Answering Questions

Answering questions is the primary way that contributors help each other on Answers.com | WikiAnswers. It's all about sharing your knowledge, and it's easy to do.

 

There are a few ways to answer a question or edit an existing answer.

Often, people come to us from a search engine. When you see one of our pages in your search results, you can just click the text of the question and you'll go straight to the question page.

 

Similarly, if you are coming from our home page or one of our other pages, you can click on the text of the question to get to that question's page.

 

Once you're on the question page, click on the button to Answer it! (for unanswered questions) or to Improve Answer (for questions that already have an answer).

 

Note: If you are unable to improve an answer, see Protected Questions for information about how to suggest improvements to a protected question.

After clicking on the Answer it! or Improve Answer button (depending on whether the question is answered or not), an area will come up where you can add your answer, or edit an existing answer.

Answering Tips:

In general, when answering a question, keep in mind these tips:

  • Readers often want answers to fairly specific questions, so try to stay on topic. Make sure you understand what the question is asking, and try not to go off on a tangent. If you want to say more about the subject than the question allows, try to find a question more tailored to what you want to say.
  • Please make answers useful to as many people as possible. Not everyone who comes to the site has the specific knowledge that you do, so try to explain things so that anyone can understand.
  • Please make answers relevant for as long as possible. Try to give some context in your answers if you are talking about a current event. What if someone reads this answer in a year? Will it still make sense? If not, try to add some clarification.
  • People should enjoy their experience on the site, so please don't tell people to find their own answers using a search engine or other method. Also, avoid insulting or offensive answers.
  • Our readers usually want specific answers rather than an extensive article, which is why they come to us rather than an encyclopedia site. Though it isn't possible for all questions, try to answer each question concisely, rather than writing pages on the topic.
  • Please don't answer if you don't know the answer. It is often tempting to guess or write what you have heard from friends, but if you aren't certain, look it up. Make sure you aren't giving someone really bad advice. Sometimes doing just a little research can improve an answer from being just okay to being amazing.

Writing Good Answers:

What is an acceptable answer? What would make it a good answer? What is a better answer? What makes something the best answer? Especially for new users, these are very real questions that can be difficult to understand. To illustrate different types of answers, see the table below.

How Good? Answers for the question "What is C.S. Lewis's wife's name?"
Bad / Unhelpful ur mom just google it These answers don't accurately address the question, use textspeak, gibberish, or insults, and may contain misspellings or bad grammar.
i like pie idk / I don't know
jkiw3ls&dw7& Buy our product now at cheesyspamsite.com!
your stupid
Low Quality see link below These answers are clearly attempts to answer the question, but the information is too limited, general, or uncertain, and needs to be checked and corrected. Information that isn't directly relevant to the question should be removed, or made relevant if possible.
joy i think she was american u no from tht movie shadowlands
Joy Davidson and he wrote Narnia they met when she wrote him about it I think but it could have been about something else, anyway, they met through letters.what do they call that? pen pals maybe
Satisfactory Helen Joy Davidman This is the full, correct name of his wife and answers the question.
Good C.S. Lewis was married to Helen Joy Davidman. This provides the answer in a complete sentence. Making the change from Satisfactory to Good should be a minor change.
Better C.S. Lewis married Helen Joy Davidman on March 21, 1956. It was her second marriage. This is a complete answer with additional details that directly relate to the question asked. This directly related additional information is a good example of how to improve an answer.
Excellent Clive Staples Lewis married Helen Joy Davidman on March 21, 1956. She was in the hospital with bone cancer at the time. It was her second marriage. They remained married until her death in 1960. The story of their marriage and his struggle with her loss was documented in his book, A Grief Observed. After her death, Lewis raised her two sons from her previous marriage. This answer provides comprehensive detail with solid background while remaining directly related to the topic. It shows more extensive knowledge, or good research, and provides enough information to suggest other questions and other directions for a reader to go next.

Excellent answers ideally would also have Related Questions and Related Links so the reader can continue learning about the topic if the answer has sparked further curiosity. In this case, a link to an outline of the book mentioned or to a related question like "Who were Joy Davidman's sons?" might lead the reader to additional information, allowing further exploration of the topic in whatever direction the reader chooses.

Please see the Links section for further information about adding links.

Copying and Pasting from the Internet:

As far as it is possible, answers on the site should be original. We want people to have a unique experience rather than just browsing a bunch of answers pasted in from another site.

 

Many answers do require research, and if you research an answer, you should add the link to the specific page that you used for research to the "Sources and Related Links" area. Using links rather than copying pages of text from another site helps readers get unique and specific answers rather than having to look through a whole article in order to find what they are looking for. If more information is desired, related links allow the reader to go right to the source with context rather than reading material that is often copied without context or regard to the validity of the original site.

For more information on copying from other sites, please review the Plagiarism Policy.
Please see the Links section for further information about adding links.

Links:

 

The only clickable links that are allowed in the text of the answer are links to Answers.com and other sites owned by the same company. You can find a list of these sites on the Answers home page under Answers Properties.

Links to all other sites should be added using the Add related links (for external links) or Add related questions (for specific links to other WikiAnswers questions) options. These options will add the links underneath the answer area.

If you need to add the name of a website to an answer, that is okay, but not the entire URL. For example, LEGO.com or Amazon.com would be appropriate answers for a question asking where to buy the Lego Statue of Liberty online, but the direct links to the product should be added as related links and appear under the answer.


Okay in an answer Okay as a related link
Amazon.com
(Or Answers.com company links)
http://www.amazon.com/Lego-Statue-Liberty-Sculpture-Pieces/dp/B00005NCDB/ref=sr_1_8?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1309552877&sr=1-8

Adding links is a great way to support an answer with research, or give readers options about where to go next in their search for information.

In some cases most of the answer will be in the Related Link (such as when the question asks for a picture).

Links should point directly to information that helps answer the question, rather than the generic home page of a site where the reader will have to look up the information over again. Additionally, a short answer should be included whenever possible rather than just saying "see link below." The goal is to inform by directly addressing the question—not merely redirecting the contributor to another site.

Links may also be added for directly related content, but should not be used specifically for promotional purposes—whether it is for individuals, products, businesses, or websites. We understand that promotion is the reason that some people participate on our site, so we encourage you to use your username and your profile page to tell people about you and promote your business or cause. (Read more about building your reputation on Answers.com here.)

If a question asks specifically what your favorite brand of something is, answers containing a brand name and saying that you like it are okay. The goal is to avoid spammy, unrelated links and unbalanced, poorly researched answers that are only added to make money and not to help people solve a problem.

If commercial links are necessary (for instance, if the question asks directly where to buy something) the ideal is to offer at least two options in the related links area, leaving the choice to the reader. When balancing answers, if a link points to a biased site, adding a link to a site with an opposing bias would be a good strategy so that the reader can experience a spectrum of opinions. Of course, because we welcome volunteer contributions from people with various opinions and levels of research skill, an answer that only has one link, as long as it is appropriate to the answer, is a good start and something we can build upon.

For more information about links see the Add related links and Add related questions topics in the help center.

For more information about vandalism and spam, please see the What spammers and vandals need to know topic in the help center.

Spelling and Grammar:

If you aren't good at spelling and grammar, it doesn't mean that you can't participate on the site. We definitely want you to help answer people's questions and share your knowledge even if it isn't perfect.

If you see spelling and grammar errors on the site, please correct them. There is no need to mention them to the author or draw attention to the mistakes. None of us are perfect, and we do our best to fix minor errors in the background so that no one is embarrassed. As a wiki, we want to encourage participation.

Of course, we do encourage people to write as well as they can with regard to spelling and grammar. Try to avoid writing in ALL CAPS, and textspeak like using "u" instead of "you." Use proper punctuation to the best of your ability, and definitely feel free to use the built in spell-checker.

Categories:

Questions should not be answered based on the category they are placed in, but rather based on what the question says.

Ideally a question will be placed in appropriate categories when it is asked. However, questions are often miscategorized or remain uncategorized on the site. If you can tell from the context of the question that it is in the wrong category, please recategorize the question into the proper category and then answer it.

Formatting Answers using the Editing Toolbar:

When writing your answer, you may want to use special formatting and characters so your answer stands out. Try to refrain from using ALL CAPS or gigantic text, which can disturb a reader. However, when formatting and special characters are appropriate, they can definitely enhance an answer. Some formatting tips are included below:

 
  • Please write the content of your answer in Normal style, and don't assign a headline style unless you are adding a headline for your answer.
  • Capitalization should be reserved for common usage (first letter in sentences and proper nouns), and not used for emphasis.
  • Italics typeface should be used for book titles, quotations, or for emphasizing a word or phrase. Please do not italicize long sentences or paragraphs.
  • Bold typeface should be reserved for headlines and occasional strong emphasis.

For tips and more information on the types of characters available, please refer to this answer: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_are_the_types_of_characters_you_can_use_with_the_WikiAnswers_editing_toolbar

Multiple Answers:

If you are answering after another contributor, it is ideal to add your answer as a continuation of the existing answer. Instead of using a heading with the word Answer, try creating a secondary heading with something that describes your addition. Often, you can do that even if you have an opposing viewpoint by using a heading with a phrase like "Another view." The idea is that the answer should look like a cohesive whole instead of overlapping independent answers.

Sometimes it's just not possible to have one complete answer that encompasses what everyone has to say. One good alternative is to bullet the answers. As others add their answers, if each one is bulleted, it separates each entry and allows the reader to easily review each additional entry.

For editing tips, see our guideline on Editing Answers.

Debate:

Debate is not allowed in answers, though friendly, respectful discussion about the question is allowed on the question's Discussion page and on personal message boards.

Answers should respond to the question, not to other answerers. Relevant information that helps the reader is what we're looking for, not an argument. Any debate that becomes unfriendly and disrespectful is not allowed on the site.

For controversial subjects, use headings such as "One view" and "Another view" in answers, rather than just "Answer." Please do not use headings like "The Correct View" or language like "it is obvious that" or "the ignorant practice of…." Instead use "some people think" or "in the view of many…." The goal here is to convey the idea that your view is one side of the story, while not disparaging or belittling the other people who have contributed to the answer.

For more specific information about avoiding offense in answers, please see our Religion and Spirituality Guidelines.

Humor:

Often, people who come to the site just to write something funny can do damage to the site. Answers that purposely lie in a funny way can be mistaken for truth by kids or people whose first language isn't English. Answers that refer to friends or family or public figures in a derogatory way can seem funny to some, but they can also be considered cyberbullying and are not allowed on the site. (For more information about bullying and unacceptable references to other people, see our Cyberbullying policy.)

Humor in answers is allowed, but only when done appropriately. Humor can be an asset to the site, and help readers to have fun while visiting us. The issue here lies in what is considered an appropriate use of humor. Here are some things that are NOT acceptable:

  • Insults
  • Offensive and sarcastic remarks
  • Jokes making fun of specific people that you know
  • Jokes that discriminate against groups of people (based on race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc.)
  • Making jokes about emotionally distressing subjects (rape, suicide, child abuse, etc.)

When the question itself is humorous, then a humorous answer is usually welcome. For example, a humorous answer is appropriate for the question "How do you fry your pants so you can eat them?"

 

Humorous answers for non-humorous questions may be acceptable, as long as there is an attempt at a serious answer first, and the humorous part of the answer is placed at the bottom of the answer clearly labeled with a heading such as "The Lighter Side" in order to show the reader that something humorous is coming. Be careful that humorous sidenotes do not take away from the legitimacy of an answer.

Bottom line, if your humor hits the mark, it is okay. If it isn't funny, then your answer will be reverted.

Signatures and Personal Information:

Because Answers.com | WikiAnswers is based on the wiki concept, anyone from anywhere has the ability to edit and modify existing answers. Since answers are the product of a group of collaborators, there can be no individual ownership of answers.

Because of this, including your name or personal information (email address, phone number, physical address, etc.) in the answer to any question is inappropriate. Also, please do not use phrases like "I hope this helps" or "Good luck." Although these phrases are very kind, they often clutter up the answer area, making it harder for the reader to find the specific information needed.

Blanking Answers:

Deleting or overwriting a good answer in its entirety is known as "blanking." When you go in to answer a question, it is often tempting to blank the answer that was placed there before yours, because you don't like the previous opinion, or you feel that you can cover the topic better. This feeling is understandable, but we want to respect the people who have answered previously, so please don't blank other people's answers.

Rather than remove another person's valid answer, please edit and improve upon the current answer with additional information. In some cases where an extensive edit is needed, a complete rewrite is okay… but even in those cases, retaining the viewpoints from the original answers is an important part of a good edit. Please see the Editing guidelines for more information about editing.

Additional comments can be placed on the Discussion page for that specific question.

Note: Removing/replacing all but one or two simple words from a good previous answer is still considered blanking.

Duplicate Information:

There are a couple of types of duplicate information on the site, and different ways of handling each:

  • Sometimes we see an answer that repeats the question and doesn't answer it. In these cases, please remove the repeated question from the answer.
  • Sometimes there will be an answer duplicated twice (or more) under one question. In this case, retain only one version of the information, being sure to retain ideas and correct sentence structure in what remains.
  • Occasionally you will come across an identical answer in a different question. If the questions are asking the same thing, but worded differently, then suggest they be merged (For information about how to suggest a merge, please see this question).
  • If you see an answer that is copied word-for-word from another site, please flag it as copied material. For more information, please see our Flagging Guidelines and our Plagiarism Policy.

Answering Different Types of Questions:

Question that are very general:

There is a difference between a question that doesn't contain enough information to answer it in any way, and a question that could have several different answers depending on additional information about the topic.

Many questions on the site will continue to be asked in a general way. In order to help people find an answer despite a lack of knowledge about a certain topic, we want to provide comprehensive responses covering all of the possible answers to the question. If such a response is impractical, then the answer should state what additional information is required and refer the user to more specific related questions. Whether the answer can address all possible answers or not, related questions can be added that are more specific in order to more easily show users where to go for specific information.

Example: How do you change the brakes on a Ford truck? Answer: This varies based on the model of truck. First determine if your truck has drum brakes or disc brakes. See related questions and links for more specific details on replacing brakes for specific models of Ford trucks.

If the question is too broad for you to answer, let someone else answer it.

Questions using first names and no last names:

Sometimes these questions are about books or movies. For instance, questions asking about Nick and Tom and Daisy are usually about the Great Gatsby. In the case where you can identify the context, that information should be added to the question. Instead of "Does Nick like Tom?" we would change it to "In the Great Gatsby does Nick like Tom?"

If the questions are about name origins, meanings, baby names, or other appropriate context, they are also okay.

If the question seems inappropriate and you have searched online and cannot detect a context for the names, then please flag the question. (See the Flagging Guidelines for more information).

Question with both first and last names:

For these questions, first determine whether the person referred to is a celebrity. (The Celebrity Guidelines can assist you in determining this.) If the person is not a celebrity, flag the question as inflammatory. (See our Flagging Guidelines for more information.)

If the person is a celebrity, the question in most cases should be kept and categorized into the appropriate category. Please refer to the Celebrity Guidelines for more information about how to handle celebrity questions.

Questions with spelling or grammatical errors:

It is best to edit questions to correct mistakes before answering the question, because there could be the same question on the site with a correct spelling that is already answered. If you don't have the ability to edit questions yet, feel free to flag the question for spelling or grammar cleanup. (See our Flagging Guidelines for more information.)

Correcting a misspelling may cause the question to have the same wording as another, which will trigger a merge recommendation.

If you are unable to correct the question, answer assuming proper spelling (do not mention the spelling error in your answer).

Sometimes the spelling error could cause a difference in meaning. On those, feel free to correct to and answer whichever meaning you like, but if possible, add a link in the related question area for the other option(s). This will help readers find whatever they are looking for.

Homework Questions:

We answer homework questions. We have no way of knowing whether any individual teacher allows online research, and usually no accurate way of knowing whether the question is truly homework. Even questions that were first asked as homework could be looked up out of curiosity the next time around.

The only exceptions are copyrighted test questions, and we remove those when the owner of the copyright writes to us and lets us know that someone has placed them on our site.

Medical Questions:

When answering medical questions, it is very important that we give accurate information. We must never post information that could be harmful, but at the same time, it is important to note that there is often more than one method that might help some medical conditions. While one person might post a conventional solution, another could post an alternative solution. Both answers are relevant and welcome.

Note:
Answers on the site should never be viewed as medical advice—only the opinion of the writer. With any particular medical issue, actual medical advice should be sought from an appropriate medical provider who knows the patient and who is an expert in the area in question.

Protected Questions:

Some answers have been protected because of vandalism or other similar issues. Adding information to these questions is restricted, and if necessary, must be done through the email address provided at the bottom of the question (reopen@answers.com).

Addressing the Serious Issues:

Answers must not include potentially harmful information, such as how to harm yourself in any way, dangerous medical advice, or information which is illegal or could lead to illegal activities. Such information or advice should be removed from the answer.

If a question seems serious, treat it seriously. Don't write flippant answers when important issues are involved.

For more information about acceptable behavior in the community, please see our Community Guidelines.

Answers.com > Wiki Answers > Help Center > Answering Questions

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