User:RWSmith/Sandbox/Helpdesk/How to answer

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How to answer a question at the Help desk


If the matter is resolved, consider placing {{Resolved}} in the thread to bring up the Template:Resolved template. This may give a visual hint to readers of talk page items, making it easier to ignore already-resolved issues.

The spirit of helpfulness

  • Be friendly, courteous, and helpful at all times.
    • We were all new at one time; try to remember what being new was like.
    • In the spirit of being helpful, if a user requests an answer on his talk page, please answer on the Help Desk page first and then copy the answer to their talk page. This benefits readers who browse the Help Desk, and lets our volunteers know the question was already answered.
  • Please be thorough, but concise.

Questions belonging on the Reference desk

  • If you feel a question belongs on the Reference desk, try to answer it anyway, if you can. The Reference Desk is where our field experts and polymaths hang out, so they are much more likely to be able to answer knowledge queries. Therefore, whether you answer the question or not, provide the user with this useful tip by inserting this template: {{subst:Wikipedia:Help desk/RD tip 1 (plain)}} (or just {{subst:RD1}} for short). Here's what it says:
    Have you tried Wikipedia's Reference Desk? They specialize in knowledge questions, and will try to answer any question in the universe (except how to use Wikipedia, since that's what this Help Desk is for). For your convenience, here's the link: Reference Desk (when you get there, just select the relevant section, and ask away). I hope this helps.
    • Two variants exist, {{RD2}} and {{RD3}}, which let you direct editors to a specific reference desk section or article respectively. For more information, see Wikipedia talk:Help desk/RD tip.

Avoiding edit conflict

  • To reduce the chance of an edit conflict, answer one question at a time by clicking on the edit link for that question's section.
  • Edit conflicts are especially likely when you answer the latest question (the question at the very bottom of the Help desk), because the next person who asks a question may append a new question to the question you are answering, while you are editing your answer. Also, if a question has not been on the Help desk for long, and the answer is fairly obvious, other volunteers may jump on it at the same time you do. Therefore, when you answer the latest question, you may wish to answer briefly, so you can quickly save your answer before someone else begins editing at the bottom of the page. You or someone else can add more detail later if necessary.
  • If you see two consecutive questions with no section heading to separate them, insert a heading for the second question, and quickly save your edit. Then each question will have its own section edit link which you and other volunteers may click to edit with less chance of an edit conflict.
  • If a question has aged a few hours on the Help desk without receiving a response, and several newer questions have appeared below it, your chances of getting an edit conflict when you answer the overlooked question are probably low, because most other volunteers who are currently viewing the Help desk have probably already seen that question and chosen not to respond.

Providing links

  • At the end of your answer, if you can, provide a link to a page on Wikipedia which has further relevant information. Like this:

Read more: This is an example only

by doing this:
<div align="right">
Read more: '''[[This is an example only]]'''
  • Some editors prefer to use ordinary inline wikilinks, wherever appropriate in their answers.

How to look up definitive answers

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