Writing Blog Comments Worth Reading

Leaving comments on a blog post is often anonymous, so it’s tempting to be snarky, self-serving, or rude. “Rude” is what happens when you cross “cruel” with “can’t catch me.”  We often read blog posts we don’t agree with, so letting people know how we feel seems legitimate. And it can be. In today’s digital life, leaving a comment leaves a fingerprint, and it can help (or hurt) your own blog

Leaving a comment leaves a fingerprint of who you are.

stats. If you want to boost your own blog stats, leaving interesting, meaningful comments is to your own advantage. Light-hearted comments are also useful, as long as you remember that the internet is global and humor is not. Some hints to keep your comments make you click worthy (people read your comments and then look up your blog).

1. Follow the basic etiquette rule of saying something nice first, even if you want to correct or criticize. You don’t have to agree, but it’s easier to take someone seriously if they say something complimentary or kind first, they point to the differences. “What were you thinking?” doesn’t encourage continued reading as much as “Your perspective on global warming is interesting, even if I don’t agree.”

2. Don’t use labels or engage in name-calling. “This is about what I would expect from a blog called ‘Heartland Living’,” paints with broad strokes, and doesn’t speak well to your own reasoning ability.

3. Agree more often than disagree. Encourage more often than correct. There is no other reason to do this than to be nice. “Nice” is not popular to give right now, but it’s secretly what everyone wants to get. If you like the post, the photos, the concept, say so. If you don’t, you can also say so as long as you use “I statements”–being plain that this is your opinion and not a

Make people hope you are coming toward them, not glad you are leaving, with your comments.

universal truth. “I don’t agree that the sky is blue” is a kinder way to disagree than “the sky, as everyone in this world knows, is gray or white most of the time.” If you leave a lot of comments, do a quick scan. If most of your comments are negative, ask yourself why this is necessary in the way you show up in the world.

4. Use your comments to build relationships, not market your own site. When you leave a comment, you have the opportunity to leave your own blog or website so the blog owner can see it. That’s plenty. Leaving your site at the bottom of a thoughtful comment makes your site available to everyone who reads the blog, and is marginally acceptable. It depends on context, which is the next issue.

5. Add to the information. If you know a lot about the topic, it’s fine to add a link that isn’t your own. But don’t just dump links into comments. Tell people what they will find there and why you think it’s worth reading. Leaving a link without context will get your link sent to the spam file. Leaving context will help people make the decision to click on it or not. If you do leave a link, make sure it is to the exact page with more information (permalink), not the home page. And please make sure it is relevant, not just something you thought of when you read the post.

6. Leave your aches, pains, angst, suffering, anger, and neediness far, far away. Reading a post about someone’s dog does not entitle you to leave a comment about your dog phobia, your story about how your child was bitten by a dog, or your sad thoughts about how many thoughtless people ignore your dog allergies. Demanding comfort or sympathy from strangers because you are needy is a reason to call a therapist, not leave a blog comment.

7. Grammar mistakes and errors of fact go in an email, not a blog post. I actually like people telling me about typos, or errors in facts, but not everyone does. Blog writers should have an easy-to-find email, but if they don’t, and you can’t bear not to point out the mistake, make it general. “I’ve always had trouble with lie and lay–I would say, ‘lie down’ to my dog, not ‘lay down.’ Do you know the rule?” is nicer than “You made a common, but irritating error in lay/lie” Again, not saying anything is the best choice, but I know the pull to fix.

8. Humor is tricky. Not everyone laughs at the same thing. Case in point: The Three Stooges. Love ’em or shrug-em-off, there are strong opinions on either side.  Leaving a comment you think is funny may not bring universal agreement. Also, the internet is global, so watch idiomatic expressions. “I’m pulling your leg,” is plain to you, but not to others. In Russia, it’s “I’m putting noodles on your ears,” and in Germany it’s “I’m dragging you through the chocolate milk.”

–Quinn McDonald is a writer and creativity coach who read countless blog comments on her blog and others before writing this post. Please feel free to comment.

Voice Mail: Rise, Decline, Gone

My Mac laptop was in the shop being repaired yesterday, so I had a lot of time to think. I am embarrassed to admit that without my laptop I felt exactly the way I do when my car is in the shop. Adrift. Mildly frantic. Helpless. It wasn’t a good feeling.

New keyboard for old Powerbook

New keyboard for old Powerbook

After 6 years and countless feline upgrades (where are we now? leopard? jaguar? kitteh?) I wore out the keyboard. I started slowly, rubbing off the letters from the keys. That didn’t disable it, but it did create light spots from the backlighting. Eventually I wore out the ‘H’, then the ‘G’. You would have thought I’d wear out the ‘E’ first, it’s the most commonly used letter. Nope the two center keys that get clobbered by my index fingers went first. I learned to type in Middle School and it was a pre-electric typewriter.

When am I getting to the voice mail part? Right now. I had to geeze first. You young folks are so impatient. Get off my lawn.

Clint Eastwood, in Gran Torino, "Get off my lawn."

Clint Eastwood, in Gran Torino, "Get off my lawn."

Back in the day when cell phones were the size of shoeboxes and everyone had to stay in the room where the landline was, because the receiver was attached to the phone with a curly wire, there was no voicemail, no answering machine. If the person wasn’t at home when you called, you called back later. It was annoying, but we didn’t know better.

Then came an answering machine. You plugged it into your phone and into the wall and watched the red light blink because it was good training for the VCRs still to come. Almost immediately, no one answered their phone anymore. The cooler you were, the less you answered your phone. Every time-management expert told you that answering your phone just because it rang made you a slave to your phone and proved you didn’t know how to use technology to your advantage.

The idea was to let the calls build up, then pick up all your messages and prioritize them. Only then would you return the phone calls, in their relative order of importance.

After a few years, I believed this to be true, and after much training from the time management expert the corporation I worked for had hired, I was a prioritizing, time-management genius. Except I was wrong.

By the time I learned how to let every message go to voice mail (answering machines were a thing of the past), it was wrong to do that. Even if you left an outgoing message that said, “Your call is important to me.” No one believed that. Callers are smart that way.

Now you were supposed to answer every call, no matter where you were. Luckily, the cell phone was also small enough to carry with you into the restaurant, the symphony hall, the library, and places of worship, not to mention the toilet stall. It was appropriate to bring them into places of worship, because these phones are like gods to us. Their every whim is to be answered, and we listen to them all the time. Probably more than a god, but that’s another post.

People don’t leave messages, they expect you to check the “missed call” list, recognize their number and call back. Quickly. The very same time management expert, now called an organizational development guru and wearing flip flops instead of brogans, gives workshops on answering every call. It’s better time management.

Business, like fashion, has fads that come and go. First we were all given raises when we improved our work, then we were told pay increases are linked to the cost of living, and then that philosophy was adjusted to being told how hard you work and amount of pay are not related. (That’s when I opened my own business, where that still works pretty well.)

Beware of business fads, or you’ll still be shifting your paradigm when everyone else is taking it to another level. Stick to the core actions that work. Answer your phone when you have time to talk and you are in the office. Use voicemail when you are in the car or speaking to a real person. Be polite. Be nice. It’s timeless.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life-  and creativity coach. She teaches business people how to write effectively and deliver good presentations.