Some general advice regarding emails and letters: As Bill O’Reilly says, “Keep it pithy.” All things being equal, brief messages to which I can provide brief replies are more likely to get responses, especially if I don’t know you. If I don’t know you and you send me a long email or letter asking for my opinion on various complicated philosophical, political, or theological questions, it is unlikely I am going to respond. I wish I could, and occasionally I can and do, but mostly I just don’t have the time. If I don’t know you but your concerns are of a more personal nature – career advice, philosophical or theological questions that you are really struggling with, or the like – then I will make an extra effort to respond, but even here there are limits, and I simply cannot provide lengthy replies or get into an ongoing dialogue. And if I don’t know you, please, please don’t write asking me to help you publish your book, or to read your manuscript, or to get you a job. I really wish I could help you, but I can’t. I’m sorry.
Regarding combox remarks, my responding is obviously less important, since other readers may have things to say, and their responses are sometimes more interesting than anything I could offer. But if you want me to respond personally, again, briefer is better. The probability of my having time to respond decreases as the length of your remarks increases, and if your comment is one of many lengthy comments, the probability of my responding approaches zero. (I would feel guilty responding only to one or two among many long comments in the queue, and I typically resolve the moral dilemma by responding to none of them.) A response is also less likely if you ask me to address something far afield from the subject of the blog post you’re ostensibly commenting on. But again, if you don’t care about my responding anyway but simply want to discuss something with other readers, have at it. I will chime in as I can.
Finally, and as should go without saying, please use common sense. 99% of my readers do so anyway, and these last remarks are not directed at them. But for the rest: Don’t take it personally when I do not respond to your comment or fail to address your pet issue. Be polite; if you send me a nasty email, I am going to delete it as soon as I see where it’s going. (I will take extra relish in doing so if it’s a very long email, so that the hour or two you spent stringing together your profanities and fallacies will have been completely wasted. Better to devote your time to something more worthwhile, such as getting a life.) If you’re snotty in the combox, don’t expect a polite reply, or any reply, and don’t feign outrage if your comment gets deleted. I moderate with a light hand – in the history of this blog, I have banned only two people, both of whom were really asking for it – but trolls will not be tolerated.