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Whilst writing technical documentation, there is commonly a section on troubleshooting or frequently asked questions.

I know a FAQ should be real questions - not ones the publisher thinks might be asked.

But when wording the question header, should it take the form:

Why does blah blah happen? 

or

Blah blah happens, Why?

The former might be a more natural way of simply asking the question.

In the latter the thing that is happening appears earlier in the phrase making it easier for readers to recognize relevance earlier. That's especially the case if there's a long list of questions, where it might appear odd to have every question starting Why, How, etc.

I'm also wondering about 'a third way'!

Blah blah is happening.

I can't find the blah blah.

The fact that it's in a FAQ implicitly suggests this is a question, so maybe it's enough to say what is happening, without explicitly wording it as a question.

What would be recommended, and why?

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How many items will your FAQ have? The important aspect is to help users find the info they need. Phrasing the Questions as the questions that your users usually ask, will make it easier for them to identify the one they need. "Bla bla is happening" will require that they understand and can verbalize "bla bla", which I often cannot, if I'm on the level where I have problems. –  what Mar 22 at 17:30
    
@what Well there's currently about 45 but I want to split them into about 8 clear groups exactly because I want the reader to identify general topic first, and then specific question. –  Roger Attrill Mar 22 at 17:35
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1 Answer 1

You can write the FAQ in a mixed fashion. Depending on what the actual question is, you could choose any of the three styles (or maybe alternate styles too) that you have mentioned to frame that particular question. The idea should be that the readers find it useful.

If it is something obvious, then the style differences might not be too much of a deal. For example,

Why is the red light flashing continuously?

may not be too different from

I switch the device on. The red light is flashing continuously. What do I do?

However, if the question is pertaining to a particular series of steps that the answer gives, then it might be useful to frame it as a question. For example,

How do I get this annoying feature to stop annoying me?

If the question is something that turns up after the user has followed a series of steps, it might be more appropriate to word the question as a descriptive one. For example,

While jumping from one tree to another tree, I realized mid-air that the other tree has disappeared! What do I do?

In the different kinds of FAQs that I have read through I have seen people use all these variants depending on the question and not sticking to one single style. It might also be of importance to note that wording some questions in a particular style might sometimes be inconvenient or lead to vague/not-user-friendly questions.

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+1 for variety being the spice of life. It's true that a formulaic or patterned format may not fit all questions; It may lead to a boring presentation; and perhaps the way each question is worded should be considered on a case by case basis, whilst ensuring that some variety is built in. –  Roger Attrill Mar 22 at 19:28
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