How to write a quality answer

Microsoft Q&A envisions having a high rate of answered questions and is committed to drive greater customer satisfaction. Quality answers give credibility to the answerer as well as to the community as a whole. It also encourages users to ask more questions as they know they will gain helpful insights.

A good answer typically gets accepted if it unblocks or points the question author in the right direction and receives votes from other community members. An accepted quality answer helps other users find reliable answers quicker and supports the community.

This article aims to help you create quality answers by outlining best practices and guidelines.

Understand the question

First step in delivering a quality answer is to really understand the problem or the question raised by the user. Users sometimes leave out key details, assume that you know what their setup is, etc. If the question is too vague, to understand the question better it’s fine to ask for clarification. Take note of these points for consideration:

  • Make sure that you are confident you understand what is being asked before answering. Ask yourself; Do I clearly understand what the user is asking? Do I need to ask for clarification?
  • Use comments to get additional information or ask for more clarification from the person who asked the question. Sometimes additional context, a screenshot, or rephrasing makes a big difference.

Think of your audience

While answering the question for a specific user, you’re also helping as many users as we can with each answer, so add additional relevant information to your answer if the question is about a very specific scenario. Chances are good that in the future someone will be looking for an answer to a similar question.

Break the answer into sections

Briefly rephrase and repeat the question in the answer, as necessary. Not only does this help communicate to the person who asked the question that you understand their problem but this helps hundreds (or thousands) of other customers who may be skimming through the conversation to see if your answer is relevant to their scenario.

Next, break your answer into sections or logical groups no more than a couple paragraphs long. The goal here is to create easily digestible chunks of instruction that are easy to navigate. If there are multiple relevant questions, clearly emphasize the respective answers in your thread.

Sometimes an answer in this site or a resource in another site has all or most the information to answer a question. To avoid plagiarism (claiming the work of others as your own), make sure you provide a link to the original resource together with the name of the author and the proper context for that link. Answers identified as plagiarism will be deleted.

Resources often get deleted or moved and an answer might help multiple users overtime, so, in addition to the link and the author, include an overview of why this resource can help the user and quote any relevant information to get the question answered. This way, if the resource disappears or moves, any user would have enough information to get their problem solved.

Add visuals

A picture really can be worth a thousand words. Be sure to include screenshots whenever possible and use boxes or arrows to highlight key areas. It can be time consuming to edit out sensitive information like subscription IDs but the most popular answers tend to be answers with screenshots to help illustrate what you are describing.

Screenshots should clearly show what you are trying to bring attention to, as well as context for the reader so they know where they are. Including a side or top navigation, or a breadcrumb trail may help readers understand where you are and how you got there. Add a border when possible, to separate screenshot text from answer text.

Follow through

Close your answer by asking the customer: Is there a fix for a bug they encountered? Did your solution solve their problem?