From Chris F's Meta Post:
You can help out. If you see a question or answer that doesn't meet our community standards, use a (polite!) comment to ask the author to fix it, or be bold and edit it yourself, or flag it to bring it to the attention of the sleeping busy moderators.
What constitutes a good, polite, guiding comment? After reading Chris F's post urging the community to step up and help with community moderation, his question, and the inspirational response by Jerry Coffin, got me thinking about how and where to begin.
While it may seem like common sense, I believe that all of us could use a refresher or some ideas on how exactly to leave this type of comment.
Communicating over the Internet, where there's no body language or other social cues, is hard! One thing I've personally noticed is that users are more receptive to polite, carefully worded comments, and I feel like the community has more to gain if those users come back a second and third time and put more effort into correcting their question-asking or answer-giving shortcomings, than if they were just left with nothing more than a link, a stern warning, and a bitter, angry feeling.
So, here are a few pointers that I've put together that I hope will be helpful:
When leaving a comment, say "hi" and use the person's name, if provided. Since @username doesn't work anymore, I find that this approach is much more personable and sets the tone for the rest of the comment.
Welcome the person to the site if he or she is new. This helps disarm the situation.
Use the first sentence to use what the person did or didn't do to describe what it is about StackExchange that's great, but without pointing out the behavior.
If you can see that his or her attempt at participating on the site was done in good faith, use that in your suggestion, which you could make in the second sentence. Using a sentence beginning with a dependent-clause followed by an independent clause is a great tool to acknowledge something positive while also pointing out an area that needs improvement. (While X was very helpful, we really encourage people to do Y)
Next, offer a suggestion for improvement. This is important, and I really think this strategy is really helpful for people who are not moderators, simply because a person who makes a suggestion to another person helps bring the other person up to his or her level, with both people on the same level playing field. In other words, suggestions imply choice, and suggestions imply respect and equality. Suggestions imply that you're giving this person helpful, friendly advice that can improve that person's experiences on the site.
Lastly, if there's enough space, consider following up with another welcome message, see you around, good luck, or some other positive closure. This approach also implies that you don't expect nor intend to respond or follow up, which is really helpful, since there isn't much a regular user can do beyond that, other than flagging for moderator attention.
Here is an example of a comment that I recently left while using the review tab:
Hi John, welcome to Programmers! The StackExchange sites strive to become a repository of knowledge for years to come. While the links you've posted are helpful, if they ever break, your answer won't quite be as valuable. Consider editing your answer to include a few highlights from the links in the body of your answer such that it's valuable for years to come. Again, welcome to our site! :)
Some of these points were inspired by Chris F and Jerry's responses, but also from the blog post titled, A Theory of Moderation.
So, what other suggestions are there for empowering community moderation -- as in moderation by non-diamond community members -- through polite, respectful comments?