By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

Most bloggers write their blogs with the hope that others will not only read their content but also respond. One mechanism for interacting with your readers is blog post comments. Comments are both a boon and a bane for bloggers: They provide a source of much interesting dialogue, but they can also likely provide an area for people to post spam and other unwanted material.

A blogger who neglects to read and respond to comments in a timely manner risks losing that community of readers as they become frustrated and feel they’re not being heard. On the flip side, reading and replying to commenters helps a blogger build a larger, more engaged audience.

You don’t need to keep all the comments on a blog, however. Pay attention to the conversation others generate on your blog; when necessary, exercise your judgment about removing personal attacks, libel, obscenity, spam, or other undesirable content.

Remember that your blog is your space. You get to decide what behavior is appropriate and what types of comments will be tolerated. You may wish to set clear guidelines for readers prior to accepting comments and use moderation tools, which differ by platform, as a way to approve comments before they appear on your site.