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HomePatterns > How to write FAQs > Write questions in the persona of the guest



Notice the "I" in good questions.

Some not-so-hot questions


Separate the answer from the question

Write questions in the persona of the guest.

Here are some well-written questions:

  • "How do I order?"
  • "How do I find what I'm hoping to buy?"
  • "How do I redeem a gift certificate?"

Notice the "I" in good questions.

The writers are standing in for the guests, speaking for them, phrasing the questions as if they were really coming from the guests. Even when the writers do not use the word "I," that point of view is implied.

Sure, these questions have been sanded, planed, and simplified way beyond what the average guest might ask.

But consider the position from which they are asked: they come from the guest, not the site. Right on.

Related article

Writing in a genre (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 770K, or about 13 minutes at 56K)

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from Hot Text, Web Writing that Works (PDF, 995K, or about 18 minutes at 56K)

Some not-so-hot questions:
  • "What is the order process?"
  • "What is Findoramatic Search?"
  • "Gift certificate policy"

These questions are self-centered. They reflect the site's concern with its own policies, concepts, and values. These questions do not sound like what a guest might ask.

In fact, the last "question" is not even a question. Avoid "questions" that are really just labels for content.

The point is to evoke a real conversation, even though it is virtual.


Question: Should you start every question with the word Question?

Answer: Sure, if you start every answer with Answer. But generally people understand the convention of Q&A, and grasp a boldfaced question without the label.

Separate the answer from the question.

Press return after the question.

Each paragraph has its own function, so it deserves its own location and format.

The different look and place suggest taking turns in the conversation, with the user's questions bigger and bolder, as befits their importance, and your answers plainer, and perhaps even indented, to indicate your humble responses.


Hurray for FAQs (PricePoint)












Every sentence I utter must be understood not as an affirmation, but as a question.
-Niels Bohr, New York Times

Is this a bug?  Or a feature?


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