The new and improved rules for posting comments

The blogger’s road is, for better or worse, often the path of soliloquy. The difference between a blog and a column, as I see it, is the comparative ease with which readers can talk back, to turn what would have been a monologue on paper into a multi-party conversation. Since this is, after all, a blog for writers, I have been delighted to see many of you jumping in to share your views.

This blog is set up so that I must read and approve comments by each and every comment-poster new to this site. I try to check frequently, but I’m not logged into the blog full-time (and recently, not every day, so there can be a bit of a lag before I get to any given comment. But rest assured, I actually do read every single comment posted to this site.

Why do screen so carefully? To prevent the comment sections from becoming clogged with spam, offers for pharmaceuticals, and links to sites featuring people involved in sex acts not legal in my part of the world. On some days, I get as many as three hundred spam postings, so this really is necessary.

Also, I reserve the right to delete the profane, the obscene, or questions that my professional experience tells me the writer may in future years prefer were not addressed in quite so public a forum.

Sometimes, though, writers hoping to promote their books, writing teachers hoping to promote for-pay services, or bloggers hoping to attract traffic to their sites will attempt to post links here, via the comments function. As a matter of policy, I typically delete these posts, as I want to keep the forum open for discussion, rather than commerce.

However, sometimes it is legitimately hard to tell the difference between a self-promoting post and a comment posted by someone who HAPPENS to have a website and wants to join the discussion. If I have mistakenly deleted some of these, my apologies.

To prevent confusion for all, here are a few ground rules for posting comments:

1. All comments should be in English. Even if you prefer writing in a language I happen to read, this is an English-language site, so please comment so all readers may enjoy what you have to say.

2. Although I welcome general questions, comments should, if at all possible, be relevant to the post to which they are attached. That way, later browsers are more likely to find the discussion. (And don’t worry: the blog program will notify me if someone comments on a post from a couple of years ago.)

3. Please do not ask me to go to other blogs or websites to compare advice I give with what they say, or post excerpts from their content in my comments. It is not fair to either party, and unless you have explicit permission to reproduce somebody else’s writing, I do not give permission for you to post it here.

4. Please do not use the comments as a forum to talk about unrelated issues; it’s a waste of everybody’s time and energy. This is a practical blog, aimed at helping writers, not a forum for the discussion of abstract ideas, sniping about the publishing industry, or rambling about something related to the day’s topic purely because it happened to include a key phrase.

5. Unfortunately, I cannot post comments with only generalized content like, “Good point!” or “LOL!” Spammers often use generalized praise in order to post links to quite inappropriate sites.

6. Please do not ask me to exchange links with you simply to increase web traffic. It’s unfair to readers.

7. Please do not post a link to another site, even a writing-related one, without my permission. Since spammers often disguise their comments as writing-related when the sites to which those comments link are not, I actually have to check out every link before I can allow it. If you are so excited about a writing site that you are just bursting to share it with other members of the Author! Author! community, please send me an e-mail, explaining why and asking me to set aside time to check out the site in question myself.

I do not sell advertising on this blog, and I reserve the right to decide whether I will provide it gratis. A polite request is always the best strategy.

8. Please do not post links as part of an entry to a contest without my permission, even if the contest is writing-related. The logic is the same as #7: it’s time-consuming for me to check out such links, so please ask in advance for me to set aside the time to do it, rather than simply assuming that I would automatically endorse anything writing-related.

9. To be considered for posting, any comment containing a link to a book, blog, service, or any other website must be legitimately a link to what it says it is (spam often isn’t) AND the comment must make it plain how the link is relevant to the specific post being commented upon. Links unaccompanied by actual English sentences will be deleted automatically.

10. There is one kind of web promotion I welcome in the comments: feel free to post comments with good news about your career, such as contest triumphs, landing a great agent, selling a book, etc. You may feel free to include links with those. (Although, obviously, I will check them out to make sure they are legit.) The more specific you can be, the better!

11. Please do not post excerpts of writing for my feedback unless I have SPECIFICALLY asked for readers to do so. My editors’ guild frowns upon its members giving away our services for free.

12. Keep your commentary G-rated, please. Not everyone who reads this site is over the age of 18, and I am committed to keeping this site accessible for young writers.

13. Please bear in mind that even though most of us are typing this at home, this IS a public forum. I would strongly discourage you from posting comments that might harm your reputation — or others’. I reserve the right to remove such comments from public view.

14. Please do not list a business’ website as your URL, unless it happens to be YOUR business; I do check. Spammers often try to post legitimate-sounding comments with links that turn out to be far from what we’re talking about here.

15. If you are asking me a question, please be aware that I may not have time to answer it immediately — so it’s a good idea to post those questions at a time OTHER than immediately before an imminent submission deadline.

If I decide to write a post in response to your question, please bear in mind that there are probably other questions already lined up before it in my to-blog-upon queue. Writing this blog is, after all, a volunteer activity, so I reserve the right to set my own turn-around times — and not answer questions I consider redundant or not likely to interest my readership.

And perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I prefer questions that are phrased politely, rather than as demands for information. Taking the extra three seconds to add please and thank you won’t hurt anybody.

16. If you have links you would like to post within a comment, please send me a private e-mail clearing the it with me first, so I may set aside the time to follow all of the links as soon as it goes up.

Why is this necessary? Well, a comment that contains many links to other sites are prone to get flagged as spam — because posting comments with a zillion links in them is how this kind of spamming tends to work. This is why I actually visit all of the outgoing links that people post here, because 99.9% of the outgoing links I am sent are not legit, but lead to commercial sites, porn sites, etc.

And finally, many thanks to those of you who post comments here, rather than e-mailing them to be privately, because…

17. Since writers ask me the same questions over and over again, it’s hugely time-consuming for me to answer them individually via e-mail. No matter how specialized you feel your situation is, please post questions as comments here.
Yes, yes, I know: many of you feel that you are the only writer that has ever experienced a particular problem, but I hear from thousands of writers every year. Most problems are shared. If you cannot ask your question in general terms, it probably is not appropriate to ask a professional’s advice unless you have actually hired her, and thus assured confidentiality.

Thanks in advance for following these rules. As always, keep up the good work!