Online Community Comment Etiquette - dummies

By Deborah Ng

Commenting also has its own list of unwritten rules. Most regular online community members discover these universal do’s and don’ts after a few months of participation. Some of them are common sense, while others aren’t so easily apparent, especially to newbies:

  • All caps means that you’re yelling.

  • Only post links to your own stuff in signature lines or posts inviting you to do so.

  • Practice respectful disagreement, not personal attacks.

  • Try to post something that adds value to a conversation (“me, too” doesn’t add value).

  • Stay on topic.

  • Ignore trolls.

  • Be brief and don’t turn every comment into your own personal blog post.

  • To avoid redundancy, read previous comments before posting your own.

  • It’s not all about you so avoid making every comment a testimony as to how awesome you are.

  • You’re a guest, so keep this in mind when commenting.

The beautiful thing about commenting etiquette is that it keeps most people in check, which makes your job a lot easier. In the real world, most rules of etiquette are embedded in memories, and people follow them simply because they’re the right thing to do.

The same holds true of commenting etiquette. You don’t often drill these unwritten rules into participants’ heads, but it’s stuff they know and follow anyway. It’s when commenters don’t care to follow the proper etiquette that the community manager steps in.