When navigating the rocky shoals of comment etiquette, even the most grizzled WordPress veteran may find him or herself adrift. Commenting rules are, by and large, unwritten. This makes them no less real. The unwary commenter risks breaking one of these rules and getting a bloggy smack upside the head so hard their kids will be born dizzy.
Fear not! Miss Peg-o-Leg is here to guide you in the gentle art and exacting science of the effective comment. Read these Frequently Asked Questions. Memorize them. Live by them.
- I really don’t know the blogger. Wouldn’t it be too bold to comment? Not at all! If they didn’t want you to view their wares, they would have their setting on “private”.
WordPress is like community theater. Hard-working actors donate their blood, sweat and almost every evening after work, and for what? They get paid diddly-squat. All they want is a chance to create art and, perhaps, a moment of glory. A thoughtful comment is like applause at the end of a performance. Don’t begrudge them that. Tomorrow they must put away dreams of greatness and go back to their humdrum lives as accountants, shopkeepers and recent high school graduates yearning to be on Glee.
- I left a comment on a blog and the blogger didn’t come over to visit my blog. Does that mean she is a rude, self-involved witch? Not necessarily. Be patient. Blog reciprocity is like dating. It’s a process of getting to know one another – to see if you’re a good fit. You wouldn’t expect a new “friend” to come up to your place to see your “etchings” on a first date, would you?
- Can I include a link to my own blog in my comment? This is tricky. If you did a post on a closely related subject, then yes. If you want to advertise “I get you low, low price on Via$ra and Ciali$, for sure!” then no.
A variation on this is the practice of visiting the blog of the newly Freshly Pressed for the sole purpose of leaving a comment link to drive traffic to your blog. This is considered tackier than wearing white after Labor Day.
- I want to tell everyone all about how Angelina Jolie is really an alien who comes to my house in the middle of the night to eat all the raisins in my pantry. If you are being funny, please proceed. If you believe this to be true, you should reconsider before you hit “submit”. The goal is to remain a welcome guest, as opposed to being on the receiving end of a restraining order. Try to rein in these impulses and take your meds. Also, those raisins may stay fresh longer in the refrigerator.
- I disagree with/don’t like what the blogger had to say. It’s perfectly fine to disagree – just be respectful. If the blogger is laying down some particularly nasty carpet-bombing on a topic that you hold dear, it may be best to sneak away quietly without comment. Miss Peg-o-Leg agrees with your mother on this point: “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
- Can I let it all hang out in my comment? Nowhere is the commandment “thou shall know thy bloggy host” more important than here. If your host works in obscenities as an artist works in oils, you can drop the f-bomb with impunity. If you are visiting what is clearly a family-friendly blog, however, then ix-nay on the bomb-fay. Obscenity that is neither funny, clever nor advances the dialogue is rarely appreciated, unless you’re visiting a blog that celebrates crude AND stupid. In that case…carry on.
- If someone leaves a comment, do I have to respond to it? Experts are split on the duty owed here. One school of thought holds that if someone takes the time to read and come up with a reasonably thoughtful or funny comment, they deserve the courtesy of a reply. If Miss Peg-o-Leg crafts a witty comment and gets no response on a blog she is visiting for the first time, there is seldom a return visit.
Many bloggers scale their response to the amount of work evident in the original comment. A casually dropped “lol” or smiley face will not require a dissertation in reply.
Another school of thought says, “What, am I supposed to be chained to this computer? I can’t reply to every comment. For God’s sake – I’ve got a life!” This response is especially tempting during the comment ballyhoo that surrounds being Freshly Pressed. Miss Peg-o-Leg suggests the lucky FP host just hunker down with a supply of Power Bars (chocolate/peanut butter is her personal favorite.) She also recommends one of those hats with the beer cozies attached on both sides and straws that extend down to the mouth.
On a personal note, Miss Peg-o-Leg makes it her practice to respond to all comments. However, Miss Peg-o-Leg strives to be above average in all things.
- Can I just hit the “like” button? The “like” button is a perfectly acceptable response. This is the equivalent of leaving a calling card with the butler when you drop in and the host is not at home. It shows you cared enough to stop by.
The “like” response is especially effective if the post is a simple picture, or a quote-of-the-day sort of offering. You can also use it if you’re swamped with “real” life that day or you just can’t think of anything worth saying. Even Miss Peg-o-Leg has, on occasion, gone to the Clever Comment Well and found it dry.
If you exclusively hit “like” without ever commenting, however, your host may get the impression you are parking out on the street, slouched down in the front seat hiding behind a Star Magazine, just waiting until they leave the house so you can drop off your card without having to talk to them.
- What is the Comment Hijack? Is it ok if I do this? The comment hijack involves jumping into someone else’s comment stream. This may be as subtle as expressing your own thoughts on the topic, or as bold as a total takeover; turning the plane around, as it were, hence the name hijack. This type of comment banter is a favorite of the more advanced practitioners of the noble art. Always remember you are a guest on someone else’s blog: make sure your host knows they are welcome to join in the fun.
A variation on this is the comment hijack on the blog of someone whom YOU DO NOT KNOW. This game is fraught with danger; a thrill ride that is not for the faint of heart. It is like juggling chainsaws. If you pull it off, it’s an amazing feat to witness. However, the amateur may end up cutting off a vital organ. Both chainsaw juggling and extreme comment hijacking are activities best left to the experts.
Bloggers should consider commenters as guests in their home, and make them feel welcome. Commenters should remember they are guests, and always wipe their feet before entering. That way they won’t track dog crap in on the rug.
In the end, as with all etiquette, comment etiquette comes down to good manners. Miss Peg-o-Leg says,
“Treat others as you wish to be treated and you will rarely go wrong.”