General Posting Netiquette for forums and FAQs

By Peter Bromberg

Learn how to properly post your questions to the messageboard, and to submit FAQs to

Most people have a pretty good idea of how to post questions to a forum, yet some do not. These general guidelines should help.

1) Search First! If you want to post to choose your keywords carefully, then use our Search link at the top of the menu first to search and see if there isn't already an article or post about your issue or question. Our forums have been up since 2001 and there is a lot of searchable information there, much of which is well indexed by our custom Site Search facility. Chances are good that you may find an answer and not need to make a post at all.

2) Make sure your post is in the proper category. Don't put a question about SQL Server in the ASP.NET topic. Not only will it be harder for people to understand what you want, it may be less likely to even be replied to. If you aren't sure of a category, the "Ask Dr. Dotnetsky" category will do.

3) Don't cross-post to multiple topics with the same question. Pick the closest topic and make one single post. People will find it. New posts appear listed on the main page too. When you have multiple identical posts, people get confused and it becomes extremely difficult for people to follow a thread.  We routinely delete multiple posts  and only leave up the first one, or the one with answers. We will also delete posts that have only a subject with no body text.

4) Be specific in your post. You are competing with other posters for readers' attention, and the person who words their question carefully and provides sufficient information to readers about their issue in their initial post is the one who is most likely to get a good response. If your post is about a programming issue, post "just enough" sample code for the person reading it to be able to understand or even to reproduce your issue. Jon Skeet has the canonical definition of "Short But Complete" code samples here:

If your post is about an exception, post sufficient code to show where and how the exception is occurring including the exception Message and StackTrace. If you arent' familiar with how to use exceptions, try this article:

5) Search Google! We get a large number of posts from people who have obviously not even tried to search for an answer at google. We know this because when we put one or two of their relevant keywords into a Google search, we often come up with an answer in the very first page of results.

6) "RTFM". "F1 is your friend". If we got one dollar for every time we get a forum post where the answer is just a keystroke away in the Help / Documentation, we wouldn't have to go to work in the morning! And, don't forget the QUICKSTARTS! Quickstarts and samples install with either Visual Studio.NET or the .NET Framework SDK. They have a huge amount of helpful info and code samples about "How to do XYZ"!

7) Share! If you discover an answer to an issue, post the solution you found for others, not just "Nevermind, I fixed it". You can also submit an "FAQ" item or even an article for publication on has a program of monetary rewards for quality posters. You can get more information here:

We try to first grant merit to those posts that include an actual code sample of a solution in the post body, as opposed to an outside link to some other resource. However, we understand that sometimes a link to another site or to MSDN is appropriate.

8) Get involved. Try to help others when you can by providing answers to other people's requests. Follow up with a brief note on the solution. If one of the answers helped you, we would all like to know which one it was, and what you did to finally solve your problem. This is what an online community is all about - sharing information . Sharing information is not just taking information from us, but also sharing your success and failure stories, and by helping others who might read your post in the future understand what was the outcome of the thread.

9) Put a descriptive SUBJECT on your post. "Need help with connection string" is good. "Please Help" is not. Oh, and by the way... Nobody around here gets particularly impressed with "Send me the solution right away", "please email the code to me", or "URGENT!", or "plzzzz". The more specific and descriptive your SUBJECT is, the better - since our forum posts are indexed by large search engines and more people will be able to find your post!

10) Please DO NOT send email to expecting individual answers to questions, or reply to a notification email instead of directly on the forum itself. Post questions and comments to the forums. We cannot possibly answer individual emails in addition to running the site effectively.

11) When replying to a thread, please do not do so by starting a new thread. Respond to the poster in the original thread so the readers can follow easily. Also, when you reply with an answer, be sure that you are replying to the correct message and not just tacking something "on to the end" - in which case the wrong person may receive the notification.

12) "Forum Spam" or the use of multiple login identities is prohibited.  Do not post spam or product promotions in the forums because your account is subject to being summarily deleted. Just use common sense.

13) Forums are normally for questions and answers only. If you have information about programming concepts that you'd like to share, do that by posting an FAQ. If you are not sure of a category, use either the "Lounge" topic or the "Ask Dr. Dotnetsky" topic.

Finally, even Microsoft has a formal KB article on this subject, written by Daniel Petri, an MVP from Israel. You can read it here, in four different languages!

General Posting Netiquette for forums and FAQs  (646 Views)