When you leave a comment on story, or via our social media channels, you are joining a conversation. Being part of a conversation means engaging with others by adding to the discussion, bringing forth new information, or being funny or clever. Just like in other social situations, we ask that you follow proper etiquette when commenting. Whether you’re a seasoned commenter or you are commenting on Planet Princeton for the first time, following are some guidelines for joining the online conversation and adding the Planet Princeton online community conversation:

Don’t change the subject.

Imagine you’re chatting with a group of people about a new development in town. Then someone walks in, interrupts and says “How about that sale at Macy’s?” Don’t be that person. Comments are open on a specific blog post to generate discussion about that subject. Wait for an open thread or better yet, write to editor@planetprinceton.com and ask us to post a story about the other subject you think should be written about.

Share something new.

Think you have an original thought? Maybe you do. Or maybe a dozen other people have left the same insight in their comments. Before you hit the publish button, take a moment to see whether you can add something new to the discussion.

Mind your manners.

Planet Princeton is not your a place for rants, personal attacks and nastiness. Poor behavior, name-calling and profanity will result in you being banned from the site. Any comments accusing someone of doing something illegal will be removed unless the accusation has been proven. The comments section is not a forum for slander.

Point out mistakes gracefully.

We love to know we’ve gotten something wrong – a typo, an errant semi-colon, a misspelling – and we appreciate your help in pointing out errors. But there’s a right way to do it. Either leave a comment like “heads up – typo” or “FYI – incorrect information”, or send an email to editor@planetprinceton.com pointing out a mistake. If you don’t like a particular story, ignore it. Every post might not be for you, but it might interest someone else.

Clarity counts.

Take extra care to make your message clear and avoid making unintended attacks. Sometimes a lack of clarity results in misunderstandings that can be interpreted as attacks.

Don’t hide behind anonymity.

It’s fine to have an online name and decide not to use your real name (especially since your boss would have a fit if he/she saw how much time you spent online). It’s not alright to attack others or out them when you are hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. Don’t say it if you can’t own it. If you do, you will be banned from commenting. Plus, you don’t want to experience commenter’s remorse, that regret you feel after you post something and your anger, crankiness, etc. has subsided. Comments will live in Google’s cache forever. Sorry, but we can’t go back and delete comments at a user’s request, so think before you post.

Respectfully disagree.

Be civil. We don’t agree on everything, and sometimes people say dumb things. You can voice your opinion and disagree with someone without insulting the person and making it personal.

Planet Princeton will delete comments that incite violence, use bad language, comments editors consider racist, comments that are harmful to others (example is comments insensitive to others who are experiencing tragedy), and spam comments with links. Our commenting system holds comments with images and links for moderation before they are posted to avoid spam.

It’s a conversation.

It’s not a monologue. Leave space and breathing room for others to comment. We are happy you are engaging in the online community discussion. But don’t shout and constantly post, which drowns out other voices. Do you really want to be known as the troll who needs to get a life? We didn’t think so.

Our system is now set up to block commenters who try to dominate the conversation. If you post in rapid succession you will be banned from commenting by our comment filtering system. If you post more than two comments on the same story within a few minutes, you are posting too much. Give others space to comment.

Use one screen name only.

We will ban users who use several screen names to try to make it look like there is more than one person representing their point of view, when really it is just the one person. Yes, this has happened on Planet Princeton. One commenter created more than a dozen screen names to make it look like there was consensus about his point of view. Don’t be that person. Who has time for that? If you do, maybe you should consider finding a new hobby or two if you have that much free time. Some commenters have created fake Facebook accounts to attack others and post comments on our social media channels. Those social media profiles will be reported and banned. If you have time for such nonsense, consider getting a new hobby.

Identify yourself if you are a public relations person, a lobbyist, or a member of a political campaign team (paid or volunteer).

Sometimes people have commented on Planet Princeton and dominated the conversation without disclosing that they are a public relations person working on behalf of a person or organization, or that they are members of a political campaign (for example they are on a campaign committee for a state assembly person or local council person). You are free to comment, but you must disclose your affiliation. We will note affiliations if they are not properly mentioned and we will ban commenters who are repeat offenders.

In summary, be civil like you would or should in a face to face conversation. We know our community members can discuss things and disagree in a civil manner, even if politicians and the rest of the nation can’t seem to at the moment. We know you are better than that.

If you think someone has crossed a line with a comment or if you have trouble posting a comment, drop a line to editor@planetprinceton.com and let us know.

If you want to post a comment that is more than a few sentences or more than 100 words, consider submitting a letter to the opinionator section via editor@planetprinceton.com. If you want your headshot or a photo to appear with the post, please attach images as jpegs. You can submit a letter every 15 days. Please see our opininator guidelines for more information on letters to the editor.