Not “your” comments left on other blogs, but the comments you receive on your blog.
As a general rule, you can judge the quality of a magazine by reading the letters to the editor. The letters represent the target, responsive audience of the magazine and tell you a lot about the content within, don’t they? Magazine editors make sure that the comments reflect the policies and practices of the magazine’s content and purpose, as well as the demographics, so why should a blog be any different?
Since the comments on your blog are associated with your blog, and a reflection of your writing and your blog, I think they should speak well of you and your readers.
It is my policy to help commenters comment. It’s also my policy to help my readers read comments found on my blogs. Thus, some comments need editing so both parties are helped.
While bloggers live for the thrill of comments, some comments are out of control, poorly written, not understandable, and just plain bad. But they still have value. So what do you do?
As always, you have the right to delete any inappropriate comments on your blog. It’s your blog, you are in control and responsible for its content. This means you also have the right to edit the comments on your blog. What you edit in or out, or why you edit is up to you and your own comment policy.
Let’s look at some examples of comments which may require editing.
The Missed Spelling Comment
I recently found a comment on my blog which was very well written and included the following line:
…make a viable point about this issue and I really spptrvistr yout point of view…
What they meant to say was “really appreciate your point of view” but their fingers shifted on the keyboard and they didn’t see it until after hitting the submit button. We all do this, but should I leave it there for everyone to see? Does this speak well of my reader? Does it really say what they wanted to say?
This is a very important point when editing comments. Ask yourself does this really represent what they intended to say? If it does, leave it. If it doesn’t, or has a small mistake in spelling or keyboard misalignment, then help them by fixing it.
The Fixing Comment That Follows the Comment That Needs Fixing
|Posting Code in Comments
The biggest problem posting code in a comment is that the web page tries to read it as code, not as text. Or it recognizes it as code, knows it will “hurt” the web page structure and programming, so the blogging program will strip out the code, leaving a mess of strange characters and words.
To post code in a comment, the browser and blogging tool must think it is text.
To post code in comments, change every < into
DO NOT POST CODE IN COMMENTS LONGER THAN 8 LINES!!! Post ONLY the part of the code that applies to your issue. If it is longer than eight lines, then post it on your own blog or in a pastebin such as Pastebin.com or http://paste.uni.cc and include a link to the code in the comment.
Many people hit the submit button and realize that this is not what they really wanted to say, or they realized they made a huge mistake, either in word choices, spelling, or using a code that didn’t make it through the filtering and posting process. So they will post another comment to try to fix the first comment.
I’ll fix the error for them by editing the first comment, and then delete their “please fix the first comment” comment. Why clutter things up since the task is done?
Posting code is one of the biggest problems commenters have on technical blogs. Unless they really know what they are doing, it is often a mess, so they keep posting until they get it right. I’ve had 6 comments in a row as people struggle with posting code in a comment. Makes a mess of the comments.
It also doesn’t help the readers. Reading comment after comment of borked code and requests to fix things wastes everyone’s time. Fix the comment and then delete their request.
By fixing the comment, you are acknowledging their request, so don’t post another comment telling them you fixed it, and if a blogger fixes your request to fix your comment, don’t say thanks. Just accept it and keep the focus of the comments on the topic, not the mutual love and admiration blogging society.
Helping your readers comment is part of the job as a blog administrator. How far you go is up to you, but I believe that if they work so hard to try to get it right, you should help them make it right. Then clean up the mess they made on your comments.
Fixing the Trackback That Needs Fixing
Trackbacks are comments other bloggers make on their blogs about a post you wrote that sends a signal to your blog, along with 20-100 words around the link to your post, which appears in your comments or trackbacks list. Trackbacks are like mini letters of recommendation or a way of tracking who is saying what about what you wrote.
For the most part, trackbacks work well because people tend to write what they want to say about your blog post near the link to your post. Other times, what arrives on your blog posts says nothing about your blog, or nothing that makes much sense at all. I’ve had trackbacks come in with some gibberish, and others with words totally off topic.
To check these out, I visit the trackbacking post to see what they actually wrote. If it is totally off topic, and the link to my post is inappropriate or it’s a splog, I will delete the trackback. That’s rare. What I usually find is that they linked to my site at the beginning of the article and then talked about my article further down in their post, too far for the trackback to include their more appropriate comments.
If you read a trackback that sounds like the blogger is adding to the conversation on the original post, don’t you want to read what they had to say? That’s a potential new visitor you are sending their way, so you want to make their trackback help them, your way of saying thank you back for the incoming link. It’s my rule to help commenters comment and readers read, so I also want to help trackbackers track back to their blogs as well as mine.
I search through the trackbacker’s post to find more relevant comments about my post and copy and paste that into the trackback comment on my blog. I may leave the first part of the trackback and add ellipsis [...] and then paste the more appropriate context into the comment before the last [...] to connect the pieces, or just remove the trackbacking text and replace it with the more appropriate content.
Just like with comments, some trackbacks may come with misspellings and tiny mistakes. Sometimes these are fixed later by the blogger, but they remain on your site with the errors. It’s up to you to fix them, but remember that trackbacks often carry a little more weight than a normal comment, as they are breadcrumbs to bloggers blogging about you, so make sure they make a good impression on your blog.
Endless Links in Comments
If you have a great site or information to recommend to myself and others, do so in your comments. You notice I said “a” site. Not ten, twenty, or 100 sites. Unless I ask specifically, don’t put in dozens of links.
Depending upon the blog’s settings, any comment with more than two to four links will be automatically moderated or treated like comment spam. If you want your comment to show, and not inconvenience the blog’s owner, then keep your links to no more than two as a rule.
When posting links, don’t put in the straight URL unless it is really short like http://wordpress.com. If it is long and stretches across the screen, you screw up the web page design. And it just looks ugly.
If you post a long or ugly URL in my comments, I will edit it and put it into text, especially if you mess up the web page design I worked so hard on.
Post links wrapped in an anchor tag using a title that describes the link or the link’s destination:
<a href="http://lorelle.wordpress.com/">Lorelle on WordPress</a>
For blogs which do not permit HTML of any form in their comments, these blog owners have a lot of work to change long ugly links into HTML anchors if they want their comments to look nice. The inability to use HTML in comments makes your comments look terrible, it’s a useless technique to stop comment spam, and it’s just another way of making it harder for people to leave comments on your blogs. Comments are part of the design and layout, so they should blend in with the overall look.
Personally, I prefer my links represented as text rather than the whole link. Lorelle on WordPress is pretty and helpful. The URL
http://lorelle.wordpress.com works, but it just isn’t pretty. Nor is it helpful. Text provides information to what the link is about while the link is just a bunch of letters and number that might not make a lot of sense.
One of the reasons you might consider editing a comment is to move the comment to a more appropriate place. However, this is an edit that needs to be well thought through. To return and find the comment missing, especially when they need an answer, is just bad form. When the commenter returns, they need to follow a path of breadcrumbs to find their comment, as do others who may want to track the answer.
In order to move a comment, you must copy and paste the information, including the commenter’s name, email, and URL into a new comment on your blog under the appropriate topic, and then put in a link to that new comment’s location. BUT, programs like WordPress know it’s really “you” leaving the comment so they may not accept the comment or will automatically fill in your name and contact information information whether you want it or not. Many blogging tools hang onto information on “who you are” so the program recognizes you next time you visit, stored in a cookie on your computer. This makes moving comments around a bit challenging.
There are a few ways to get around this, but the easiest is to:
- Copy the information from the comment and paste it into a text editor program, including the name, email, and URL.
- Log out from your blog so you are no longer the “administrator”, just a typical visitor.
- Switch to the post that best suits the comment.
- Copy and paste the information from the text editor into a new comment and submit it.
- If the name and contact information was changed during submission, login to your blog and edit the comment to correct the information in the comment.
- Find the link to the new comment and copy it. On WordPress blogs, the link to the comment is usually found in the date or timestamp or in a link called “permalink” or “comment permalink”.
- Return to the original comment and edit it with the link to the comment as a breadcrumb to the new location.
You might want to consider adding the link to the new comment location with a note something like this:
Comment moved <a href="http://example.com/post-title-here/#comment-14">here</a> on <a href="http://example.com/post-title-here/">Post Title Here</a>, to help you get the answer you need.
If you want to say more, then do so in the comment or in your response to the comment.
Personally, I avoid moving comments but rather respond to them with a link to the appropriate article or post. Then I may post a comment on the target post that asks and answers the question so everyone can keep up with what is going on, if the post alone doesn’t answer the question.
Comment Signatures – Don’t Sign Your Comments
Today’s blog comments feature a fairly consistent form. You fill in your name or blog name, email, and website address and then type in your comment. When it appears on the blog, your email should be hidden, but your name becomes a link to the website address you just gave. And most say “Lorelle says:” or “Comment by” and then your comment appears.
So don’t sign your name and include a link to your blog in your comments. It’s redundant. It makes you look like you don’t know what you are doing.
A comment isn’t a letter.
I’ll say it again, just so we’re clear about this: A comment is not a letter.
A blog comment does not start with “Dear Lorelle” and end with “Yours sincerely” and name, address, email, phone number, or website address.
These types of comments are usually left by people with little or no experience with blogs, blogging, or commenting. So I feel it is my responsibility to help them protect themselves. If they return and find the information missing, they can ask me why, and I’ll tell them, and hopefully, they will learn from the process.
If you post private or personal information that I believe to put you or me at risk, I will edit it out. I consider this part of my job to protect you. You mean that much to me.
English Are Not My Fist Language
My sites attract readers and commenters from all over the world. It’s wonderful, and yet, it has its challenges.
I’m used to talking and listening to people to whom English is not a first, second, or even fourteenth language. Having lived overseas for long periods of time, I’ve massacred more than my share of languages in my travels, so I’m grateful for those who correct me or just tolerate my language abuse.
When I get a comment from someone struggling with English, I will do one of two things. Either I will edit their comment and fix it so it makes more sense, or I will respond to the comment with a “re-write” of the comment or question so others will understand, and the commenter can respond and clarify my interpretation.
In many languages, the difference between a “good word” and a “bad word” is one or two letters. I had one non-English speaker ask me some questions about stylesheets, spelled “styleshits”. Phonetic spelling can be painful. So I fixed it, understanding what he was trying to say.
I sure hope that my attempts to comment in another language won’t include a similar screw up, and if it does, they will fix it for me and honor my attempts to at least try to communicate in their language.
Until better language translation tools are available, we are limited by our feeble attempts. So honor the attempt and help the commenter be better understood.
Blogging on Comments
Got a rant? Got a rage? Want to argue a point or run off at the mouth? Then write it on your own blog and include a trackback to mine. Or post a comment that says “I wrote a post about my opinion on this subject…” and include the link. Don’t abuse comments as a replacement for blogs.
A small post I wrote a few months ago on Taking Your Camera on the Road about airlines penalizing overweight airline passengers attracted a lot of attention, including rants and rages about skinny and overweight people feeling the pinch of uncomfortable seats as well as ticket prices. Some of these rants and rages contained way too much information, including graphic details and personal information about problems on recent flights with this issue.
Official complaints need to be made directly to official sources, in this case, the airlines. I will not forward your issues or concerns, and they aren’t monitoring my site to see what you have to say. You are only venting.
Venting I will permit, because I asked, but there are limits to that venting on that specific site. I have set limits to determine when a comment is a comment and when a comment is a blog post.
Commenting allowed, diatribes belong elsewhere. It’s my blog. I’m responsible for what goes on it. Run off at the mouth rehashing the same subject more than twice, and I might edit your comment to save comment space.
After making a lot of edits, or removing a lot of content, I will insert a note inside of the comment that says [Edited for Privacy Protection], [Edited Offensive Language], or simply [Edited], letting the commenter know that I edited their comment. Rarely do I leave an explanation. People usually know when they crossed the line.
This sounds harsh, but when you check in to see if there are any comments this month and find a 3 page hysterical rant, alarm bells should go off and the editor in you should come out.
How much you allow commenters to blog on your blog is up to you. It’s not about how long a comment is, but rather the content of the comment. You draw the line on how much is too much.
If you really want vent, get your own blog. Consider mine inspiration.
Keeping It Clean
The concept of “offensive language” is honestly a tough one to define. While your concept of “offensive” might include swear words, to others, swear words are part of their day-to-day vocabulary.
Everyone has to have their own comment policy when it comes to offensive language or content. It’s my general policy to keep it clean. I run “family” blogs, so I’m always watching out for my readers to keep their vulnerable and sensitive senses from harm.
If you use a swear word in a sentence appropriately, then I will probably ignore it. But if it is inappropriate or unnecessary, I’ll edit it out. That’s my comment policy. What you do is up to you and your blog’s content and style.
There is an even more complicated aspect of “keeping it clean”. That’s when the comment includes descriptive language or descriptions that are off topic, unnecessary, and inappropriate, but it doesn’t include obvious foul terms. As many say, “I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.”
It boils down to appropriateness. If the comment’s content and intent is to continue the conversation without being mean spirited or vile, then consider leaving it alone, but if it is inappropriate, vile, mean spirited, or just offensive, whatever your definition of that is, then edit it or delete it.
Realize that the quality and content of comments is a reflection of the blog’s content. Cuss and swear and write with inappropriate expressions, and you will attract like comments. Write with care and you will attract careful and considerate comments. Your content is a magnet, so make sure it’s attracting the right comments.
If you are nervous about editing comments, create a strong comment policy so everyone knows where you stand on what is inappropriate and what is appropriate in a comment on your blog. Keep your editing consistent and fair and your readers and commenters will respect your policy.
Censorship, Propaganda, and Cleaning Out the Ugly Comments
Is it censorship to remove a totally prejudicial and bigoted comment on your blog? Maybe. It’s up to you. It’s your blog. Your responsibility. Whether or not I agree with it, you still have the right of refusal and deletion or editing.
I think of editing or deleting prejudicial and bigoted comments as a blog’s “Right to Refuse Service”.
Making a decision about deleting or editing prejudicial and bigoted comments is your decision, and that decision is based upon your personal beliefs and your blog content. If you invite such comments, welcome them. If you don’t, what you do with them is up to you.
I have no problem putting a comment into moderation while I debate about it. I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion. I also believe that not every opinion is appropriate for this blog. I take time to carefully reexamine my post content to see if I invited the comment. Even if the comment opposes my beliefs and values, but is related directly to the content, then I’ll leave it. If it makes a good point, I might edit out the nasty parts, leaving the value. It depends, but I think about it and weigh my options, taking into account the intent of the commenter.
If it is to inflame, then it’s gone. If it is off topic, it’s gone. If it is spiteful, it’s gone. If it is harmful to others, it’s gone. If it continues the conversation, then it may stay.
This is a gray area for a lot of people. Freedom of speech and censorship is something Americans are really proud of, but they don’t realize that even in today’s world, freedom of speech is impinged constantly and legally. Censorship and control of speech is everywhere, especially in the past five years.
What you do on your blog is up to you. I highly recommend, though, you make your policy on comments very clear and public so everyone knows where you stand and what you will do.
Remember, A Comment Speaks For Itself
Recently, I wrote “How Not to Comment on Comments”, explaining how comments are mini-resumes, representatives of you floating around on the web. I really believe that a comment speaks very loudly about its owner, and their opinion.
Honestly, if I don’t agree with a commenter’s opinion, and they wrote their comment very poorly, I will leave it. This doesn’t mean I delete every comment that doesn’t agree with me. I don’t. But I won’t “fix” comments which are poorly written and I don’t like.
Comments do speak loudly of their owners. If you make a valid point, whether I agree or not, and it’s well written, then it will stay. If it is well written, but needs a minor tweak, I’ll fix it. But if it is written badly, while still making a good point, though an ignorant or narrow-minded point, I tend to let it sit there, unfixed, for the world to see and judge you by how you say what you say.
|Making Your Comments Matter
I’ve been working on this article for a couple months. I’m taking a huge risk writing about something we all do, but don’t talk about.
By giving you guidelines on how to edit comments, I’m not endorsing censorship. I’m encouraging careful consideration on how to help you help your commenters and readers by editing comments.
It’s your blog. If the comment sits there, you are lending your approval of the comment. It’s your right, so make it matter.
Am I wrong in doing this? It’s debatable, but it’s done. I’m not alone. You’ve probably done the same thing, you just don’t talk about it. Editing comments on your blog is your option and choice.
It’s my way of saying you have the right to freedom of expression, so make that expression count. If freedom of expression is so important to us, why don’t we treat it with respect and express ourselves better?
Editing comments is about helping your reader’s communicate with you and each other. The comments they leave behind represent you and your readers, just as the letter to the editors in magazines represents the magazine’s readership and demographics. Let them speak well of you.
Remember, you are the publisher and editor of your blog. If that means you have to do a little edit here and there, then edit. Editors on magazines do. Newspapers do. Bloggers should.
- What is Comment Spam?
- Comments on Comments
- How NOT to Comment on Comments
- Mean Spirited Comments and Blogging
- You Must Be Logged In To Comment
- One Year Anniversary Review: Comments on Comments
- Special Guide to Weblog Comments
- I Love It When You Say Nice Things About Me
- Delaware Supreme Court Extend First Amendment Protection to Online Comments
- Imprisonment for Annoying People Online
- The Day I Looked Forward to Casinos, Drugs, and Penises
- Comment Live Preview Placement
- Your Comment Has Been Moderated – Stay Tuned for Approval
- Monitoring Blog Comments
- A Day in the Life of a Paranoid Website Administrator
- My Daily Tasks With WordPress
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