Blog: July 2012

Most of these posts were originally posted somewhere else and link to the originals. While this blog is not set up for comments, the original locations generally are, and I welcome comments there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Comment etiquette

On Stack Exchange, somebody asked for tips for posting civil and informative comments. This was my advice:

Another way to make a comment more friendly is, when possible, to cast it as a question rather than a statement. Consider the difference between:

  • (Answer) doesn't work because of X.


  • When you do that, how do you account for the problem of X?

It could well be that X isn't a problem -- your assumption is wrong. If you assert it you look bad; if you raise the question the poster isn't put on the defensive, and if it's a problem he can fix it (and thank you for the help).

I used to leave comments like the following that I thought were friendly and helpful:

  • This question/answer could be improved by adding (details/a source).

I realized that comments like the following got better results and also that I preferred them when on the receiving end:

  • Could you add more details about X?

  • Do you have a source?

This approach doesn't always work (e.g. for site policy). It's also most important for the initial comment, before you and the other person are engaged in a dialogue.