8

When I answer some question on the Stack Exchange sites, I usually use a phrase like:

  1. You should change.

  2. I recommend you.

  3. You are supposed to.

  4. You can use.

Is it okay to use the word you all the time? I just thought it's maybe like I'm ordering someone?

I want see some different approach.

I'm aware that the answer should be MVC (minimum verified complete).

  • 5
    I'm still learning the culture of this site, so I'm not sure how applicable this is here. But the general Stack Exchange model is a knowledge base of questions and answers that will benefit users, other than just the original author, who have similar questions. The intention is the presentation of factual information, perhaps more like Wikipedia than a chat discussion between users. A more personal style can be used in comments. So answers are better worded as "[XYZ authoritative source] says ABC is proper for this reason..." rather than "You should..." – fixer1234 Apr 20 '17 at 17:12
  • 1
    @fixer - If you're still learning the culture, you appear to be a fast learner. That's an excellent suggestion. – J.R. Apr 20 '17 at 18:29
  • 1
    It's hard to provide a really general answer to a question like this, because so much depends on the context, the type of question, the type of answer, which Stack Exchange site you're on, etc. – Barmar Apr 21 '17 at 12:21
18

If you're worried about sounding too "bossy", the culprit often isn't the word you. Instead, it's the verb after the word you.

For example, these phrases make it sound like what you're about to write is absolutely correct, and there is no other valid way of doing something:

  • You should change...

  • You are supposed to...

The solution I often use is to couch the language in a less assertive way:

  • You might want to consider changing...

  • You probably should think about trying...

By using words like might, probably, and often instead of words like should, must, and always, your answers are less likely to sound like you are touting the only right way to do something at the exclusion of other possible solutions.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    This seems appropriate when the subject matter is subjective. I spend most of my time on StackOverflow, where the questioner has code that simply doesn't work. My answers use the more assertive verbs because I think my solution is the correct way to rewrite their code. On the other hand, I'll use the less assertive verbs when I suggest alternative methods that I believe are simply better style. – Barmar Apr 20 '17 at 21:26
  • 1
    @Barmar - No doubt about it; not all SE sites fall at the same point along the spectrum in this regard. Languages like English and Italian have a lot more flexibility than languages such as Java or Python. If someone asks how to instantiate an object, there's no need to dance around the subject with words like may, probably, and might. When someone asks for a good adjective, however, I prefer answers that are more delicately worded and less direct. – J.R. Apr 20 '17 at 21:35
  • 1
    @Barmar, but for objective answers the word "you" can be omitted entirely. "This is how to accomplish _____ without having issues X, Y and Z." You might want to consider omitting the word "you" entirely from answers you believe to be objective. :D – Wildcard Apr 21 '17 at 6:58
  • 1
    @Wildcard Again, it depends on the type of question. If it's "I did X and it didn't work", the answer will often be in the form "You should do Y instead, because ..." – Barmar Apr 21 '17 at 12:19
1

I would use phrases such as (see what I did there?)

I would use phrases such as...

Another way to say this is...

One solution that worked for me was...

If it's a language / logical / mathematical question (subjects with hard rules) and you know that the original post was wrong, I think you are helping the person by pointing that out clearly and explaining why. They should not be offended, but there is also no need to focus on the person, rather focus on the problem and attempted solution.

If it is a softer subject where many options are possible, or the question isn't wrong but can be improved, you can suggest an improvement.

Finally, I'm sure you can find lots of good examples on each site, just by reading questions and answers. The tone of communication and culture surely varies depending on the topic.

| improve this answer | |
1
  1. When the answer states an objective fact, it may be so stated without any reference to the person asking.

  2. You shouldn't say "you" if you're stating a fact.

  3. When you're just giving advice, it's probably fine to mention the person you're giving the advice to; however you may want to avoid stating such advice in concrete, absolute terms.

  4. You are supposed to mention the person you're giving the advice to, using the pronoun "you."

  5. Odd-numbered sentences in this answer are done right; even-numbered sentences are done wrong.

| improve this answer | |
  • Does the last sentence of this answer signify that every other sentence in the answer (the even-numbered ones) were intentionally done "wrong?" If so, that might not come across as clearly as you meant it to. Perhaps numbering them would help? – Adam May 9 '17 at 16:49
  • @Adam Sure, I'd welcome that edit. :) – Wildcard May 9 '17 at 17:04

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.