Comments: Why some don't make the cut

LUKE APPLEBY, WEB EDITOR
Last updated 11:26 05/02/2013

NOT HAPPY: Like Grumpy Cat, we get
a lot of grumpy commenters.

We receive thousands of comments every day and we love the engagement we get from our audience - you really add a whole new dimension to stories and we appreciate the time you take to express your opinion.

Sometimes frustrated readers contact us asking why their comment wasn't approved to appear on the website.

Our website uses a moderated commenting system. That is, we read the comments first - all of them - and approve or reject them before they appear on the site.

We don't like having to reject comments and there are often simple changes that could have been made by the commenter which would have allowed them to be posted.

We choose which stories are open for comments, which is most of them, but stories which are almost always NOT open include court stories and stories involving criminal behaviour, as these carry legal risks for you and us.

The following will hopefully help you get your comments and views published on our site:

Reasons for rejection or removal of comments include:

* Offensive language - we often receive comments which are valid, except they are riddled with swearing. This is a really easy one to fix - say it without cursing and it will most likely get through. Just imagine you are explaining something to your grandmother.

* Personal attacks - the saying goes that you should play the ball, not the player. If you are going to insult other commenters, as opposed to responding to their arguments, your comments will not be published.

* Legal risks - This is a big one and a common reason for rejection. A rough rule of thumb is to not say or imply anything about someone you would not want said about you. Defamation laws extend to websites. If you write or even imply that someone is something he/she is not - be it dishonest, corrupt, criminal, unfaithful or financially troubled, among others - your comment will be rejected. It's the court's job to describe who is guilty - not yours or ours.

* Comments targeting any ethnic, racial or religious group (racism or bigotry) - there's enough bigotry and intolerance in the world, as is. Derogatory comments targetting specific groups will not be published.

* Spamming - We often receive comments made several times in the hope this will get them published faster. It does not. Comments are also not a place to advertise your business or website.

* Links to unknown content - If you are going to link to an outside website in your comment, you should clearly describe where the reader will be taken. The use of URL shorteners is discouraged as it makes the destination uncertain.

* Excessive length - Comments are not meant to be rants - anything over 400 characters is unlikely to make it through moderation. Keep it short and sharp.

* Clearly off-topic - Pointless or off-topic comments reduce the signal-to-noise ratio of a comments thread - stay on topic and address the issue.

* Infringing on copyright or trademarks - this includes links to copyrighted material or improper use of a trademarked term.

* Comments going in circles - Sometimes a comment thread takes on a life of it’s own and starts getting hundreds of comments. This opinion piece by Rosemary Mcleod caused a huge uproar over coverage of transgender issues. There were extremely strong opinions on the issue and comments came in thick and fast. After a while, though, the same points were being repeated, so we ended up shutting the comments down. 

As a rough guide, just ask yourself before you post:

- Is this comment offensive?

- Would I say this to someone's face?

- How would I feel if someone said this to me?

- Is this a constructive, well-thought-out comment?

- Is it readable?

- Did any swear words slip in?

- Is this a rant? Could it be shorter?

Comments which appear on our website and social media pages do not reflect the opinions and position of Fairfax Media and its employees.

Luke Appleby is a Web Editor for Dompost.co.nz. Follow him on Twitter: @lukeappleby

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