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Blogging: Commenting Basics

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Pressing “publish” on a new post for your blog can be nerve-wracking — but leaving a comment on someone else’s site can be even worse! This five-day challenge will get you out of your commenting comfort zone and help you make the connections with other bloggers that ultimately make blogging so rewarding.

You’ll get an email with a new commenting tasking each day, with more tips and resources below.


Thinking Up Great Comments

There is one simple thing you can do that will have more impact on your blog than anything else, other than publishing posts: engaging with the community. Need inspiration? Find it in conversation with others. No one knows about you or your site? Get out there and pique peoples’ interest with comments.

Short comments are fine! Just try to be sure you’re adding something substantive to the discussion (go for something more than “Great post, I agree!” comments, please). Think quality, not quantity — or in the case of comments, think meaningfulness, not word count.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you want to leave a comment but feel stuck:

  • What was my reaction to the post, specifically? Did it make me laugh? Did it make me sad? Did it touch me? Did it inspire me to take action? Why did it make me feel that way?
  • If the blogger made a point or expressed an opinion, do I agree with them or disagree? If I agree, is there any additional reason why I think the same thing that the blogger didn’t mention? If I disagree, why?
  • If the blogger wrote about something that happened to them, have I ever had a similar experience that I could share?
  • If the blogger wrote about a book, a movie, or an album, have I read, watched, or listened to it? Did I enjoy it? Can I recommend anything similar that the blogger and their readers might also enjoy?
  • Does any part of the blogger’s post remind me of something that I’ve read elsewhere recently — a news article, another blogger’s post? If so, I can mention how that article relates to the post and link to it in my comment.
  • Is there any aspect of the story that I would like to hear more about? Any questions left unanswered? Any point the blogger made or conclusion they drew that I did not quite understand?
  • Did the post change my mind about anything in particular, or did it teach me something that I didn’t know before?

If you still can’t think of anything to say but “Great post, enjoyed it,” can you think of an original way to say that, that displays some personality and that lets the blogger know you read the entire post? For example, instead of “This was hilarious!” maybe say something like “when I got to the part where the old man stole your shopping cart, I laughed so hard I scared my cat.”


Commenting Etiquette

This post on good commenting etiquette is from 2012, but the advice is timeless:

  • 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. When you’re sharing a personal story, you want to make sure yours is relevant — otherwise, it can look like like you’re trying to grab attention away from the blogger. (Also, someone might have left a similar story – 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. Explain why you’re moved to share your story, and how your experience connects to the original post.
  • 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. Share your own experience, but don’t disparage another’s.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Sharing a link can be a nice way to flesh out a comment — but a caveat! There’s one surefire way to get your comment ignored or worse, deleted, and that’s leaving a shameless plug. If you’re going to take the time to visit others’ blogs and press the “comment” button, avoid this basic mistake.

A shameless plug is a comment that exists simply to provide a link back to your own blog. It says little — or nothing — other than your URL. Things like:

Really informative, I look forward to reading more.
youshouldclickthislink.com

What a good post! If you want, come visit my new blog: ijuststartedblogging.com.

nothingbutmyURL.com

Great!
visitmyblogprettyplease.com

Sometimes the shameless plug comment includes content, like “Nice post!” or “Good job!” Sometimes it’s nothing but a URL. Either way, the best case scenario is that it gets ignored. The worst is that it gets deleted, and you look like a spammer.

We all love comments and we love being told how great, interesting, awesome, informative, and funny we are, so why are these comments counterproductive? Two big reasons:

  1. The plug is too obvious. When you leave a comment, your name links to your blog. This happens automatically if you’re logged in to WordPress.com; if you’re not logged in, you’ll be asked for your name and URL when submitting the comment. When you put your URL in the comment itself, you’re saying, “I’ll take any opportunity to put my blog in front of you!”
  2. It looks like you’re not paying attention. Engagement is a two-way street: I share a post, you share a relevant comment, and that deepens the conversation and creates a relationship. If you leave a comment that indicates you haven’t paid attention to my post, I know you’re interested in promotion, not engagement.

The overall impression you leave? Someone who’s only interested in traffic, with nothing of value to say. Maybe that’s true, but maybe it’s not; it takes time to understand and develop good blog etiquette, so you may not realize the negative impact of your comments.


Disagreeing in a Comment

This post on how to rant without looking like a big stupid jerk is chock-full of advice for writing comments that challenge a blogger’s ideas. Here are the most relevant bits:

Don’t comment while angry.

There’s a big difference between writing about something you disagree passionately with, and writing while in the throes of rage. Don’t publish your comment in the heat of the moment. You can write in the moment, but take a time-out before clicking “submit” to let it sit — go take a bubble bath, return to it, and see if it really communicates what you’re trying to say or if it’s just vitriol.

Check your facts.

Nothing undermines an argument faster than misinformation.If you’re going to poke holes in someone else’s boat, make sure your own vessel is seaworthy. Know the facts behind your position, and be honest about them; picking and choosing only the convenient facts is as damaging to an argument as a lie or error.

Talk about ideas and actions, not people.

You can disagree with an idea without insulting specific people. Personal insults give the impression that you’re more interested in tearing someone down than finding the solution to a problem.

Offer a solution, too.

It’s easy to point out the flaws in something, but harder to offer useful solutions for addressing them. Any argument is made stronger when it presents workable solutions.

Lighten the load with a laugh.

Laughter also endears people to you and helps you guide them into your corner, so pave the way to consensus with a few yuks.


Basic HTML Text Styling

Tags are predefined HTML commands that specify how comments and posts look and behave. Put the appropriate tag on either side of the text you want to italicize (or bold), and when you publish the comment, you’ll see the styled text.

To add a style to text, type the tag, enclosed in arrow brackets, in front of the text you want to style. When you want to end the effect, insert a closing tag, which is the same tag but with a slash: /.

To italicize a word, we use the em tag (which is short for “emphasis”). The HTML for basic italic sentence would like like this:

<em>I can code!</em>

On your blog or in a comment, it will simply look like this:

I can code!

To make text bold, this:

<strong>I can code!</strong>

will produce this:

I can code!

And here’s how these tags look mixed with some other text:

I <em>really</em> enjoyed this post! The same thing happened to me whenI was a teenager, and I remember how <strong>embarrassing</strong> it was. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

Which gives you:

I really enjoyed this post! The same thing happened to me when I was a teenager, and I remember how embarrassing it was. Thanks so much for sharing your story!

Now, you can add emphasis in your comments!

There are two important exceptions to the “no comment plugs” guideline:

  1. When you’ve been told to: you’re participating in a blogging event, and the organizer asks you to leave a link to your entry in the comments of the post or page announcing the event — a fairly common request. By all means, add your link!
  2. When you’re linking to a specific, relevant post or page: you’ve written something that relates to the post you’re reading and would like to offer it as additional reading. Just be sure to leave a comment explaining why you’re including the link.

The issue with drive-by linkings and contentless-comments is the suggestion that the commenter hasn’t bothered to read our post, and is only leaving a comment in the hopes of driving traffic to themselves. Even if it’s sincere, it can look like spam.

If you’re following instructions or offering a related viewpoint, you’re doing precisely the opposite — you’ve read the post, and you’re fully engaged with it. In that case, link away!


Inserting links in Comments

If you want to share a link in your comment, you have two options. First, you can type or paste the entire link, including the http:// bit, into the comment. When the comment is published, it will appear as a clickable link:

http://bloggingu.wordpress.com

Second, you can hyperlink specific words in your comment, rather that displaying the link itself. Here’s a template; replace the bits in caps with your info:

<a href="LINK GOES HERE">TEXT TO SHOW GOES HERE</a>

So, for example, this:

<a href="http://wordpress.com">WordPress.com is awesome!</a>

Will appear as this:

WordPress.com is awesome!

(There’s also a shortcut — open a draft post, and create your text and link there using the editor’s link tools. Then, switch into the “HTML” editor view. The code will be there, and you can copy and paste it into your comment. You can trash the draft post.)