think this is why many GitHub repositories set a default format for submit issues, just to make the questioner provide as complete information as possible.

You will also encounter times when you need to ask back, but in many cases this is very time consuming, because questioners with poor foundation often need you to explain to them what and where the information you want is, and the other party may also look for the answer while waiting for your answer. Asking more is not friendly to the other party. Therefore, it is necessary to reduce the number of cross-examinations as much as possible. If possible, speak out the information that the other party has not provided at one time, which is friendly to both parties.

Basic etiquette

Although the other party is asking for you, you'd better treat the other party equally and respect each other. You don't need to pay special attention to the use of honorifics, because from a certain perspective, the person you should be respected is not you, but you should not belittle it, even if it is a joke.

Please avoid saying "Will such a simple question?", "The answer is obvious". In this case, if you do not know how to express it euphemistically, you can directly give the other party the URL of the relevant information for him Find the answer, not a taunt.

After solving the problem, you should also respond to the other person's thanks in a timely manner. It should not be difficult to say "no thanks" or "trivial"? If the other party has caused some trouble in the process of asking for help because of their weak abilities, they should also apologize and respond in a timely manner. These gratitude words are not listed one by one.

There is no need to talk about etiquette much, anyway, just do it.

Necessary supplementary notes

Sometimes, after the problem is solved, it will cause some other small problems, especially temporary solutions to bugs in certain programs. You need to explain this clearly, so as not to bother the other party to find out and ask again.

After some functions are implemented, the related code needs to be changed frequently in the future, and it should also be explained clearly.

In short, please help to the end, make them know all the things they should know, and don't cause other troubles to others due to the negligence of explanation.

How to refuse politely

When you receive a question from another person, you may be busy, or you are unwilling to answer or help because of a bad mood or other reasons, or you may not be able enough. What you have learned is not related to that aspect and cannot be answered. It should be refused politely.

First of all, truthfully explain the reason why you can’t answer (if this reason involves personal privacy, you can say “I’m busy” instead), and it can’t seem too perfunctory. Who knows how the other will secretly commented on you?

If possible, you can provide the email of some grandmaster, or useful websites / documents that may have relevant information, so that the other party can find a direction and solve the problem faster.

Finally, although there is no need to apologize, please say "I'm sorry" anyway.

If the problem is still not resolved

The solution provided by your analysis of the problem may not necessarily solve the problem. There are many reasons for this: the execution error of the other party, the problem of the solution itself, the unsolvability of the (probable) problem, etc. But don't give up until you find a way out.

Do it yourself, re-implement by remote control or set up an environment yourself, this method can effectively solve the problem that can be solved. Depending on your own approach, you may be able to easily find the loopholes and errors of the other party, but note that this method is limited to the last resort, otherwise it is cumbersome, time-consuming and prone to accidents. It's just effective, not efficient.

If that doesn't work, try to find the problem in subtle ways. For example, problems such as local caching are very simple and you should pay attention to them from the beginning, but maybe you missed it. In addition, restarting and reinstalling is also a method you should try long ago.

If in the end you still can't help the other party to solve the problem and waste the other party's time, a "sorry" is always good. Usually this kind of problem is already difficult to find the answer on the search engine or some websites, you can recommend some more powerful guys to the other party, maybe someone else will solve it?

What to do if messed up

If you describe the solution or directly help, due to operating errors and other reasons, the other party caused some losses, such as: data loss, server overload and other problems. Although this situation is less common, you should take responsibility if you encounter it.

First and foremost, should say "I'm sorry". In this case, the first thing you can do is **apology **, take the initiative to admit your mistake, describe the reason for the accident, and don't make the other person think you are joking.

Then, try to remedy. Just like when you accidentally broke the toys of other children's children, no matter what the result, you still have to repair the error. Even if you can't completely repair it, the way still showing your attitude.

In the end, if it really caused irreparable losses to the other party, how to compensate depends on the other party's thoughts.


You helped the other person solve the problem and deserve a certain amount of compensation. But in the Internet, it is more of a kind-hearted help. You should n’t ask for compensation forcibly. Don’t think that if you help the other person to do a little favor, the other person should give your money, not to mention that the money is not much. However, if the other party really wants to use money as a thank you, don't decline, because this is what you deserve.

© Eltrac, BY-NC-SA 4.0 for authorization.

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