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Tips on Writing a Good Resources Post

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Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:21 pm
ChildOfNowhere says...

or Things to keep in mind when you answer and advise

Reading up other people's questions and finding ones we know answers to is a great feeling. Answering them and knowing we've helped someone, even greater! Sometimes, however, we can find ourselves intimidated by the question itself, or unsure of how to answer, and we abandon the task rather than saying anything, for the simple (and yet complicated) reason: we don't know how.
I was hoping this post might help clearing a thing or two out for everyone who recognises themselves in the above.

All of the things I'll be talking about here applies regardless if you're writing a post in answer to someone's question or a standalone article on a topic! After all, not all questions are asked directly; sometimes you have them yourself or know there's an interesting/important topic that people don't know how to deal with, and you want to offer your view on it and help out with all the unasked questions about it. In those cases, you're both the asker and the answerer. And you might not know where to begin or how to go about it.

So here we go.

~ Firstly, before even clicking that New Post button, be sure you've read the question. And be sure you've read it carefully and understood what the asker needs help with. There's nothing wrong with spilling out your vast knowledge about everything even remotely related, but be sure your reply actually answers the right question.[/list]

Not a bad method is to copy the question into your post, and delete parts of it as you answer them. It keeps it easily readable for the asker, and helps you focus c:

~ Know your sources. When you're giving advice to others, you want that advice to help them. Sometimes, you might not know the answer completely, and you reach out to external sources for help. There's absolutely nothing wrong with that - it's actually pretty cool because it lets you learn a bit more at the same time, and trains you in using resources, which every writer needs sooner or later - but when you do, remember to use it wisely. Read up on what those sources say before posting the link to the first thing that pops up when you paste the original question to Google, compare a few links if you aren't sure how credible information is, and mention in your post where you got the information from. If you quote someone directly, provide a link or note that those words aren't your own (it's only fair to the original writer of them, after all!).

~ That said, you don't have to use external sources to be credible. Some questions ask for opinions, or something you simply know the answer to because you're interested in it, or have studied it, or were in similar situation yourself. In any case, be sure to present the information clearly. Sometimes our long ramblings and thoughts make perfect sense to us, but will just confuse others. Don't get seduced by the idea that long post automatically means good post - coherently presented, your point in just a few sentences can go a long way.

~ Another thing I find important, and that relates to the above point, is to remember the difference between must and can. When it comes to some information, they are universal and can't differ depending on the personality or genre or anything - the thing I think of is that you must credit the author of original text if you use it in your own - but there are also those that isn't so firm and consistent. We are all different, after all, with different interests, fields of study, likes and dislikes, opinions and personalities. Two people may sometimes agree, while at other times give completely different answers to the same questions!
When giving your answer to a question that asks for subjectivity, do make sure not to impose your opinion as the only right one or order instead of suggesting. And similarly, feel more than welcome to offer your own opinion even after a question was already answered by someone else! You might agree, or you might not - either way, it can only help the person asking.

~ In any case, however you approach your answer, don't rush it. Take your time to put it together (think of the way you'd prefer an answer to look, were it your own question), to check your resources if you need to, to make sure you know what you're talking about. It might happen that someone answers in the meantime, but hey, it's not a race (except if there's a challenge and it is a race, but never mind that now ;)). If you're giving your own opinion, take time to explain why you think so, or provide examples and such. If it's not, try explaining why you found a particular source relevant.
Now, not rushing it doesn't mean to write a novel as an answer - I stand by what I said before about clarity and quality first - but whoever asks the question will surely be glad to see the answerer actually cared to answer, rather than just write whatever to see their name shine brightly in the "latest post" column.

~ And finally, always keep in mind that it's okay to not know everything. After all, that's the reason questions exist in the first place. Sometimes you will encounter a question to which you can only offer a partial answer, and even your external sources will fail you in finding a complete one, and it will make you turn away. But it shouldn't! As I mentioned before, we all have different interests, different personalities, different fields of studies and so on. There are things some of us don't know or don't understand, and some which we couldn't care less to understand anyway. And that's perfectly okay. Give your input on the part(s) you can answer to, and don't be worried about admitting you don't know about the rest - it will actually help those who see the question after you, as they can then focus on finding the missing info rather than repeating all already said!

I believe that would be all from me - please, feel free to add your own if you think of something I forgot!
Good luck :pirate3:
Writer of words; doodler of forest sprites


“It doesn’t matter what you are, it only matters what you do. It’s your choice.”
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