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Make public comments on websites

Commenting on websites can make a difference. These rules will make your comments more effective.

Summary

1 August 2013

This page is aimed at Muslim readers in countries where they are a minority.

When you see a website article with several hundred comments underneath it, you may wonder what the point is of your adding another comment. However making a comment takes very little time and can be worthwhile even if there are very many others, for the following reasons.

Furthermore, many articles attract fewer comments. The fewer the other comments, the more impact yours will have. If yours is the only comment below an article, almost everyone who reads the article is likely to at least glance at your comment.

Use your real name

Website comments are usually made by people using pseudonyms. That seems to encourage writers to be rude and offensive. Using your real name will ensure you are disciplined about what you write, because your name will be against it.

When I read website comments, I pay more attention to those where the writer has used what seems to be their real name. Such a writer is displaying the courage of their convictions, unlike those hiding behind pseudonyms. I believe that the psychology of other readers is the same.

Use your photograph

With most websites you can upload your picture when registering for comments. The same effect can be achieved if you log in using your Facebook or Twitter accounts for example, assuming that you use a proper picture to identify yourself on Facebook or Twitter. (If you don’t, you should, as explained on my page "Use a good quality photograph".)

The rationale for using your picture is the same as the rationale for using your real name. It causes other readers to take your comment more seriously.

Follow the rules for good letter writing

The comment obviously does not deserve the level of effort needed for a real letter discussed on my page "Writing to the media and politicians." For a start, you don’t have a specific recipient who is going to read it to think about.

However, you should still ensure that your comment is written in perfect English, is polite, short and that you are clear before you start what point you want to make.

An example of a website comment

I suggest looking at the Daily Express website article "A skewed housing market and why some buyers are more equal than others" by Ann Widdecombe about Islamic mortgages. First read the main story and then read the comments starting with the bottom one first, since that is the chronological order.

Note how my 24 March comment claims authority as an expert (with a link to my website to prove the claim) before proceeding to politely correct her mistakes. I inadvertently spelt her name wrong, and posted an apology on 26 March.

In comparison, the comment from “eMuslim” on 26 March is anonymous. It refers to an MCB briefing paper which the reader cannot access; in website comments you should only refer to documents that you can link to. It is also too long. Overall, I think that comment could have been much better if it had followed the guidelines I have given above. (When the comment was first published, it had the heading "a foolish ignorant". That was both rude to Ann Widdecombe as well as being ungrammatical. Website design changes since then have removed the comment headings.)

Conclusion

Commenting on websites takes much less effort than writing letters. While it does not have the same kind of impact as a letter, it helps to change public discourse and gets your voice out there. It can also encourage other people to follow your example.

 

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