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Say Something: Commenting Etiquette

Previously, I wrote about how to drive engagement and build relationships on your blog through good comment moderation. Today, let’s…

Previously, I wrote about how to drive engagement and build relationships on your blog through good comment moderation. Today, let’s talk about the other side of that: being a good commenter yourself. As Michelle pointed out, leaving comments on other people’s work is one of the best ways to lure others to interest others in your own site. But some comments are more effective at this than others. Here are some tips for how to win at commenting:

  • Read thoroughly. Before commenting, make sure you’ve read the entire post and the other comments before yours. Your comment should never make the writer (or the other readers) wonder if you actually read the material. Also, if your point is on target, it might have already been made by someone else – in which case, you can reply to that person’s comment!
  • Contribute something of value. Every post can be the start of a conversation. Try to add something substantial to move that conversation forward. Don’t get me wrong – most bloggers appreciate every comment, even if it’s just a simple ‘enjoyed this post.’ But a meatier response is more likely to result in visits to your own site.
  • Keep your comment comment-sized. If you have a lot to say on a certain subject, leave two or three representative sentences in the comment section, then link to a post on your own blog where you have expanded on the topic. This is a clever way to engage readers who share your interests.
  • Don’t leave shameless plugs. One of the top complaints in the comment thread on my last column was commenters who leave nothing but a link and a ‘thanks!’ There’s no shortcut to building a readership – intelligent and thoughtful comments are the way to go.
  • But do link to your correct site. If you leave intriguing comments, other people will want to check out your blog – so make it easy for them to find you! Make sure your website field is updated in your Personal Settings, so that your username links to your site. Upload an eye-catching Gravatar and fill out your Gravatar profile with your social media links and a short bio.
  • Mind your manners. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in their comment thread. Criticism is fine, but there’s no need to be hateful. And remember, only a blog author can delete a comment, so if you comment in haste you might repent at leisure.
  • Be yourself. I’ve discovered many favorite blogs by becoming a fan of a certain commenter. Rather than any one comment, it’s the style and personality of a commenter that really makes me want to read more of their work. Whether you are smart, witty, or just plain bizarre – be you! No matter your perspective, a unique voice will get attention.

What type of comment catches your eye? Do you have a certain style of commenting yourself?

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  1. It’s a question of finding the balance between nothing to say and too much too often. You’ve got all the angles covered with your bullet points- I especially dislike the shameless plug

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  2. I think some of the points go for “liking” too. Its fun to see that many people like my own blogposts just a few seconds after I published them. it´s really funny sometimes.

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      1. Interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I usually take it as a small gesture, but I appreciate comment much more — and especially the ones that have something specific to say.

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      2. As Cassbee says, but I really have to like what I saw/read. I will especially hit the like button if it is a new blog/blogger and I appreciate their work, like Maniacal Medievalist on wordpress, her work is brilliant and she doesn’t have much of a following yet. She should have and I think will have a good following one day.

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      3. I’ve noticed that as well. Post a pretty long (1k + words) and there’s a “like” almost simultaneously upon the posting. There’s no way someone read the post that fast. While I appreciate someone letting me know that they viewed my blog I think it would have more impact if there was a short comment too.

        I only “like” blogs that I’ve read and liked. Whether its writing style, content or something else.

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      4. That’s also one of my hates, really bugs that people like a post just to get you to link to their site and build their stats and ego! I even posted about it at one point – I prefer people to read my blog and like it because they do and follow because they are interested in its content.

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      5. I am 100% in agreement with you. Don’t “like” it as a faux way of getting me to come to your blog or to build stats…that’s stupid and reminds me too much of silly teens on social networks. If you like it then “like” it, if you don’t then comment.

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    1. I think it depends what is the post all about. If it was a photoblog then it’s very obvious if people just like the post by seeing the pictures because some photoblog only show pictures without write too much the description.

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      1. Agree. I do understand it if the post contains a photo. People might just think “Woow cool photo” and click “like”. I do that often too because I am impressed by a photo. However I noticed also people click like on blogposts with over 500 words which are just published a few seconds ago. They couldn´t read that fast and I do think some do really troll for their own site views in this case then.

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    2. Ah, that “liking” thing.
      I believe it works as follows: you tag your post with “x”, “y” and “z – and other bloggers out there that read/subscribe to “x”, “y” and “z” via the WordPress reader can literally zip down the list and “like” virtually every single blog, without so much as a “how do you do”…
      I would seriously consider disabling “likes” on my blogs and posts, but WordPress has made it easier to both “Like” and “Re-blog”, without that person actually inspecting/reading the content of that post.
      I have serial “likers” on two of my blogs, that I just know trawl through the reader without reading (the stats page and spark lines don’t lie!).
      One day, I might name and shame them at the bottom of a post – and check back to see if they “liked” it, or not!

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      1. “the stats page and spark lines don’t lie!” Thats it. There are several things which proof my assumption as well. I also spotted some black sheeps on my blog. But I still didn´t disable the liking function yet due to the fact that there are still real readers and friends who really use that function to tell me that they liked my blogpost or photo. Not everyone is abusing the function. But some defenetly do. And they do it with help of the reader. I bet they just like tons of posts in a short amount of time as you said, so that they leave their profile everyther. I called it likebait on a blog which did discuss this topic.

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      2. How funny…Lu, I just went to one of your posts and there he was…MY serial liker! I’ve long known what he was up to. I just knew I’d find him there.

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      3. Luckily, serial likers are not nearly so scary as stalkers etc.. They don’t even know they really like you! (although “likers” is most an anagram for something else – just add 1 “L” and …yikes… I’ve gone and spooked myself a bit now).

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    3. Oof, this could be another post – “like”-ing etiquette. :) Likes are great, and I always enjoy seeing them on my posts, but a good comment is even better. And I completely agree that automatic liking for the sheer purpose of bringing traffic back to your own site is not cool.

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    4. I’ve seen my share of serial likers as well- it’s lovely to see my notification bar turn orange, but not the very instant I hit publish! It makes me distrust a lot of the likes on my posts- what if no one read it all?
      But at the same time, I use the like button a lot- especially when I enjoyed reading something but don’t have a lot to say about it. I read this blog post some time back- which complained about the exact same thing, and where the blogger has actually disabled the like button. But stubborn as I am, I ‘liked’ it anyway (Yay for wordpress toolbars? :D) and then proceeded to comment about why I had liked it.
      I really wish there was a way to distinguish the genuine likers of a post from the folks just looking for a shortcut to get their links on my blog.. :|

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  3. I agree!!! Sometimes, I get some messages like: “follow for follow?” Urgh…
    I used to ignore this kind of comment, but one day I visited back this person and I really read a post and commented. Days after, the person left me a good and decent message on my blog (and don’t “follow for follow?” message).

    Regards,
    Cristiane.

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    1. People ask you that? Wow… I usually take the effort to at least visit the blog of a commenter – the notification email always comes with a few suggestions to start with. I managed to get hooked onto a few good blogs that way :)

      I’m very careful to just send comments to promote my website. But I do love getting comments! And I have received some very serious ones already with advice etc. It’s nice when people take the time to voice their thoughts

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    2. How funny! I’ve never seen this type of comment on my blog, either. But how great that you checking out their blog led to an actual interaction. I wouldn’t necessarily have expected that!

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      1. Hi Becomingcliche, Thanks for the reply. In one comment I wanted to point to a fellow bloggers particular post, and it is a pity that it does not seem possible to add a hyper link.

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      1. Why?? I am intrigued.

        I am amazed that a lot of Gravatars do not link back to the owners wordpress sites. Sometimes to find their site I have to cut and paste their name into www****wordpress.

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      2. Pecora Nera, I find that slightly annoying actually. That someone either hasn’t noticed, doesn’t care or some other reason that their Gravatar doesn’t link back to their page! Sometimes I put their name in the http://www….but sometimes I think, bah! Why bother if they don’t care? Its not a difficult step to include a link back.

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    1. Hmm, for those users whose Gravatars don’t link to their sites, I wonder if some might be new users who just don’t realize how to set their profile up yet? And of course, some WordPress.com users do not actually have blogs themselves.

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      1. I would be one of those… in fact, I haven’t even loaded up a gravatar. Interestingly, I was trying to click on someone who had liked a post on my blog and it didn’t take my anywhere except to her profile and I was very annoyed that I wasn’t able to find her blog and cursing WordPress for not making that easier. Now I know who I should have been cursing!! Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me to check if a person could find MY blog that way. How, exactly, do I do this?

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  4. Thanks for your post. I agree with your points and try to follow this etiquette always. I love reading the comments made on my post and thinking up of good replies :+), and I enjoy starting a writerly relationship with those whose blog I comment on. It’s a win/win situation.

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  5. Elizabeth,
    Your points about shameless plugs and manners are key not only to commenting on other blogs but to other social media as well. Another thought is to say hello and let an author know you’re new or how you found the website. It’s a nice way to introduce yourself and maybe even a gain a guest writer or friend.
    Marie

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  6. I confess. I don’t always read the comments on a post. Some have so many (which is great!). I dislike the feeling I get when I know someone hasn’t read my post via their comment. On the other hand, the other day I commented to someone they had a cute pup, but it wasn’t their pup. Just photos of a farm they visited and the animals there. I found out when they replied to my comment. I read the post…..somehow I got it messed up. Not sure how? Now, I have a comment forgiveness policy – at least once anyway. :-)

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    1. I got into trouble on one blog by not reading ALL the comments. But after reading 15 that all said the same thing, I really couldn’t be bothered. That’s where blogger’s need to do a little housekeeping. You don’t have to approve every single (repetitive) comment. That’s just lazy and irresponsible.

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      1. I understand the bother of reading several comments that say the same thing, but I would feel rude if I were to reject a comment because someone agrees with another comment.

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    2. Angelia, Maybe you were still thinking of those cute puppies on my post… :lol:
      Anyway, as per commenting etiquette, the great thing about blogging is that we can all choose how we wish to interact with other bloggers and not feel pressured; to each his own.
      When I started blogging in 2008, we had no Like button and sometimes a post would barely get any comments. The 2011 Daily Post challenge connected me with many new blog friends and I’m always happy to encourage/support other bloggers. When my fellow bloggers like or comment on my blog, I’m grateful for it and make the effort to reciprocate.
      It matters less to me why/how quickly/how slowly they responded to my post. It means more to me that they took the time to stop by and like and/or comment and I appreciate the gesture. I find it odd that some think other bloggers like their posts just to gain traffic. Traffic building is far more complex than that and it takes a lot more work to gain SEO and even organic traffic. Since Hurricane Sandy knocked out our power, I’ve written a lot less blog posts and visited fewer blogs but my traffic remains strong. If we can be appreciative of our fellow bloggers, we might have a different experience. The way I see it, spammers troll, fellow bloggers visit. As Elizabeth suggested, “giving commenters the benefit of the doubt is an excellent policy.”
      I concur! :-)
      Eliz

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  7. This is great but it’s wonderful to see it all written down so clearly. I do try to follow these tips personally as it only seems natural. One thing that I always wonder is, if when someone clicks the “like” button but doesn’t leave a comment, have they really read your post. Jen

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    1. Not if they “like” ten posts in a row, all within the same minute or two. :-(
      Talk about blatant!

      Those who have the habit to “like” and then also comment are sometimes those who only “like”. Them, I believe.

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      1. please don’t count me in :-) i have this habit of opening at least five, max ten blogs at a time, on a “new tab” of course. maybe because i am impatient, i want them ready when i’m done with the first one.

        should i encounter long blogs, i sure take my time.

        and i don’t like a post just for the heck of liking it or “lure” {elizabeth should have kept it ;-)} bloggers to my site.

        when i hit the like button, i really like it. i had moments where i was rendered speechless. sometimes you just have to stand in awe of a masterpiece.

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      2. “should i encounter long blogs, i sure take my time.”

        i wouldn’t put my name on something i never really liked, much less understood, nor comment on something that might offend, just to place my two cents on it. that won’t be nice.

        further, it’ll be like “trouble for signing a contract without reading it first” :-)

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      3. You are absolutely right. However, I have several who come by my site, like 10 or 20 posts in ONE MINUTE, and move on. I have visited them and they do not like people like me, but they have not noticed that about my site, yet. ;-)
        Glad to hear a different side of things. Come see mine, if you want. :) That was blatant. ;-)

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    2. I “like” without comments. Sometimes, I like the style or appreciate the effort on tackling a difficult subject. I think of a “like” as a smile or a nod, quiet encouragement.

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    3. I can be heavy-handed with the like button myself. I always mean it, but sometimes I have more to say and am just too lazy to comment. I’m trying to get better about that!

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  8. I like it when bloggers some times relate themselves with my posts and comment on my post with events they’ve come across in my life. I comment on a post either if I really really like it or I have my two cents to contribute to the post. :)

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  9. Very interesting post and I totally agree. I’m still new to blogging but I find it rude when someone goes through and likes all of your posts within 2 minutes! They obviously haven’t read them. My personal policy is to only like if I’ve really read the post and actually like it!

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  10. i’ve found that the golden rule works really well for commenting and liking. i try to only leave the types of comments (i.e. thoughtful, relevant, etc.) that i would want to receive on my blog.

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    1. Good point about “relevant” comments. I was an early enthusiast of the Google+ social site and quickly gained 5,000 followers. However, after only a few months I quit the site because too many people commented on my postings with an unthinking “nice”, “cute” or “awesome”… descriptions which hopefully could never be appropriately used to describe my images! I made the point of always commenting on others’ postings with at least 140 characters of text – a self-imposed minimum because I loathe Twitter and what I feel it is doing by abbreviating the English language – and often with more than 140 words. Written praise and constructive criticism can take a great deal of time, and one does it to be encouraging and helpful, but those three very (ahem!) American (oops!) words I quoted earlier certainly had the opposite on me.

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      1. Your comment wasn’t nice, cute or awesome. It was thoughtful and had substance. As such it triggered my thought process and want to respond. That is what comments should be about.
        I am fairly new to blogging and am very impressed with this community. I have described blogging to my non-blogging friends as Facebook, etc. with intelligence and substance. I assume that likes mean that people actually like what I posted and a comment is to affirm what I said or add a different perspective. Making this assumption makes me feel good. :)

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      2. Ed Buziak, somehow I walk away from your comment feeling slightly insulted. Since there are users from all over the world, it might be a good idea to be respectful. Even if one is playing, or teasing, saying something with a hint of humor can go wrong if your hint isn’t well recieved.

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  11. Have to add this:
    I have one true follower, who, when she first found my site, READ EVERY SINGLE POST AND PLACED A COMMENT ON EACH. It took her DAYS, but I was totally touched and awed at her sweetness, to do such a thing for me.
    Needless to say, we’ve become great blogging friends. :)

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      1. She is a dream come true. We share first names, religious heritage, even favorite childhood TV shows. I feel extremely blessed and if you want to view her site instead of mine, let me know — I’d get the same kick out of that as if you came to mine. :)

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    1. Katherine–that is truly a wonderful and amazing thing to have received; someone willing to take the time and give the effort to get to know you through your writing!

      As you said, you are truly blessed!

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    2. she sounds really dedicated, can we borrow her?
      i actually did that once for a friend of mine who biked with his dad and sister and dad’s friend from Cape Town [South Africa] all the way up through Egypt and then across Europe and they had a blog and i joined it a few weeks into it and read through all the posts and commented on most of them cos they obviously put a lot of work into it and there were not a lot of comments and firstly the blogs were great [here they are actually if anyone wants a fun adventure – Julian is a funny guy – http://4bikes4singapore.wordpress.com%5D and i wanted them to know that i was reading and appreciating and i caught up with them after a few days and it was kind of like i got to journey with them from the safety of my computer [far less punctures!]

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      1. Punctures? Ha. From bad roads, right? I’m guessing . . .
        Thanks for this reply! My friend is very special to me. Someday, I will drive my truck about 1000 miles to her house and we will hug each other, eat forbidden foods, and stay up all night talking. :)

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      2. yup completely. or no roads at all. so great that you can ‘meet someone’ online and then connect in real life and grow a real friendship – that is exciting! sounds like a great trip to make – you should do it!

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  12. I usually go for the funny comment just because that’s how I’d respond in person. I always try to be myself and to be kind and respectful especially since I’m on someone else’s turf. I have a great community of commenters on my blog, and I think that’s in large part to WP being such a friendly and welcoming place.

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    1. My funny / edgy comments sometimes come out the wrong way……I see drawbacks to being anonymous – it’s easy to go a little too far, especially if the other person doesn’t get that you have a goofy, lying, playful and sarcastic thing going. I mostly read but don’t comment…….I have pretty much broken all these rules. When a toddler stumbles over and grabs your crotch, it is usually shrugged off, but the Neophyte Blog Dude…….no way!

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  13. I think everyone should receive a commenting pamphlet when applying for an internet service. I don’t like shameless plugging especially when it’s so obvious. I mean, can’t they even try and pretend to leave a small effort of commenting about the last line at least? It’s really sad to see a lot of rude people on the internet hiding behind their usernames — on yahoo news for example.

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    1. Cerrise, I agree completely! Yahoo! comments can get pretty raw. Some are lighthearted and even funny, others are straight abusive. Having a conversation about the news would be interesting if we could remove all the hate and abuse.

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  14. Excellent post on commenting etiquette. I have encountered a few who “like” one of my posts for the first time. So I go to their blog and discover very interesting posts. Great way to “meet” fellow bloggers.

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    1. it really warms my heart when bloggers, who are really good at their fields, liking my works and giving advice. i was once told, when you’re in the presence of someone great; shut up, listen & learn. ain’t that great?

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    1. I was just going to add a bit of blogging etiquette, and your comment is the perfect jumping off place. You bring up a really great point, even if it’s in jest.

      One of my pet peeves is when people swear when commenting on my posts. I know coarse words are very much a part of the culture, but I moderate them out on my blog, even from regular contributors.

      We can say whatever we want in comments, but if we want them to see the light of day and become a part of a conversation, a good rule is to keep it clean and polite, especially if it’s a blog we’ve never visited before.

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      1. I totally agree–if you wouldn’t say something to a new acquaintance in person (with whom you want to develop a relationship), why would you put it in writing? But that may be just me, ‘cuss words’ make me cringe–especially since there are much more creative words to express yourself!

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  15. Excellent post and points, Elizabeth. It is NOT the number of comments we leave, but what we leave in those comments that matters.

    I had long suspected, based on the sterile nature of comments they posted, that a few habitual visitors did not enjoy their cyber excursions to SLTW. I could almost hear them dragging their feet down the cyber corridor each time they came round.

    Instead of dropping by for a cozy cyber chat, they popped in, did a bit of speed reading, and left post-haste.

    Like paying a weekly visit to a dowager aunt out of familial obligation (or the desire for testate inheritance), they tossed comments into the reply box at regular intervals to maintain the appearance of reciprocity. A politically correct “tit for tat.”

    I decided ”enough of that!” I don’t need reluctant visitors dropping by to boost my head count ~ that benefits no one. So I conducted an experiment.

    You can read about it here:

    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/reverse-reciprocity/

    I have fewer “reluctant visitors” these days . . . most comments show true engagement with the topic at hand. Yay!

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    1. You gave a good run down of different commenters. I have not yet spotted reluctant ones on my blog which has so few comments, anyway. I saw a comment on a friend’s blog that really irked me because it was so obvious that the post was not READ THOROUGHLY. Plus the fact that nothing was said that related to anything specific from the post. Would you not agree that this was an epitome of a worthless comment? Thanks for your comment!

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    2. Thanks, Shofar. Sometimes a comment can be a bit “off topic” without being worthless.

      That said, when a comment is inappropriate, or so far off topic that it is CLEAR that the commenter didn’t read the post, I treat the comment as SPAM and delete it. Problem solved.

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      1. I guess what bugged me was that this person did not like the post, but did not say what he disagreed with. Yet had he read the entire post, he may not have reacted negatively. But you’re right, his comment would have qualified as SPAM. So I advised my friend to forget about it and delete it.

        I’m new to blogging and noticed that Word Press removes SPAM. What exactly is the definition for SPAM or how does WP recognize SPAM?

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  16. As a matter of fact some people make comments to others blog just to gain followers. Once their blog been followed then those persons would stop make a comment and stop visiting the blog that they used to visit very often. What a trick!

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  17. Thanks for your insights. Sometimes, as in this case, reading through the other comments before leaving mine, represents an investment of time that I simply do not have. In cases like that, I frequently leave a “like” and move on. There is no hard and fast rule on etiquette, is there? All the best, M

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    1. Margarita, I agree that time is sometimes an issue. I put the like button my blogs so that readers can do just that, click “like” and move on. If they have have a thought, then they have a place to share it.

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