Hello, good readers of the First Things website. Here is a brief reminder (for those of you who know) and a guide (for those of you who do not).

Comments should be, at most, three hundred words long. They should address the topic of the post, and shouldn’t be overly personal in nature (toward the author or the other commenters). They shouldn’t violate basic standards of civility. And they should “advance the conversation,” a rule some people find a little nebulous but which basically means that, in addition to addressing the topic of the post, comments should take into account things already said and try to build on them and should not get too caught up in repetitive arguments or non-sequiturs. (This also means that sometimes a perfectly good comment won’t get through because another comment has already adequately expressed whatever it wanted to say.)

This brings me to another change we’ve been discussing—we, the moderators, will try to be a more active presence and explain some of our decisions when it seems necessary. It is understandably frustrating when a comment disappears for no clear reason, and we hope this practice will ease that frustration. There are a number of different moderators, which means we are not always aware of the history of a thread or the decisions of a past moderator. We also rotate who moderates in the evenings or on the weekend. So this practice should also help to keep comment moderation more consistent. This doesn’t mean we will provide a rationale for every decision, but we will try and make unclear decisions . . . clearer.

The number one reason, without question, that I have deleted comments in the past is because they were too long. (Under the old First Thoughts commenting system, a too-long comment would actually get cut off whenever it hit the word limit.) So if you are wondering why a particular comment did not get through, that is usually why.

Finally: Sometimes comment moderation gets clogged up or comments get eaten by the spam filter. If your comments are consistently not showing up, email ft@firstthings.com and we’ll see if anything has gone awry.

Happy commenting!

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