Keeping Your Comments Saccharin-Free

by Kat on April 27, 2010 · 18 comments

On the heels of Rachel’s post about justifying struggling blogging, I want to expand on her idea of “Sweet ‘n’ Low” comments by presenting a commenting field guide for blog readers.

Now what does good commenting have to do with good blogging? Well, if you’re a blogger, you’re probably also a commenter. And how you comment is a big part of how you connect with other bloggers and get readers, so it really will affect your experience as a blogger.

Commenting should be a semi-virtuous act…don’t just give it up to any ol’ post.  Pageviews might be what pay the bills (for some lucky peeps), but good comments are what make a blogger feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  There are a few instances in which comments are always welcome and encouraged (i.e., the SWEET):

  • If you’re new to the site and want to offer a compliment: “Hey, I just found your site and I LOVE what you’re all about!  I’m definitely subscribing!”
  • If you identify with something the blogger has revealed: “I suffer from [insert rare disease here] too!  I’ve had good luck with [this therapy].”
  • If you have a question about something in the post: “How long did you bake your cookies?  What running shoes do you swear by?  How long did it take for the itching to subside?”
  • If something in the post struck you as truly amazing [note: these comments should be used sparingly]: “Holy crap, I never thought of adding THAT to my oatmeal!”
  • If you disagree with something the post states to be true AND can offer an insightful rebuttal: “I disagree with your assertion that everyone should [run a marathon/eat a raw diet/practice Bikram yoga] because [insert valid reasons here].”
  • If you’re entering a giveaway or are answering a question asked by the blogger.  There will be a buttload of comments on that entry, but hey – they asked for it.  Comment on, commenter.

If you have the urge to comment in any of the following instances (i.e., the LOW), think twice…and still don’t do it:

  • To simply plug your blog.  “Networking” is more than dropping a couple of empty words on every site you visit; a comment isn’t a business card.  And for chrissakes, don’t put your URL in the body of the comment.  That’s spam, and it’s tacky.
  • To remain relevant.  If you’re still subscribing to a blog, still giving it pageviews, and still commenting when posts deserve comments, congrats – you’re still doing a great job as a blog reader!  But not every single post warrants a comment, so if you find yourself scratching your head over what to type before finally deciding on “your salad looks yummy,” don’t waste your time.
  • To give unsolicited “holier-than-thou” advice.  If a vegan blogger has a headache, don’t tell him or her that meat is the cure.  Conversely, don’t preach vegetarianism to a carnivore unless they ask for it.  If a runner has an injury, don’t tell them they’re stupid to keep running.  Be respectful of each blogger’s autonomy; if they didn’t ask for advice, you’re probably better off keeping it to yourself.
  • To address a potentially sensitive issue.  If, for instance, you believe a blogger is showing signs of disordered eating/exercising, a comment in a public forum might only make them defensive.  A carefully constructed e-mail would be a better place for such concern.
  • To give nonconstructive criticism.  If you’re going to attack a blogger personally, at least do it in as helpful a way as possible, and definitely don’t call them names or use derogatory language.  Hurtful comments will usually only get you ignored.  If you want to have a real impact, start an intelligent conversation, not a mudslinging contest.

Of course there are other instances when commenting is okay (“damn girl, you look fine in those bike shorts”) and not okay (“nice smoothie.”), but give some consideration to these guidelines and the types of feedback you’d appreciate on your own blog to ensure your comments are always sweet and never low.

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