So I’ve been trying to answer a lot of questions, and I have noticed different trends of answering.

Some people, such as myself, try to be less technical, and therefore slightly less ‘sharp’ in our answers, as in cutting exactly to what is asked in the question. There are pros and cons to this: our answers will be useful to people with a limited knowledge, however whilst they explain how something happens, they may not adequately explain why it happens.

Conversely, some people are giving incredible amounts of detail that cuts right to the crux of the issue - again with its pros and cons. Due to the high-level technical detail, the answers are less likely to be as useful to newcomers to the hobby, but they answer the question exceptionally well.

So, how should we as a community try to answer questions - simply with a decent amount of detail, so people who may not have a high level of technical experience can find the answers easy to follow in the future but may not completely answer the question at hand; or should we answer in great detail that answers the question exactly and precisely, but may not be as useful when found by beginners?

I partially think it should be a mix of both in each thread, but I’m also tempted to say that our answers should try to have a level of consistency.

Any input is appreciated - thanks.

  • $\begingroup$ This is a problem across all SE sites. $\endgroup$
    – Criggie
    Apr 30, 2020 at 12:29

3 Answers 3


Questions should be answered in enough detail to be useful, but not so much as to overwhelm the reader with irrelevancies.

Yes, that's vague. But one of the reasons why the Stack Overflow model permits multiple answers is so that people can provide answers with different levels of detail.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, and that’s fair enough - good point about multiple answers providing multiple levels of detail. $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2020 at 0:08
  • $\begingroup$ I love that this answer is both on meta, and is meta itself. Well played, @Mark! $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2020 at 16:07

I think the principal character in your answers is clarity.

That said, I think there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Nature of the question

Some questions are by nature much longer to answer than others. For instance, when I asked this question, I was not expecting a one-liner "It's easier to engineer." And I think that was fairly clear; the two answers I got were thorough and complete, which is exactly what I was looking for.

On the other hand, this question is not asking about the concepts behind a brushless motor but just a simple "how do I." Shorter answers are appropriate there.

2. Your expertise

If the question is asking for something relatively simple and you already know a simple, straightforward answer, there's no call for dragging it out. A longer answer might look more knowledgable on first glance, but if you're just talking about something totally tangential to make it look informative, it will show. You don't have to keep typing and typing just to make your paragraphs longer. Don't repeat yourself because somehow you think it's more professional to make a longer answer. Dragging things out just bores... you get the idea. ;)

On the other hand if you really do have expertise in the given field and there is a deeper explanation for the answer, it's great to put that information in. Just be sure that you do answer the question. Personally, I'm a fan of TLDR's / divisions between a short answer and a long answer.

3. Formatting

I know it sounds kind of banal, but honestly... most people will not even bother reading an answer which is ten 500-word essays stacked on top of each other. Make your answers clean and readable. If it's long, break it up with figures if possible; and if it can be broken into portions, give it headings. This allows readers to grasp the answer at a glance, then to delve deeper if one of your points particularly interests them.

Bottom line:

Make sure your answers are complete, but don't make them unecessarily long just for the fun of it. Make sure users are easily able to manage the information.

I hope some or all of this is helpful!

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ That’s very useful, thank you! I think you’re right, it’s very dependent on the kind of question being asked. Perhaps we can introduce tags about what kind of answer someone is expecting - ‘short’ if they just want a quick, simple answer etc. Thanks for providing examples, that was helpful to see what you mean! $\endgroup$ Apr 17, 2020 at 0:10

Split the answer into a tl;dr part and a detailed part (if you've got the expertise to write the latter).

And put the tl;dr part first.

I'm prone to writing walls of text in response to questions, as some of you might have seen on this site. More often than not there comes a question that is at first glance simple, but actually touches on a fundamental, important and nontrivial concept, which most recreational drone users know nothing about. So to explain why the answer to the actual question is the right one, just referencing whatever theory is involved is not enough: they just won't understand you. So it's beneficial to write a "layman's terms" recap of that theory, or at least the applicable parts of it.

So if you've got the expertise to give a long, detailed answer which will explain the relevant parts of the mechanism behind whatever is happening before arriving to the actual answer, by all means do so. Still, take care to bring everything to simple, understandable terms that anyone who's been through high school knows. A long tirade full of technical terms is no more understandable than a short answer full of technical terms, i.e. "The standing wave will destroy your VTX due to an infinite SWR in an unterminated feedline". The whole purpose of the long answer is to explain those technical terms using simpler ones.

However, some readers will not be patient enough to wade through your wall of text. If your explanation is longer than one or two paragraphs, the best thing to do is to put the conclusion first:

The answer to your question is so and so, because such and such. The such and such is caused by X effect, which I will explain below:

(wall of text, starting from the basics of what the X effect is and concluding with the answer)

This way those who just want the answer will be satisfied with the summary and go on, while the curious minds who want to go deeper can read the detailed explanation and hopefully gain a deeper understanding of the topic. Win-win!

Also note my usage of bold text (and/or header text) to highlight the important part, so that it's immediately visible where the actual answer is.

Note: I'm not advocating for people who don't have that drive (or theoretical background) to write long explanations to do so. If you've got one, good. If not, also good. Just write whatever you've got.

  • $\begingroup$ That’s a good way to go about it - thanks for the input! $\endgroup$ Apr 22, 2020 at 22:46

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