Keep nasty personal comments out of online posts

Calling something a “fact” does not make it so.

As a way of insuring we would always use the correct units in our equations, my old high school physics teacher, Dwight Kaytor, was fond of telling us, “if you call a cow a horse, then surely you will try to ride it.”

Aside from the obvious shout-out to a great former teacher, the reason I mention this is two-fold:

nKaytor’s use of the cow and horse in his analogy automatically makes it agriculturally related and, therefore, relevant fodder for this column.

n A number of recent comments on stories posted on have raised the distinction between these two concepts.

A “fact” is generally defined as a statement that can be proven to be true, while an “opinion” is simply an expression of a person’s feelings that cannot be proven.

An example of a fact is, “the world is round.” If you don’t believe me, just ask Mr. Kaytor.

This distinction is important to us because, while we need not agree with some of the opinions being expressed, we must respect the individual’s right to hold it.

Frequently enough I have to edit readers’ comments to remove statements of vitriol that one reader directs toward another: “that’s stupid,” “you’ve got to be kidding, right?” or, one of my personal favourites, “why don’t you get the facts before you open your mouth.”

Those are just the ones I can share in a family newspaper. Sometimes they’re much worse.

You’ll quickly discover that this is a sure-fire way to have such offending phrases removed from your comments. And though I try to maintain the flow of your thoughts when I make such edits, cutting a sentence or three from your comments is an equally sure-fire way to have them not read nearly as eloquently as you had intended.

While some readers make liberal use of ellipses on their own (…), their presence in a comment is often a sign that I’ve had to take my editor’s knife to the comment for reasons such as those outlined.

If a comment contains too many of these sorts of phrases, it’s easier for me to delete it altogether.

Take issue with the opinion, not the person expressing it.

Share your own opinion, rather than trying to discredit someone else for holding one that’s different.

We’re all ears.

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