Tips from MVPs on posting to the Word forums

The first thing to remember is that nobody is paid to answer questions in the forums. They all have a day job doing something else. Those who answer do so because they enjoy it. If you respect that, and try to make it easy and enjoyable for people to answer you, then all the other tips here will seem obvious.

Unless a specific version of Word is mentioned in the name of the forum, the forums take questions regarding all versions of Word (there are more than 20, and they are all different). Please make sure you mention which version of Word you are using when you put a question (it's often impossible to answer your question if you don't). It also helps if you mention which operating system you are using.

  1. Please do not send people direct emails unless they ask for them: it's very rude. And you probably won't get an answer: With 300-million users of Word out there, no-one would live long enough to answer all the emails that would result if each Word user sent them just one email in their whole lifetime.
  2. Please do not send attachments unless we request them. We normally do not need an attachment to answer your question: the description is sufficient. Most  people who have been on the Internet long enough to know the answer to your question will automatically block any message with an attachment: they just won't see your question.
  3. Check to see which forum is most relevant to your problem. Read the questions and answers, and see if they are on a topic similar to your question. It may even be that your question has already been asked and answered recently! If you have made an honest effort to find an appropriate forum, people will do their best to answer you, even if the question is at the edge of the main subject area of the forum.

  4. Avoid posting to more than one forum. It is very unusual for it to be necessary to get half the answer from each of two different forums. It is a real annoyance to those who answer to spend an hour on a question only to find someone has already answered it in another forum.

  5. Say which version of Word you are using. We answer questions on more than 20 versions of Word, spread across several operating systems. What are you using? It is sometimes impossible to answer unless you provide the version of Word and operating system you are using. The answers are often different depending on the versions you have. And we can't see your screen from here...

  6. Describe your problem as fully as possible, including where appropriate what you have tried so far when attempting to fix it. This is NOT the place to try to be brief: that's for Twitter, and this is not Twitter!  Where possible, use the terms used within Word itself to describe what is happening. Describe what you are trying to achieve overall. Sometimes people concentrate so hard on a particular way of solving the problem, that they don't notice that they are using a hammer to drive screws into the wall!

  7. Make the message subject heading descriptive of the question. Saying Word problem or Help!!! isn't going to catch the eye of somebody who might know the answer. Can't install SR-1 or Error message when running spell check is much more informative and useful.

  8. Use your real name, or at least something that looks like a real name. It makes us feel a little stupid to start a reply by saying "Hi MadDog". The forums will automatically anonymise your email: we cannot respond to you by email because we do not have your email address.

  9. If nobody answers your question, it is probably because nobody knows the answer. There is no guarantee that anyone will know the answer, though most questions do get answered. There is also no guarantee regarding response times – an answer will appear when somebody who knows the answer chances to read the question. Putting URGENT into a message header will make no difference as to when that will happen.
  10. If your English is not very good, don't worry – nobody is going to laugh at you. Do your best to explain your problem in English, but also include your question in your native language: chances are one of us can read it. If we have trouble understanding something, we will ask you to explain again.

    On the other hand, if English is your mother tongue, please try to remember to run the spellchecker before posting – and especially, try to ensure there are no errors in your subject line. In a long thread, especially, these can become irritating for other people.

  11. If you have a follow-up question, or a contribution to make to an answer post it back to the forum! Many people may be interested in the additional information. Also, if the person answering your question is not entirely sure about the answer, post back saying whether it worked or not. That helps for when the question comes up again. Forums work well because everybody can see all the information.
  12. MVPs are not Microsoft employees. If you want a direct response from Microsoft, then go to the support pages on the Microsoft web site, and look up the support options there. You may have to pay. If you think Microsoft has done something with Word that is particularly stupid, don't blame us, we didn't do it! In fact, we may well agree with you. Unfortunately, we have no more power than you to get Microsoft to change it.