There are certain things you should keep in mind when answering questions on sites such as Yahoo! Answers, message boards, or other similar sites. Here are 7 tips on how to write good answers. Most of these things would also apply when you ask questions on those sites.
a) Be precise, concise and to-the-point. People don’t have time to read through long, boring and useless ramblings. Try to stick to the topic of the question and don’t deviate or digress unnecessarily.
If you feel that you cannot answer a particular question, skip it instead of posting a junk or "me-too" answer; it neither benefits your bottom line or that of your reader. There are plenty of questions waiting to be answered out there, so I am sure you would encounter quite a few on your area of expertise!
b) Check your spelling and grammar before posting the answer/question. If you use Microsoft Word for spellchecking your answers just like I do, make sure that Word is not inserting unnecessary smart tags and smart quotes in your text.
Smart tags and smart quotes, being the monopoly of Microsoft™ Word, look weird when pasted into any non-Microsoft editor.
Your best bet is to disable smart tags and smart quotes from Microsoft Word. To disable smart quotes, go to Tools=>Autocorrect Options=>Auto Format as You Type. To disable smart tags, go to Tools=>Autocorrect Options=>Smart tags.
c) Be polite. It is not enough for your answers to be grammatically correct; if they are too blunt or outright rude, people might get ticked off even before they have finished reading the whole answer.
d) Use correct language: When you are answering a question on an online message board such as Yahoo! Answers, there is little point in using formal language. When you converse with your buddy, do you use formal or informal language? The answer you post on online forums or message boards should be in the same tone and language as you would have used if you were answering your buddy.
Formal language is not only cold and unfriendly, but also difficult to control. You are more likely to make silly mistakes with formal language than with informal language. Besides, not all web surfers have passed high School or college. In fact, many are school dropouts, which is yet another reason to use informal language for your online communication.
When you write in a casual manner, your readers would find it easy to connect with you!
e) Avoid these language bloopers: While it is okay to use informal language, please don’t be so informal as to make your answer look meaningless gibberish to half of your readers.
For example, don’t use chat vocabulary. Instead of typing 'u r', type 'you are'. Also avoid using slang or coarse language; some people are way too "sensitive", ya know! ;)
Don't use uncommon acronyms and abbreviations. Using technical jargon is also a strict-no-no. Remember that no matter how big an expert you are in your niche, if you cannot get your point across your target audience, there is little sense in flaunting your vocabulary power.
When answering a question on an online message board or forum, your first and foremost aim should be to get your point right across to your readers, who would then regard you as an expert, click on your profile, and hopefully, visit your website and buy a goodie or two. So be lucid and simple.
f) Try to be objective in your answers. When answering a question, don’t cast aspersions on one's character, political beliefs, sex, religion, race, etc., something done too often by many Youtube users. It is the quickest way to get yourself banned from these communities, not to speak that you would be hated by other members for your impolite and disrespectful language.
It is also important that you don’t let your personal feelings influence your answers. If you are angry, frustrated or irritated at something, that doesn't give you a free license to use the "F" word on each and every website you land on!
Of course, if you wish to make a name as a "bad guy" or "bad gal", that is a different thing altogether!
g) Don't spam: The temptation to pitch your stuff right in front of your readers' noses is very high, but I have found that if "give" first, you would be "given back" later. This is especially true for online communities and message boards.
Just as you won’t want a salesman to bump into you when you are chatting with your buddies, the members of these online forums don’t like to bump into spammers either! In the offline example, the salesman would probably be frowned upon and even "beaten black and blue", if he persists. Similarly, if you spam online forums with your "pitches" even before you have established a good reputation there, your account would be suspended, and possibly banned too if you persist. ;-)
Of course, if you have published a couple of helpful articles on your website directly related to the topic of the question you are going to answer, you can definitely point your readers to them. But once again, do it "objectively".
I would like to take this opportunity to repeat something I mentioned in my previous article, just in case anyone missed it. If you are answering a question pertaining to a topic you have little knowledge about, pick up a question which has already received a few answers/comments. This way, you can get a fair idea of how to answer the question. Being a copycat is bad enough, but being a fool, esp. when you are struggling to become an expert in your niche, is even worse!
h) Check your position: When you are claiming something to be a "fact", make sure that it is really a FACT! If in doubt, link to relevant online resources such as Wikipedia, instead of "making up" facts. Keep in mind that just one stupid answer would be enough to tarnish your reputation!
There you go – eight tips for answering/asking questions properly in online communities.
Even if you forget everything else I mentioned in today's article, keep the following two golden rules in mind when posting your next answer on Yahoo! Answers or other similar sites:
GOLDEN RULE #1: I hate pedantry of any kind, but at the same time, I also believe that language is the mirror to your personality. The type of language you use for communicating with others speaks volumes about your character.
To avoid any kind of poor impression, poor result, and of course, miscommunication and misinterpretation, it pays to communicate in a style understandable to everyone, not just your personal circle of friends (and don’t even think of emulating the style of NuttieZine: this kind of style is suitable only if your aim is to bore your readers to death :D)!
GOLDEN RULE #2: Don't spam. You know who you are, right? ;-)
As always, your comments are most welcome. Please post your comments below! :D