I don't think I need to tell any of you that comments are very important to bloggers. We all love getting comments, and since this is a community of sorts, most of us understand that there's a give and take when it comes to commenting. Every how-to guide on blogging ever written says that you need to go out and find forums and other blogs and comment. This serves several important functions:
1. You are helping to validate your fellow blogger's efforts by letting him/her know that you've read and appreciated the post.
2. You are contributing to a discussion, which in theory is fun and informative and helps everyone involved get to know one another.
3. You are promoting yourself--through your name and/or through the link that leads back to your own blog. This sounds mercenary, but in all honesty, no one is ever going to know you exist unless your voice is heard, and comments are a great way to be heard.
There is a right way and a wrong way to go about commenting, and to be honest, it's still an area that I myself need to improve in.
It's a good idea to comment when......you've read a post, and you have something meaningful to say about it. Maybe it's to thank the blogger for raising a particular point in her review that helped you decide whether or not to read a book. Maybe it's to expand upon an idea that was brought up, or offer a different perspective on the issue. Maybe you're responding to a prompt or survey that the blogger posted. All of these situations, or any similar ones, make for good comments that will serve all of the above purposes and make everyone happy.
I read the post, but I don't really have anything to say.
This is sort of a grey area, and it happens to all of us. Not all posts merit insightful comments, but you still want to let the blogger know that you read her post. The temptation is to leave one or two sentence comment:
"Great review! This book has such a pretty cover!"
"Just stopping by to say hello! Awesome post!"
"I'm adding this one to my TBR!"
This is the equivalent of writing "Have a great summer!" in someone's high school year book. Serviceable, but void of meaning. Some bloggers are fine with receiving these kinds of comments. New bloggers, in particular, are usually happy to receive any comment at all. But others will see it a spam and treat it accordingly. Personally, I ignore less-than-meaningful comments. I might not respond, and I certainly won't visit that blogger back, but that's about it. But some people do delete one sentence comments. So basically, if you know the blogger will be fine with your comment, go right ahead. The safest thing to do, however, is to not comment at all.
They took the words right out of my mouth!
If someone already raised the point you were about to make, don't reiterate their comment. The politest thing to do is say "I agree with so-and-so." Elaborate if you want to, but don't repeat their words. This is for the same reason as the situation above--you don't want your comment to appear meaningless.
I disagree with the post. Can I still comment?
Yes! Remember, this is about contributing to a discussion, and offering up a contrary point of view certainly does that. However, you should always remember to be respectful.
1. As a general rule, always say something positive. Even if it's something like "I'm happy that you brought this topic up, here's my point of view..."
2. No name calling, ever. Nothing invalidates an argument faster than calling your opponent names.
3. Don't swear or use dirty words, unless you are certain that the blog owner is comfortable with that kind of language. Being on someone's blog is like being a guest in their house--make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable.
4. Avoid commenting more than two or three times on a single topic, especially if you're very emotional about the topic. Along with this, try to avoid very lengthy comments. If your collective comments have a higher word count than the post itself, it's time to step back and take a deep breath. Do NOT be a troll.
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It's also worth mentioning that, if you find yourself disagreeing with a particular blogger more often than not, it might be time to unfollow or stay away. On a personal note, I recently had to unfollow a blog that had gotten increasingly political. It wasn't that I disliked the blogger personally, but her posts made my blood boil and I felt myself itching to put my two cents in way more often than was wise. On occasions like that, it's better for everyone to shut your mouth.
Do NOT Comment If...
...you have not actually read the post, or you barely skimmed it.
"I visited your blog today!"
"I'm not going to read your post in case of spoilers. Have a nice day!"
I've had approximations of the above comments multiple times. They are annoying. They are shamelessly self promotional, and they leave me knowing for a fact that the commenter did not read my words. Yes, it's nice that you visited, but I feel like you only did so in order to leave your name behind.
...your goal is to make the blogger look bad by pointing out typos or factual errors. It's much more polite to email or pm about these things.
...you have something off topic to say to the blogger. Again, this is a time for email, not the comment box.