The Blogger’s Guide to Comment Etiquette

Imagine that you go to a presentation after which the lecturer asks for feedback. The person next to you frantically waves their hand in a maniacal effort to get the presenter’s attention. Excited at the prospect of a meaningful discussion the lecturer calls on them.

“You rock,” they say. They hand out their business card and then leave the room never to be seen again.

A version of this happens all too often on blogs much to the consternation of the owner. Bloggers begin blogging for a variety of reasons and when someone takes the time to comment, it makes us feel as though what we are doing is worthwhile which, in turn, inspires us to continue.

However some comments, like the one above, leave us tapping our virtual microphones and wondering “is this thing on?” Here are just a few suggestions regarding comment etiquette to help make blogging fun for everyone.

1. Write a comment, not spam.

Spam is the bane of all webernet existence and has caused many a blogger to resort to counterproductive measures such as closing their comment section. Even worse than spam, however, are comments that do little more than consume bandwidth. What most bloggers are looking for is feedback that continues the discussion about the topic at hand. Comments like “You don’t know what you’re talking about” or “I was here first,” are not helpful.

Take the time to read the blog entry and put some effort into writing a response that adds to the conversation and/or helps the blog writer. Your comment is your calling card. The webernet is an open rolodex and as such, how you present yourself through your words will tell people whether or not they want to look you up.

2. Stay on topic.

This policy may differ from blog to blog. Some blogmasters don’t care if the participants drift off onto tangent. Others will do a round house kick on you if you get too close to the white line. As a general rule if you find that you fall into a discussion with other visitors about something unrelated to the post, offer to email them privately.

3. Respect the rules.

Some bloggers will have an official comment policy in place. Usually because of issues they’ve run into with their feedback. Read it and respect it. Visiting someone’s blog is just like being a guest in their house. The last thing they want is you pooping all over their couch and doing so will usually result in them pushing you out the front door.

4. Comments should be comprehensible.

Make an effort to use good grammar and spelling and to communicate your thoughts clearly. People cannot respond effectively to your concerns if they cannot understand what they are in the first place. Don’t forget that people cannot see your expression or hear your voice. Flame wars are often the result of a misinterpretation of the meaning of your words. This is why smilies and snark tags, such as “sarcasm”, were invented. Use them.

Also, be sure your writing reflects the level of formality of the blog. Throwing around slang terms on a blog that is highbrow may cause you to appear uneducated even though you are Mensa member. On the other hand, using language more suitable for a doctoral thesis on a blog that is very informal may come across as pretentious and snooty.

5. Avoid setting the whole blog ablaze when flaming a topic.

Let’s face it there are some subjects in life that, no matter how hard we try, cause us to flip out at the mere mention of them. But while you have the right to act like a jerk when the topic is raised, unless you want to be banned from the internet I suggest you refrain from doing so.

There are some blog owners who are like Hitler when it comes to their blogs sending anything that doesn’t conform to their narrow-mindedness to the gas chamber. However, most bloggers welcome dissenting opinions on their blogs as long as the debate remains civil and respectful. Speak from your point of view and don’t treat others as though they are idiots because they don’t agree with you.

6. Follow up on comments.

Be sure to respond to comments directed at you even if just to say you don’t wish to talk about the subject. Services such as Co-Comment can help you track conversations you are involved in.

7. Keep it to a reasonable length.

Most blog topics don’t require more than a one or two paragraph response. Avoid writing a novel especially if it is your first visit to a blog. It also helps to read the other comments to make sure you are not adding to the broken record effect.

8. Link to your sources.

When citing material to make your case, provide a link so that the participants can read it at their leisure. Be careful of linking to your own website, this can be seen as spam if you are a first time visitor.

9. Do not feed the trolls.

They’ll just follow you home and poop on your doorstep.

10. A word about anonymous commenting.

For one reason or another, people feel the need to make anonymous comments. This practice is not right, wrong, good or bad. In some cases this is the only option available especially when personal safety is a concern. However, just so you know using a pseudonym is the same as talking to people with a paper bag over your head which can hurt your credibility. Even when leaving negative comments, it’s best to leave either your name or your web identity.

Commenting on a blog is about more than getting hits to your website or increasing your PageRank. It’s about building relationships. Use your comments as a way to get to know the blog writer and allow them to get to know you. The webernet may be virtual but we’re connected by more than service providers.