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Blogging Etiquette – Deletions

Posted by Bob Jonkman on 6th November 2011

The word "Delete" as grafitti

Delete

Primarily Perfect People are Permitted to Perfunctorily Pass this Post .

The rest of us, Prone to Pecadillos, may occasionally write blogposts and then change our minds about the content. When that happens it’s best not to make changes or delete posts without letting your readers know.

Instead of making a wholesale change to a post it’s better to create a new post. Imagine if someone wrote about a similar issue, quoted from your post and provided links to it. Now your post has changed, and the links no longer make sense because the content has changed. Or someone makes a comment on a post, the content of the post is changed, and now the comment has nothing to do with the post.

Instead, create a new post with a new link. It’s a good idea to keep the original post; you could delete it, but then other people’s links would return an error (that’s called “link rot”).

About the only good reason for modifying an existing post is to correct an error. Even then you shouldn’t delete the incorrect material, but indicate it should be deleted by using the <del> tag, and marking the new material with an <ins> tag. For example:

The Javan Rhinoceros <del>has only one survivor </del> <ins> is now extinct</ins> in Vietnam.

This would show with crossed-out text for <del> and highlighted text for <ins>, like this:

The Javan Rhinoceros has only one survivor is now extinct in Vietnam.

(which is a sad development, and may be worthy of a post of its own).

If you really want to delete a post then replace it with text like “This post has been removed by the author”. If you do that then you should delete or hide the comments too.

These are open and transparent ways to indicate deletions. It’s merely an online publishing convention, since there really isn’t a style guide for HTML like Strunk and White’s in the online world. Or, more accurately, there are far too many Strunk and White’s in the online world!

–Bob.


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