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Be Cautious With Blog Comments

In the past couple of weeks, two people who commented on this blog asked me to remove their comments. Their requests inspired me to share these cautions:

  1. Don't share anything you don't want a potential employer to find. 
    The first request for me to remove a comment was from someone who had mentioned contacting an attorney about her dismissal from a job. She had included her full name after the comment. With her job search ending in closed doors, she feared that an Internet search was leading potential employers to her comment. That's a reasonable fear. Employers are not eager to hire people who hire attorneys.
  2. Don't share anything you don't want the entire world to find. The second request was from someone who had included her email address in her comment.
  3. Don't share anything that makes you look mean, pig-headed, or supremely pompous. People have made comments on this blog that they ought to ask me to delete. I do delete the mean comments on my own. But the pig-headed, pompous ones that stir up discussions do so at the writer's expense. It's a bad idea to come across as ill-tempered and self-righteous, when the world catches you doing it long after you have forgotten that nasty, critical mood you were in.
  4. Don't share any personal information that will lead criminals to your doorstep, or virtual doorstep. Because of comments on Facebook (we think), my elderly father was tempted into a con that might have ended violently.

What cautions would you add? Please share them.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

15 comments on “Be Cautious With Blog Comments”

  • I would say never write anything on a blog that you couldn’t say openly to your boss or colleagues. If you’re not sure whether you should add your comment or not, wait 24 hours and see if it still feels like a good idea the following day.

  • Just think before you write and remember how many people are going to read it.
    Always be professional.
    Good advise above, if you are in a particular mood don’t blog just then; take a walk or get a good book, drink some calming tea, or better call a good friend or find a way to relax then blog.

  • Both comments above give great advice. I try to assume that anything I post online will likely be archived and searchable forever, even if I remove it later. So I avoid posting anything of a personal or sensitive nature online, whether on my own sites, in email groups, or on others’ blogs. I would rather be safe than accidentally share too much and regret it later. Great reminder to be careful in our posts, Lynn!

  • The old adage, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then don’t say anything” seems appropriate. Basic internet rules should apply no matter where you are on the web. Do not give out personal information period.

  • I was on a panel once and they were discussing the importance of keeping personal and business online practices separate and I made the comment that even though we may try to keep our personal and business online activities separate, Google doesn’t. If you search your name, everything you have ever written online will come up. So it is a false hope that you can separate the two.

    In my early days of blogging and commenting, I was not always smart about distinguishing the two. I just assumed that what I commented about dating for instance, would not be confused with my professional site.

    I am much smarter today and although I’ve never posted anything that would hurt my career, I have posted things I wish I hadn’t, but they are more embarassing than anything else.

    I have never kept it a secret at work that I blog and am active online professionally. My boss occasionally checks what I post and we have had some great discussions about the articles. I certainly keeps me in line knowing he (and any future employer) is watching.

  • Thanks to all for your excellent points and reminders.

    Patricia, I am glad you brought up the lack of separation of personal and professional on the Internet. “Google doesn’t [separate]” is something many people forget. Your disclosure about past statements that are embarrassing now will help someone else avoid that mistake. Thank you!


  • Alright. I’ll concede to having mixed feelings on this issue. On the one hand, I do fear saying something dopey that could turn off a potential future employer or client. Besides, I’m kind of just not wanting to look like a geek who spends his time making blog comments. 😉 Make no mistake: Advising people against using their full name online is probably the best “blanket” advice. It’s safe.

    On the other hand, many of us reading this here are professional communicators. If I’m in a position to hire one of you as a writer, I Google your name, and I DON’T see anything for you, I’ll be suspicious. If I Google you, and see you’re active online, I’ll appreciate your enthusiasm and your web savvy. Even if that means running across a picture of you holding a beer in your hand (or sharing a funny “date from hell” story).

    I guess the line to balance is between being dynamic and active online, and spreading your “personal brand” to open up many new opportunities, but being careful of harming your career.

    I’ll admit to wrestling with this issue personally, but overall I think the open route is the right way, and helps in the long run.

    Besides, I bet 95% of the time an HR person declines against granting someone a job interview based on a Facebook photo, the HR person did all the same things when they were in college. The ONLY difference is they didn’t have Facebook back then.

  • Hi, Stephen. Thanks for taking the time to share your views.

    I agree that it’s the nature of the comments that matters. The woman who commented about wanting to see an attorney after her job dismissal would have been wise to use only her first name. But those of us who present ourselves professionally online are smart to to use our last names (and links to our websites) to build an online reputation.

    I like your Facebook point. I am glad I graduated before its existence.


  • Very true, a lot of people are not being careful with blog commenting, not knowing it will affect in a bad way if done correctly. Don’t trust just anybody to do it for you as he/she might not do it correctly.

  • As a follow up to Liz Tucke’s suggestion, that you wait 24 hours before posting a potentially negative or embarrassing comment– that doesn’t work for me. Only because 24 hours later, I’ve lost the emotional energy that was fueling the comment. My solution is to write OFFLINE when I feel it. Then the next day, if I really want to share it, I can copy and paste, and I can edit!

  • Nancy, I am glad you introduced a new way of looking at–and managing–the “emotional energy fueling the comment.”

    Your approach could work for others. Thanks for mentioning it.


  • You shouldn’t that be the true goal of blogging? Intelligent conversation? As a blogger, the focus should be on starting that conversation; for readers, it should be adding to it.
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