With newcomers swelling the WordPress ranks daily, this seems like a good time for a refresher course on the all-important topic of comment etiquette.
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 smacked upside the head so hard their kids will be born dizzy, metaphorically speaking.
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 the answers. Live by them.
- I really don’t know the blogger. Wouldn’t it be too bold to comment? Not at all! That’s why writers write and bloggers blog – for the appreciation of their audience.
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 exercise their creativity. And, perhaps, just a moment of glory. Don’t begrudge them that. Tomorrow they must put away dreams of fame and fortune and go back to their humdrum lives as accountants and recent high school graduates working at Burger Planet while yearning to be on Glee.
A thoughtful comment is like applause at the end of a performance.
- I left a comment on a post 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 are compatible. You wouldn’t expect a new “friend” to come up to your apartment to see your “etchings” on a first date, would you?
- I want to tell everyone 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 striving for funny, please proceed. If you believe this to be true, you may want to reconsider before you hit “submit”. The goal is to remain a welcome guest and not be the object of a restraining order. Try to remember to take your meds.
Also, those raisins may stay fresh longer in the refrigerator.
- 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 all you want to do is leave a link to drive traffic to your blog – we see this most often on Freshly Pressed posts – then no. That is considered more tacky than wearing white after Labor Day.
- 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, however, 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 say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
- May I drop the f-bomb in my comment? Nowhere is the commandment “thou shalt know thy bloggy host” more important than here. If your host works in obscenities as an artist works in oils, you may drop the f-bomb (and any other letter bombs) with impunity. If you are visiting what is clearly a family friendly blog, then ix-nay on the bomb-fay.
Remember that obscenity that is neither funny nor advances the dialogue is rarely appreciated. This rule does not apply, however, if you’re commenting on a blog that celebrates crude AND stupid. In that case…carry on.
- Do I have to respond if someone leaves a comment on my blog? 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 clever 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 she seldom makes a return visit.
Many bloggers scale their response to the amount of work evidenced in the original comment. A casually dropped “L-O-L” or smiley face does not require a dissertation in reply.
Another school of thought says, “I can’t reply to every comment. For God’s sake, am I supposed to be chained to this computer? 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 (she prefers chocolate & peanut butter.) She also suggests one of those baseball caps with the beer cozies attached on both sides and a straw that extends down to the mouth.
On a personal note, Miss Peg-o-Leg makes it her practice to respond to all comments. This does not mean the average blogger must do so; 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” and have no time to spare. Finally, this is useful if you just can’t think of anything worth saying. Even Miss Peg-o-Leg has, on very rare 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 aren’t actually reading the posts. That 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 bother 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 reaction to that commenter’s thoughts. It could be as bold as a total takeover; turning the plane around, as the term “hijack” would suggest. This type of comment banter is a favorite of the more advanced practitioners of the noble art. Always remember that 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 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. Both are amazing feats to witness when properly executed. The amateur, however, risks cutting off a vital organ. Both chainsaw juggling and extreme comment hijacking are activities best left to the experts.
Bloggers should make commenters feel welcome as guests in their home. Commenters should remember they are guests, and always wipe their feet before entering. That way they won’t track the blogging equivalent of dog crap in on the host’s rug.
In the end, as with all etiquette, comment etiquette comes down to good manners. As Miss Peg-o-Leg always says,
“Treat others as you wish to be treated and you will rarely go wrong.”
Don’t forget to enter my Weirdest Valentine Contest – the deadline is tomorrow! (Friday, 1/25)