Sometimes we make assumptions about things that aren't explicit in the question, but that can lead to confusion or bad answers. On the other hand we may know, by experience, that the OP question can be answered by assuming certain things that are common. For example, in this question the OP clearly states his current scenario:

Currently I only have a modem but no wifi, if I plug my ipod to my PC via the usb port, it still doesn't allow me to use the PC's internet.

On one of the comments another user said that, although the OP stated that there was no wifi on his PC, in his experience most users do have wifi even if they don't know it.

Is it ok to assume this as being true? Or should the correct procedure be to just answer the question that is being asked exactly as it's being asked without assuming anything else?

  • 4
    When in doubt, asking is a good idea. Otherwise spell out the assumptions.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jun 1, 2012 at 5:15
  • But when we guess or ask for more information aren't we turning into a user support site instead of a simple QA site? From my point of view the purpose of this site is to answer questions, not helping users, although that comes as a by-product of answering questions. I may be looking at it too strictly though. My problem with asking for more info (unless it is required to answer the question) is that it encourages questions of the type "My computer burst into flames! What did I do wrong?".
    – devius
    Jun 1, 2012 at 11:47
  • 3
    Well, i routinely ask for additional information, even in questions i don't intend to answer myself. The alternative is to just close anything that dosen't seem answerable. Considering that we're supposed to ask practical answerable problems, the end game should be finding answers for these. If someone asks a question about their computer bursting into flames with sufficient details, with pictures, i'd upvote that.
    – Journeyman Geek Mod
    Jun 1, 2012 at 12:25

2 Answers 2


Post a comment asking for clarification.

Otherwise, I think it's perfectly fine to post an answer assuming a few things. But keep an eye on your answer (and the question). Edit your answer or delete it if you notice that it is not (or no longer) correct.


You can attempt to ask for clarification, but that will sometimes get ignored. If you get clarification, then you can move forward.

I initially answered questions based on what the underlying problem was, rather than the literal question that was asked... essentially assuming based on some of the information in the question. This proved to be a bad idea since I caught flak from some of the more "verbal" busybodies here. So, you are taking your status here into your own hands if you start to assume and progress without direct confirmation.

However, even if you stick with the exact questions that are asked, you are still not "safe". Recently, a question was asked about PowerISO and trouble that a user was having making a copy of a game disc. His ORIGINAL question states he had issues with PowerISO, and he wanted a free replacement for it. After I answered pointing him to a free replacement, the question was EDITED so that the focus was on attempting to come up with some way to explain PowerISO's behavior. Oddly enough, after the question was edited, my answer started getting voted down. So, even after you answer a question without making assumptions, the question can still be altered to make your answer superfluous. And no, the OP of that example did not edit the question, as can be clearly seen. And no, the question wasn't edited based on the comments he left for other answers.

In Summary, don't assume... but always remember it doesn't matter even if you only answer the exact question, as someone could always pull the rug out from under you anyway.

  • 2
    That's the problem when you answer questions that should preferably be closed for being too vague. When it's clear that the OP is asking about their attempted solution rather than the actual problem they're facing, there's rarely a point in answering those questions in their original form. You'll basically just open a can of worms where everything ends up in edits and extended discussion.
    – slhck
    Jun 2, 2012 at 6:55
  • 1
    That's a very interesting point of view both from Bon Gart and from slhck. Maybe it's not a question of guessing or not guessing, but more of using our common sense to figure out if the question is worth answering or not. If there's a possibility of guessing maybe the question isn't very good to begin with. There are lots of questions that fit into that category though, which means most new users don't even read the FAQ and just use this like a regular forum.
    – devius
    Jun 2, 2012 at 11:21
  • @devius Exactly. Many will just come here, write a few sentences and probably expect others to ask them for more information. This is entirely orthogonal to the concept of asking a good question, doing a little research yourself, and attempting to state a problem so that it is definitely answerable without the need to prompt for more information. While in some cases I know it's not easy to provide all details before (e.g. if you're not knowledgeable enough), it's pretty easy to spot laziness though. And yes, reading the FAQ and How to Ask would of course help.
    – slhck
    Jun 3, 2012 at 16:38

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