When you leave a comment on story, or on one of 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. Our comment sections are not a free for all for you to write whatever you want. We have the right to moderate comments and to not approve comments we consider inappropriate. We also have the right to shut down comments when the discussion has gone off the rails. We have done this in the past when stories have triggered a series of racist comments or personal attacks.

Whether you’re a seasoned commenter or you are commenting on Planet Princeton for the first time, following are some guidelines for joining the conversation and being a part of the Planet Princeton community:

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 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 a place for rants, personal attacks, and nastiness. Let’s promote civility. We can disagree in a respectful manner. Poor behavior, personal attacks, name-calling and profanity will result in you being banned from the site. Any comments accusing someone of doing something illegal or making an inappropriate personal attack will be removed unless the accusation has been proven. The comments section is not a forum for slander.

Point out mistakes gracefully.

We appreciate knowing we’ve gotten something wrong so we can fix it– a typo, an errant semi-colon, a misspelling for example – 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.

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.

If you use your real name, you don’t want to experience commenter’s remorse, that regret you feel after you post something, and your anger, crankiness, etc. have 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. You can update a comment you made that you have remorse for or that included an error with a follow-up comment. 

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, that use bad language, that editors consider racist, or that are harmful to others (an example is comments insensitive to others who are experiencing tragedy), and spam comments with links. Our commenting system holds comments for moderation before they are posted to avoid spam and the posting of inappropriate comments. 

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 blocked from commenting by our comment filtering system.

We will not approve comments that claim to know who previous commenters are, or that try to out other commenters or try to make claims about the identity of other commenters to undercut other commenters.

Use one screen name only.

We will not approve comments from users who use several screen names to comment, a practice known as “sock puppeting.” We will ban commenters on our website who continue to attempt this.  Pick one name. 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 public figure 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.

We use an auto filter to filter out posts containing certain words and post with links. The system also blocks spam comments and commenters who post several comments within a short time period. We log on to approve comments in batches four to six times a day. Unfortunately, we can’t allow comments to autopost due to the lack of civility and problems with personal attacks and spam in the past.

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 opinion 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 30 days. Letters must be signed by two people maximum. We do not accept anonymous letters.