In the past week, you’ve probably read someone’s comment on an online article and thought what an idiot! On everything from the Rob Ford scandal to the antics of Miley Cyrus and the disaster in the Philippines, it seems people have a lot to write these days. Recently, certain websites have actually disabled comments on articles, stating that they can take away from the article, distracting from its thesis instead of adding value to it. All it takes is some jerk’s comments to stray from the article and viewpoint at hand to encourage a slew of responses that are completely uninformed and irrelevant. Some comments even have the potential to boil your blood more than the article itself. Case in point: the mean-spirited, anti-Canadian remarks and jokes that now appear in the comment section of articles from American publications on Rob Ford – hourly.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before you comment…
Read the entire article thoroughly and entirely
If you’re going to make a bold, critical statement about something, you had better have read the entire article and have a firm understanding of the author’s arguments first. You will look pretty ridiculous otherwise… and don’t think you won’t get called out for it either. It seems some people (with too much time on their hands, no doubt) make a professional job of dissecting the comments of others, and they’re not always nice about it.
Be articulate and specific
Be specific. This goes back to grade school English class. Discuss not only what you liked or disliked, but why. Avoid sweeping, vague statements like “Great article!” or “I disagree completely.” The comment should reflect the fact that you took the time to read the article, to reveal your own insight on the topic, why you disagree or support the author’s viewpoint, to share a similar experience you had, or to offer a completely new or overlooked perspective. Remember to stay on topic and not stray too far from the original subject.
To the above point, it’s important that whoever reads your comment will not feel like they just wasted 30 seconds to a minute of their life doing so. This means you have presented well-informed and thought-out remarks, offered advice or criticism, shared personal stories or suggested a new viewpoint. Add value however you can.
Even though it’s easy/tempting to hide behind your ridiculous user name and the written word, this anonymity shouldn’t be an open invitation for things like personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity or profanity, and comments peppered with capital letters and exclamation marks that look like shouting. It’s one thing to offer constructive criticism, but quite another to offer an emotionally charged, disrespectful and asshole-like response. And there are those drama-starved people who will purposely post shocking, confrontational and offensive messages to a message board with an agenda to create maximum commotion and argument. Keep in mind that these are probably pajama-clad losers stuck at home in their parents’ basement with nothing else to do. If you receive such comments on your own blog, ignore or delete, as addressing them will only encourage them further.
Don’t use the comments section of an article or message board to self promote just because you think it means access to a larger audience. Don’t advertise, go on a rant about your business, or post commercial material and link to commercial websites. On the same token, don’t preach things like your own religious or political views. If you need to get the point across, write your own article.
The more concise your comment, the easier it will be for others to read and respond to. If you want people to actually read what you have to say, they will be quickly turned off by a daunting, novel-like chunk of text that takes an entire cup of coffee to get through. In most cases, a few sentences are plenty; be short, be sweet. Furthermore, if you find yourself in an off-topic exchange with other commenters, message them directly to avoid cluttering the comment section and distracting from the comments left for the author.
We’ll be the first to say that select articles are designed to stimulate a dynamic and intelligent discussion and comments are appreciated. We do, however, expect the comment to be of comparable integrity and tone as the actual article. Remember, there are other ways to offer feedback or show support on a topic besides actually commenting on it… things like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, email, and more. If you’re not sure what to say, consider simply clicking the “Like” button to show your support. It’s that easy.
Cover Image: Ivstatic