I love the commenters here at the National Catholic Register. I really do. They constantly remind me of how intelligent, thoughtful, fun and witty the readership is here.
In the interest of encouraging more of it, I thought some tips on good blog-commenting would be in order. These are not to accuse anyone of anything, just to help all of us. I’ve been (and still often am) guilty of violating many of these myself.
TO NOT DO
1) Do not copy and paste large chunks of text from other sources. Rather, put a very short quote and then link to the rest somewhere.
2) Do not copy and paste somebody else’s entire comment as part of your comment and then go line by line responding tit-for-tat (i.e. STINKER said: blah blah blah. MY RESPONSE: blah blah blah. STINKER: bloo blah blee bloo. MY RESPONSE: Maybe, but have you thought about this entirely too long piece of text I’m going to copy and paste into this comment right now?—and on it goes). It’s inappropriately long for a comment section. And it’s rarely productive to go tit-for-tat in a comment section (see #7 and #8 below). And there is especially no need to copy the other person’s comment. After all, it’s already there for people to reference if needed.
3) Do not write anything in a comment section you wouldn’t say to somebody’s face or that you wouldn’t want plastered on a giant billboard with your name credited.
4) Do not forget that you are (in almost all cases) a guest on somebody else’s blog or website. Think about how you would act if you were invited to somebody’s house for dinner and conversation.
5) Do not comment while angry. Leave it and come back later when you’ve calmed down and realized there are a lot more important things in life.
6) Do not be holier than thou. It’s annoying and a put-off. (This includes closing your comment with a long prayer for the other person’s soul.)
7) Be brief and to the point. I’ve heard it said that brevity is the soul of wit. It’s also the key to making an impact in a comment section. Most people will not read your comment (just like your email) if it is long.
8) Make one, maybe two, points in a comment. Don’t share every thought you have on the topic. Pick your best one or two points and express them well. In writing (and communication in general), what you choose to leave out is as important as what you say.
9) Ignore trolls (commenters who just want to get a rise out of people) or those who just want to argue for the sake of argument. If you don’t feed them, they will generally go away. It’s always sad to see somebody take the bait and then go back and forth with them for weeks on the same misunderstood, off-topic points. I understand the urge though, because it is hard to let comments that challenge or misrepresent the faith go un-responded to. But “setting the record straight” in a comment section is not as crucial as it may seem in the moment.
10) Stay at least mildly on the topic of the post. Comment sections add real value to blog posts ... as long as they stay somewhat relevant to the original topic. We must work together to do that.
11) Give the blog author and other commenters the benefit of the doubt. Misunderstanding and miscommunication are the cause of much unnecessary strife online.
12) Be okay with not having the last word. Say what you want to say, and leave it be. If you find yourself going round-and-round with somebody on the same thing, just stop. Having the last word does not equal “winning” (duh).
13) Always act with love and kindness.
14) Don’t forget your personality. Too many of us when we get on somewhat serious topics turn into stuffy, boring robots that are afraid to show some humor or personality. Don’t let existing comments determine your personality. Be yourself. Bring something new to the conversation. Be real.
Great comments, even when I disagree with them, always make me smile. And it brings me great joy to relate to so many of you in this kind of forum—even in this little way—and to do so all around our common faith. So thank you for all that you bring to the Register online community.
Additional reading: 10 Types of Blog Comments.
Have a blessed Triduum and Easter everyone!