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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.