Blog Comments: What Not to Do

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Making a comment to a blog post can help you teach, learn, impress, or, perhaps most importantly, draw traffic to your own blog or website. If you comment with care and skill, you’ll draw readers and perhaps even referrals or clients. But if you drag the conversation down, you’ll hurt your reputation and maybe even make people hate you. If you are ever in doubt about commenting, silence is golden.

The original idea behind allowing readers to comment on blog posts was to expand and enliven the discussion. But for those who comment, other less-noble urges often take over. It’s important to suppress those urges, or at least make it appear that you have.

Since I’ve always found “Do” lists rather dull, here’s a short list of “Don’ts” for writing a blog comment that will help rather than hurt your reputation and your business.

Don’t blatantly try to scam a link

Sounds obvious, I know. But people do it, a lot. There’s nothing wrong with part of your motivation in reading and commenting being a desire to get people to your blog or website. But a comment like, “Great post. Check me out at cluelesslawyerdotcom” just makes you look like a shameless self-promoter. People will remember you, but not for good reasons. An informative (or clever or funny) comment might get you traffic. But let them click on the URL you link to your (real) name rather than dropping your URL directly into a comment that adds nothing else.

Control the troll within

No matter how dumb you think the post (or blogger) is, and no matter what harm you think this person is doing, refrain from insults and ad hominem attacks. It can be tough to hold your fire, given the astonishing amount of stupidity posted online daily. I’ve had to run away from my keyboard more than a few times to avoid revealing what I really think. If someone is wrong, politely but firmly explain why. And to do so, use indisputable facts, calm, logical arguments, and links to respected authorities.

Don’t comment anonymously, ever

Use your real name, every time. This has several benefits. First, trolls never use their real names, so using yours will prevent you from falling into that trap. Also, using your name will keep you acting lawyerly and thinking about your job and reputation. There may be lawyers out there improving their reputations with online pseudonyms, but do you really want to work that hard? Using your name gives you instant credibility and will push you to make your comments better.

Don’t jump to conclusions

Even in my relatively short time posting on Lawyerist, I’ve been amazed at how many comments seem to come from people who apparently read only the headline and jumped to an incorrect conclusion about the message I was trying to get across. A comment can’t add to the discussion (or correct a mistake or faulty conclusion) if it does not take the post—all of it—into consideration.

Don’t tell your life story

As fascinating as your life story is, a comment isn’t the place to tell it. A brief anecdote to make a point is great, but nobody has time to read your autobiography, in particular when posted in a comment to a blog post. There’s plenty of room for your epic rags-to-riches story elsewhere online.

Don’t forget to proofread before posting

A blog is an informal publication, so comments are informal as well. But do you want to look like (at best) a careless typist or (at worst) functionally illiterate? Read the blog post again (all of it).  Write your comment. Re-read your comment. Correct and improve it. Then post it. Unless you really shouldn’t.

(photo: Shutterstock)

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  • Adron Beene

    In my yoga class they say “May your voice improve the silence.” If it cannot improve the silence then use the advice to remain silent. Blog comments would be much better and more often useful.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      I think that’s very good advice. Although I am sure there is widespread dispute on what improves the silence.

  • https://plus.google.com/117235644077949816393/about Gyi Tsakalakis

    You’d think it would go without saying, but based on the level of legal blog comment spam that we see daily, I guess it’s worth repeating:

    Don’t pay an internet marketing guru ninja type to post comments on your behalf.

    It’s bad for your reputation, it could break an ethics rule or 3, and it doesn’t do what the ninja purports.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      Plus, a lot of it is awful. Here’s one we got on this post yesterday from a North Carolina “criminal and traffic law” firm:

      Great article! The imagine is very suggestive with the text.
      For more information you can access our website.

      I don’t even understand this.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      This is fun. I’ve started a law firm comment spam thread in the LAB to share comment spam and point fingers at the culprits. Since the LAB is members-only, they shouldn’t get any SEO value from those links.

  • http://www.andersonvisa.com Joel Anderson

    Once recent one that showed up for moderation: “What a data of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge concerning unexpected emotions.”

    I think that’s a compliment…

  • http://www.atlantaparalegalservices.com Misty Sheffield

    I occasionally read a few of the comments caught by the spam filter on my blog before deleting them. It can be quite entertaining! I like Joel’s idea of taking as a compliment all those weird comments that don’t even make sense.

  • http://www.bestlawnsweepers.com/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi tkrum

    It’s funny how people are so programmed to say “What not to do”. We need a shift “Tell me what you want instead of what you don’t want”

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

      You could just read it upside-down.

  • Criminal Lawyers Seattle

    Very informative. It’s always nice to know what you don’t have to do to prevent mistakes.

  • http://www.ibuspro.com/ andreibuspro

    I find it useful but I think the title of this post should be proper etiquette for blogging .

  • http://www.victimslawyer.com/ Steven Sweat

    I think calling the blogger an idiot, spam commenting to get a link, being too wordy or too sloppy or, in general, not adding anything to the conversation with your comment is a one way ticket to not only not getting your comment published but, also getting banned. Good advice!