Lots of us have done it: we ‘read’ a post or an article that we disagree with in some way, then leave a hasty comment before speeding off to some other task. More often than not, this takes on a different tone than you intended. So what is correct etiquette when leaving a comment?
I started thinking about this yesterday, after doing exactly what I describe above. I followed a link in an e-newsletter and read the article (about unscrupulous SEO practices) like a typical web user: scanning for bits of interest, jumping from header to header.
How (not) to comment
I disagreed with several elements, so I left what I thought was a level, reasonable comment:
I think that many businesses do not understand what SEO is and how it can actually benefit their business. While ‘black hat’ SEO practices do exist and are unethical, this is a missed opportunity to explain what SEO is, how it can help small businesses and provide some positive tips, rather than focusing on the negative aspects.
When I came back to it to see if the writer had responded, I reread my comment with fresh eyes. Yikes; it actually sounded pretty rude. The writer had indeed answered my comment helpfully, so I commented again to say ‘thanks for your time’, using some of the manners I should have used at first.
Mind your P’s and Q’s
So, where did I go wrong? I do normally comment politely, so even from my own perspective I should have:
- started with a friendly greeting, such as ‘hello’;
- began with something positive even if I disagreed completely, such as ‘thanks for the interesting article’;
- finished with a polite ‘thanks’ or even my name, rather than just, well, nothing.
I didn’t, however, do any of this. As a result, the comment that sounded balanced in my mind, actually sounds abrupt and lacking in courtesy when on the page. Additional tips include:
- remember that the tone you intended can be lost in writing; use ‘smilies’ if you must to show ‘no hard feelings’;
- try to add something useful that will provide another element to the argument (for or against);
- keep to the point; don’t digress into a long-winded answer that nobody has the time (or will) to read;
- ‘speak’ to people online as you would in real life.
Poor comments can spread bad feeling
Anyway, I’m pretty nosey too and saw that the writer is also on Twitter. I saw one of their Tweets which, based on the timing, I think was about my comment:
Quite annoyed at commenters who a) lack humour and b) skip to the end to comment without bothering to read the feature. GRRR.
Ouch. Yep, think I deserved that.
I write blog posts and articles, so I know how much time and effort goes into putting one together. Even if you have a different point of view to the author, remember that they’ve probably put a lot of work into their article. So, if you leave a comment, be polite and contribute to the conversation.
Here are a couple of other good posts to read on comment etiquette: