If you write for the web, chances are there is a comment section on some, if not all, of your articles. Readers like to use this section to leave feedback. Comments might include compliments, insults, random thoughts, and more. Sometimes a reader may leave remarks that prompt a reply. Should web writers comment on their own work? This question often comes up in discussions with my peers.
What are you replying to? Whether or not you should reply may depend largely on the medium and the publication. Are we talking about your personal blog or a medical study? How you respond and whether you respond may vary, dependent on those factors. Readers like to be engaged by the author. However, it may not always be appropriate. If a regular reader of your blog wishes you a happy day, it's perfectly normal to do the same in return. But if someone leaves a less-than-flattering comment on your professional news writeup, you may want to walk away from the keyboard.
Would you use that mouth around your mama? Or your clients? I'm serious. Before you open your mouth (or put fingers to keyboard keys) think about who might read your words back. If you wouldn't want your mother to hear those words from you, chances are they don't belong on your professional work. I try to respond to my readers when they have questions or concerns. But when it is obvious the reader is looking for an argument, there is no need to engage in that. It looks unprofessional and honestly, it doesn't just look that way. It is. What if a potential client happens upon your article? What will that person see in the comment section? If the way you interact does not reflect the impression you would like people to have of you, then stop and think about what you are doing.
Is it ever a good thing to comment on your own work? Of course. Readers enjoy conversing with the author. It shows them you care about them and your work. You just have to know when it's a good thing and when it isn't. For instance, if a reader asks you a question about caring for hamsters on your hamster care article, it's fine to respond if you have the answer and the venue is appropriate. But you also have to know when it's time to ignore the comment section. The main thing you might get out of arguing with your readers is a bad reputation.
Think about the venue. Is this your blog or are you published on someone else's venue? Sometimes web writers have work published on sites that are not their own and the thoughts of these clients matter. Does the site where your work is published approve of authors commenting back to readers? How do they feel about what you say? Read the TOS and also ask your clients how they feel about authors responding to readers. If you are in doubt, don't leave the comment.
Your response may make a good follow-up article. This can be a more professional way to inform your readers. You can say more in an article than in a comment box. This can be especially true if the comments were negative, prompted more research, or were simply something interesting you'd like to write about. If the comments were left by a regular reader, they'll likely appreciate the fact that you took the time to compose a whole new article for their benefit.
*I originally published this via Yahoo Contributor Network