English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I post questions on stackexchange sites and I'd like them to sound more professional.

However, they usually start like this:

How do you....

How can I make my questions sound more professional?

Is there a better way to think of the question or is there just something mechanical I need to do differently?

share|improve this question

closed as off topic by FumbleFingers, Kit Z. Fox Feb 15 '13 at 18:01

Questions on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange are expected to relate to English language and usage within the scope defined by the community. Consider editing the question or leaving comments for improvement if you believe the question can be reworded to fit within the scope. Read more about reopening questions here.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Well, I notice you didn't ask us "How do you make your questions sound more professional?", so it seems to me you're already getting the hang of it. Or you could have asked "How can questions be made to sound more professional?", for example. Whatever - there are so many alternatives I think it's just Not Constructive to ask for a list of possibilities to be posted as votable "answers". – FumbleFingers Feb 15 '13 at 17:52
"How does one ... (do this)?", "How is this done?", etc. – coleopterist Feb 15 '13 at 17:52
This is an interesting question, but not on-topic here. Writers says that the post is also off-topic there, since it is a request for asking what to write. Sorry. – Kit Z. Fox Feb 15 '13 at 18:02
Adding to what others said, I wonder what ever happened to the simple "how to". It doesn't have to be you, me or one in the first place. No need for passive voice, either. – RegDwigнt Feb 15 '13 at 19:50
I tried that, but it sounded like a statement rather then a question....How to bake cookies? for example is ambiguous to me. – pure_code Feb 15 '13 at 20:09

How do you…

How would you…

Is fine for many contexts.

How does one…

How would one…

Is more formal and its precise meaning is closer to what you probably mean; you aren't asking how I or any other reader does something, you're asking how any person would, and so the indefinite personal pronoun one is appropriate.

However, some consider it stuffy. Also, if you aren't used to it, it can be easy to fall into hypercorrections where you use it where you, I or they are more appropriate.

How can I…

How could I…

You used it above, so it came naturally to you. It's what you really want to know with most SE questions; how you can do something. It works for both formal and informal registers, and so is appropriate for both professional and chatty cases, and SE which is a strange mixture of the two.

share|improve this answer
How are questions made to sound more professional? Can a solid state drive suffer a head crash? – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 16 '13 at 0:21
@WayfaringStranger It'd be harder to turn that second one into a form using you than it ever would to avoid you. – Jon Hanna Feb 16 '13 at 0:31

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