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How to Leave A Good Comment (Part Two)

Definitely keep talking about who, what, and where, but now we also need to tackle when, why and how.

When

People usually expect to see comments on a post within a few days of the post date.  Some people close comments on a post after a certain amount of time to deter spam.  But I leave my comments open indefinitely because I don’t think there’s an expiration date to a response.  I may not need support or accolades long after an event, but a post that is salon-like in nature never needs to have the conversation closed unless nothing new can be added.  If something new can be added, open that comment box and start talking.

Also, in this day and age of feed readers, people often allow posts to build up during busy periods or vacations.  They shouldn’t feel shy about catching up on old posts and commenting.

And that’s obviously an excuse because I allow posts to build up and then go back and leave comments when I have time to formulate good ones.  But I don’t think we should be shy about the fact that we have other things happening in our lives too and while we want to read blog posts, sometimes they get held over until we can concentrate and fully appreciate them.

The only time I don’t think this is helpful is when the comment is only meant to fan the flames in an argument taking place in the comment section.  Or if it’s beating a dead horse.  If the point has been made, there’s no point in leaving a late comment to make it again.  Especially because late comments are usually seen only by the author and not by the general community unless it is a particularly sticky post.

Why

People leave comments for a plethora of reasons:

  1. You want to connect with the person and give them support or accolades.
  2. You want to give your thoughts and respond to something in their post.
  3. You want to build a relationship and have them come leave comments on your posts too.

I think if you’re coming from one of those three reasons, open the comment box.  I think if you’re coming to pick a fight, get free advertising for your product, make someone feel like crap, or drive traffic to another place, you might want to step away from the computer.  Because the fact is that comments can be deleted in one click and IP addresses can be blocked with a simple cut-and-paste, causing all that hard-crafted hatred to disappear into the ether of the blogosphere, wherever deleted comments go.

That was just my public service announcement for spammers and haters.

How

Leaving a great comment is an art, but anyone can leave a good comment.  And sometimes, in this day and age of fast-moving information, good is a solid place to be.  Here are my best tips:

Respond directly to the words on the screen

Especially when being critical, make sure you are looking at what the person is saying and then responding directly to their words.  Pull quotes from their post to make your point.  Too many times, comments argue points that aren’t there or that the commenter assumes the writer really means.  But if the comment clearly shows the blog writer that you haven’t read their words, it negates your own argument.

Keep on topic

Before you hit “post comment” ask yourself this question: are you writing to talk about yourself or to talk about the person?  It’s okay–even desirable–to tell a story that lets the other person know they’re not alone.  And to that, you sometimes need to talk about yourself.  But that is different than opening up someone else’s comment box solely to tell them about you, you, and you.  Make sure you bring even stories about yourself back to the point of addressing the original speaker and their thoughts and feelings.  If not, it’s like you just put a blog post about yourself on their blog.  Save it for your own.

Keep it simple

If it’s getting too complicated for a small comment box, consider writing a full blog post and then leaving a short comment linking to that post.  Make sure that you still address the original speaker.

Short is still good

Too many times, a person states that they didn’t comment because they couldn’t find the right words.  While not everyone agrees, my feeling is that a simple “I’m abiding with you” or “I’m thinking of you” or “Congratulations!” can go a long way in making the writer feel less alone.

Do you think there should be a timetable for commenting?  Is it ever too late to leave a comment on a post if you don’t close your comment box after a given amount of time?  Why do you comment?  Do you have another reason than the three I list?  What do you think about short comments that simply express sorrow or happiness for you?  What is some other advice you would offer on how to leave a good comment?

22 comments

1 WiseGuy { 10.27.09 at 8:29 am }

Do you think there should be a timetable for commenting?

Not at all. And I too do not ‘close’ commenting on my posts after a term.

Is it ever too late to leave a comment on a post if you don’t close your comment box after a given amount of time?

It may be late, when let’s say a person has asked for an opinion about what to do the next day, and you manage to reach the post a month later. It depends a lot on the content of the post.

Why do you comment? Do you have another reason than the three I list?

Mostly, the three that you wrote are the key reasons. Also, comments are a hug back. Somebody took out the time to come to your blog, read it through and think and write. It needs to be acknowledged.

What do you think about short comments that simply express sorrow or happiness for you?

Good enough for me. It means that the person may not want to repeat the same as what others have already said, but still wants to say “I am there.”

What is some other advice you would offer on how to leave a good comment?

A little humour/ A little empathy/ A little space / A little less judgement.

2 niobe { 10.27.09 at 9:22 am }

I like pretty much all comments (well, except the ones I delete) and I especially like interesting comments.

While short supportive or congratulatory are always welcome, the ones that I re-read and really think about are the comments that are slightly offbeat or off topic, that tell the commenter’s own story or introduce a new point of view.

3 Flying Monkeys { 10.27.09 at 9:32 am }

I need to keep this as a mental check list. I can be a rambler and sometimes I feel self conscious commenting late or commenting in relation to myself because sometimes my ‘you’re not alone’ story might pale in comparison to their story, to them anyway. Who wants to feel like someone is making light? (That’s my issue, the therapist has finally been called. *eyeroll*)
I don’t think there should be a timetable, though I have a self-inflicted one, but it should never be too late. I leave comments because I want to show support and connect. I get wrapped up in feeling like a short comment is less personal when I write them, but I don’t feel that way when I get short comments. Hm.

4 Hope Springs { 10.27.09 at 9:36 am }

I don’t think there should be a timetable for commenting – but the usefulness of comments to old posts can be dependent on how a person has set their blog up to notify them of comments.

On my old blog in a former life, I had comment moderation enabled. I got to see all comments before they were published, but Blogger didn’t tell me which posts each comment related to. Sometimes I would spend hours searching my blog to see exactly what someone had just decided to agree (or argue) with.

Nowadays I have e-mail notification switched on, and the e-mail subject line does tell me which post a commenter is commenting on. If I’d figured this out earlier, I could have saved myself a huge amount of time.

As far as I’m concerned, short comments that say ‘yay’ or ‘boo’ are as welcome as the longer ones, because they show that people care about what you’re going through – and although I do think those ones can often be more meaningful to the blog author if posted within a few days of the original post (when they’re still going through the feelings or situation discussed), a comment saying “Sorry I missed this at the time, but I hope things are better now” or something can be equally valuable.

Does any else feel sorry for their posts that don’t get any comments?

5 Katie { 10.27.09 at 10:30 am }

No, I don’t think there should be a timetable on commenting, except in cases when you are asking for advice or some other time-sensitive question. Then I can understand why leaving a comment after the fact may not be helpful.

I leave comments because I know how great it feels to have that support. If I can give that support to someone else, I feel like I’ve completed the circle.

I think people should write whatever they feel, regardless of the length. But you’re right–sometimes, less is more. It helps to just see “hugs” or “thinking of you.”

6 Hevel { 10.27.09 at 11:41 am }

I make posts older than 14 days have comment moderation. The reason behind that is comment spam usually comes on older comments. Even a good spam filter, like Akismet, lets through some of these comments. I do check these posts for comments though and let them go through.

7 deathstar { 10.27.09 at 12:20 pm }

Good post. Sometimes something someone said just suddenly cracks me open and I find myself sharing a story – to commiserate, but I often have to go back and edit cause it’s really about me and not them. I try not to be trite, overly cheerful in the face of sadness, or say sorry just to say something. Nobody needs to read 15 sorries in a row. You may be sincere but it doesn’t translate much emotion in print. What’s really hard is when you just can’t find the words in your heart – and that’s when I say “abiding with you” or something cause I truly am, and some things don’t need words.

8 deathstar { 10.27.09 at 12:22 pm }

As for a timetable, if someone reads an old post and it really moves them to comment, I think that’s great. Then you know that connected to someone, even though you wrote it months ago.

9 meggowiggle { 10.27.09 at 12:50 pm }

Do you think there should be a timetable for commenting?
>>Not necessarily, but generally within a 3-5 days from posting is a good rule of thumb for me. Otherwise, your comment might go unnoticed as more posts are written on top of it.

Is it ever too late to leave a comment on a post if you don’t close your comment box after a given amount of time?
>> It depends on what the commenter is hoping to achieve. If they are giving advice that would have been helpful months ago, yeah it is a little too late for that kind of comment. I believe words of comfort, affirmation, and encouragement are timeless, though… which is why my comments generally stay open.

Why do you comment? Do you have another reason than the three I list?
>> I comment to connect, build community, and hopefully provide assistance, whether emotional or informational… pretty much the reasons you outlined. In addition, I comment to let the person know I read their blog, especially if I happen to lurk more than comment on their space. I write something like “Hey, I follow your blog and just wanted to say keep doing what you’re doing.”

What do you think about short comments that simply express sorrow or happiness for you?
>> They do wonders! Just knowing that someone out there reads and acknowledges my thoughts and feelings affirms me. Even if it is a short “Good Luck!” or “Thinking of you”, I feel like I’ve been heard, and have a support system.

What is some other advice you would offer on how to leave a good comment?
>> Pick out the main idea(s) or concern(s) of the post, and address them if you can. Sometimes I’ll pour my heart out on a subject, yet I will receive comments about something insignificant and unrelated they noticed in my post, such as spelling, or a single sentence that, when addressed out of context, does not touch on the heart of the post. To reiterate what the OP, “keep on topic”. Leave yourself out of your comments, unless it is appropriate. Make your comment about the original poster.

10 Lollipopgoldstein { 10.27.09 at 1:55 pm }

I wish I had commenting where you could slip the reply in between the other comments. Hope, I don’t feel sorry for my posts that go without comments, but sometimes I’m surprised over what gets comments and what doesn’t. I’m pretty bad at predicting what will end up being a big discussion and what will end up being a small talk.

11 MyBumpyJourney { 10.27.09 at 2:07 pm }

Timeline for comments: Nah- you never know when someone might find something and want to talk to you. I agree in the salon type nature of blogging. Even if it is just “this is funny”. I like to hear it all. Also- how would we do blogger bingo without it? (even though I haven’t yet. :)

Why Do I comment: I comment to give support, let people know I am thinking about them, and to connect with people. I hope they come back to my blog and we get to know each other, but if not- it helps me to read other blogs and learn from them. It helps me to follow people in all stages of the IF journey- even though I have not gone through most of what others have. If I leave a comment on a person’s blog that recently had a loss- I don’t do it expecting them to come to my blog. I do it b/c I care. I have never had a loss, but I still care and I feel a pull to let them know.

Short v Long comments: Whatever the commenter is comfortable with. I think a post that just says {{HUGS}} or Congratulations! Is helpful. Maybe the commenter is uncomfortable saying anything else. Perhaps they are at work and want to just throw something in before they get caught. :) Sometimes they have 84 posts to catch up on b/c they were moving. LOL!!! To me one word is better than just reading and clicking away.

I think that if you follow a blog that is very religious, or agnostic, etc. try and be respectful. I have my faith, and my beliefs- but I am not going to tell a person that is agnostic “God Bless”. I do try and get a feel from them and be respectful. I try not to curse in comments on blogs that have never had even ‘heck’ in the posts. I do slip up sometimes b/c that is just who the ‘heck’ I am.

I think we all just need to be respectful, and not comment anything we wouldn’t say in person. The nastiness still hurts even through the shelter of the internet.

12 tash { 10.27.09 at 3:21 pm }

No, I don’t think there should be a timetable, but I’m in a slightly different boat. I’m really moved when people read back and comment on a picture of Maddy from two years ago, or read up on her medical problems and respond two years later, or say that a post from two years ago is helping them right now. It’s why I went public with that particular information and I’m happy to read what people have to contribute. Sometimes when I’m really effin’ late to a comment (I either find the blog late, or am not in a place where I can compose the comment at the time of the post) I just email.

13 Lucy { 10.27.09 at 3:47 pm }

Great post series. I sometimes feel redundant to add another “congrats” or “I’m sorry”–and yet I never feel those are redundant on my posts, so I should know that it’s okay to keep doing that for others. Sometimes though, I only do that for blogs I regularly follow.

14 Melissa G. { 10.27.09 at 3:52 pm }

Do you think there should be a timetable for commenting?
*Definitely not. It means so much to me when I find someone has gone through my arhcives and found a post that they can relate to.

Is it ever too late to leave a comment on a post if you don’t close your comment box after a given amount of time?
* Nope, I’m always grateful for information. It may end up being relevent in my future or something that I could then pass on to someone else in the same boat.

Why do you comment?
* Comments=Support=Community=Sanity. I’m so grateful for this community and the comments/support I receive. It’s paramount that I return the favor to other’s out there. Not just to the folks who comment to me, but anyone in the blogosphere.

What do you think about short comments that simply express sorrow or happiness for you?
* Honestly, I do my best to leave a thorough comment each time, so of course I prefer it when people say something more than “Good Luck!”. But I know not everyone has that kind of time, and that they’re sincere in their wishes. So short or long, it’s nice to know one more person is pulling for you.

What is some other advice you would offer on how to leave a good comment?
*Not sure. I think the two posts together pretty much nailed it.

Thanks for posting this!

15 Kristin { 10.27.09 at 10:03 pm }

Great post Mel! Hope you continue to feel better.

16 Io { 10.27.09 at 10:47 pm }

You are so tricky Mel – a post on comment leaving is guaranteed to get comments!
I don’t get comment notification, but every once in a while I will read an old post and realize somebody commented long after I posted. It makes me feel good, like they cared enough about whatever I had to say there that they needed to tell me something.
I think your three list of reasons is pretty much everything for me.
I leave a lot of short comments – sometimes I write long ones and then delete them and just leave a short “Thinking of you” or something, because I worry that I’m not saying the right thing in my longer comment. But letting somebody know that I am thinking of them? I know it’s enough for me sometimes, just knowing other people out there are in my corner.

17 Lavender Luz { 10.27.09 at 11:14 pm }

I LOVE it when an old post gets a comment. It means someone landed there NOT by reader, but by deliberate search or serendipity. This is one of the things I love about Blogger Bingo.

You are spot on.

18 claire { 10.28.09 at 12:23 am }

Regarding not knowing which posts are going to get a lot of comments, that is an interesting one. And it seems really random. Here’s a thought that is related to comments and commenting:
On Facebook I am always astounded at the status updates that get a lot of comments – like: “what I am having for dinner”, or “I got a flat tire”, but if you write about the state of the world or something with a little more substance the silence is deafening. I think the food one is a big one though – North Americans love to talk about food, think about food, think about what they are having for their next meal while eating a really delicious meal, wonder what other restaurants they could be at while they are at a perfectly nice one. Oh whoops, I think I am ranting a little. I say this as a Brit and you know that the Brits are famed for bad cooking. We don’t eat much and our food is lousy so we don’t talk about it really. But beer, now there’s another story. ….
That is perfect example of a comment that really got away with itself and went in a whole different direction.
I guess what I am trying to say is: status updates in a very public forum (i.e. facebook) = mundane and not particularly personal; blog entries in a more anonymous setting = much more heartfelt and personal and comments flowing from that are also much more intimate. that’s why I heart blogs I guess. Although my DP loves to post on facebook about what she is learning in seminary and gets lots of responses from her very thoughtful seminarian type face book friends – I must be hanging out with the wrong facebook people!

19 Calliope { 10.28.09 at 8:11 am }

I actually really appreciate someone responding to an older post. And sometimes it is one of those crazy moments in time where the “old” post that is being responded to is actually something helpful for me to go back and read.

also- this is totally random- but sometimes I want to comment but get pulled away. So the persons blog ends up sitting on my computer all night. Which is why, if you check your stats, you will see that some crazy sleep training lady was on your site all night. heh

20 Jamie { 10.29.09 at 3:17 am }

I love getting comments on older posts as well. Like Calliope, I enjoy re-reading that old post and seeing if my perspective has changed. Or even just to be nostalgic!

Short or long comments – I love them both. Sometimes an, “Amen, sister!” is all I need.

I comment when I feel I have something to add or want to let someone know I’m thinking about them. My problem is I tend to to talk about myself in trying to relate to the blogger or their story. Sometimes I feel I need to reel myself in and make it not about me.

21 Katie { 11.01.09 at 9:11 am }

I’ve had a few comments long, long after a post and it has often been someone searching on a specific topic, or who has taken time to read the archives. I really appreciate both.

One thing I DON’T do is read all the comments that have come before – often there are pages and pages for a 1-2 page post. So I may well come over as repetitive, but that is a risk I take.

22 JW { 01.27.11 at 1:30 pm }

In the spirit of “a comment can never be late”, I just stumbled across this post. I agree, as a writer of a blog, I welcome and encourage comments well after the original post date. I welcome constructive criticism or debate but just plain trolling is not needed.

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