Forum Moderators Guide – How to be a Good Forum Moderator

By | December 9, 2012

The Moderators guide below was originally taken from several large forums with over a million posts between them.

It was further tweaked as a result of the published guidelines of several ‘big boards’ that have each around a million posts.

It was later honed and tweaked by a published author who administrates three large forums. This is the current exact version his forums use.

If you are new to managing forums, you need to outline to your staff what exactly you expect of them. You cannot expect them to guess or know already. Almost nobody inherently ‘knows’ how to be as good moderator – they must be taught.

Sometimes that stuff is ABC; stuff you would expect is a given already. But with some people – especially Americans – it needs to be spelled out in no uncertain terms. Americans are not like the rest of us – they make friends in elevators, and tell strangers their life story after one drink.

Similarly, many Europeans are simply stupid. They also need guidance on what is normal behaviour, and what is expected in a position of trust.

So here are the moderator guidelines that several large forums use to teach their mods how to behave on their site:

Moderators Guide


Thank you very much for volunteering your time in helping us to keep the forums tidy. The task of a moderator is very important in keeping the community together and helping it remain attractive to newcomers. Here are some simple guidelines.


Your responsibilities extend across all forum rooms.

Do not moderate in topics that you are controversially involved in, or against those you have an acrimonious personal history with.


Within the forums, we expect that you will always take the high road. Do not belittle members, do not air dirty laundry in public, etc. If you have a personal problem with a member, PM them or e-mail them.

We expect you to keep the best interests of the members/forums in mind. It is not in the best interest of anybody to start or contribute to flaming/bashing threads. The only result of these threads are hurt feelings and general negativity in the forums. It is not necessary nor useful to participate in such things.

Please note that it is completely unacceptable to use anything that you have found out in this forum or through being a mod against a member.


It is important that mods have a place to discuss matters frankly without worrying about confidentiality. We expect you to keep ALL discussions in this mod room confidential. If we cannot trust each other, there is no hope. If you will not stick to this, please notify me so that I can remove you from the mod group. If we discover that you have breached confidentiality, we will remove you as mod. The mod room must not leak!

Any information that is sensitive in relation to the forum owners or the forums operation must not be disclosed to the general members of the forum (or anyone else) using any form of communication either within or outside of the forums. Failure to abide by this guideline may result in the immediate removal of your moderator status.

Forum Duties:

The primary role of a forum moderator should be to promote interaction. A forum moderator should be posting new threads and adding new content to the site. They should be helping out members with their queries, encouraging them to post an introduction topic (and welcoming them when they do), and they should be keeping threads alive by asking questions and promoting discussion.

Most moderators see themselves as forum police officers and will only edit/delete/lock content without creating any themselves. This is a mistake – the primary role is to encourage interaction, to encourage member involvement, and to encourage a sense of community within the forum.

As a moderator, you are required to be an active poster and visitor to the site, as well as a visible rule-enforcing figure. If you do not meet any of the aforementioned requirements you may be removed as a moderator. Too many forums have drive by mods who only look in once a month for ten minutes. On a busy site, that is no good.

All moderators should be visibly present to the forums a minimum of twice in any one week. You must always inform other moderators of your intended absence on the topic we have for that. For example, if you are away from the forums for a length of time longer than a few days.

Start topics, and keep existing topics moving.

Please lean on other mods here for support and advice when needed.

Moving Threads:

If there are any threads that need to be “deleted”, move them to the trash bin. The only time you would use “Move thread and leave redirect in previous forum” is when someone posts a question/thread in the wrong section.

Editing Posts:

There are a lot of occasions when you will need to edit a post. Whenever you do, please insert a small edit note at the very bottom. For example, if a member attached an advertisement of his or her website in a post, you would want to edit that part out and put a note at the end like “(YOUR NAME edit note: No advertisements allowed)”.

Exceptions might be spelling/format/layout/punctuation corrections you do. No need to record those or anything similarly minor like quote corrections.

Feel free to edit topic titles from something like “i have a question” to something Google has a chance of finding and people will read. “visa question” would read better as “USA K1 Fiancée Visa Query”

If a member posts something objectionable about you, have another mod deal with it rather than just nuke it yourself. That removes accusations of bias. We must be seen to be transparent and honest in our actions. Doing so gains us respect with the members.


No violent, discriminatory language or personal attacks are tolerated in the forum. If you see any inappropriate posts, edit the post immediately. Remove the offending portion or entire post body and insert an edit note explaining your action. If an excessive amount of profanity is used in a post, simply delete it. Remember to edit any subsequent quotes of deleted posts.

Thread Title Punctuation:

Subjects must not contain excessive amounts of punctuation (namely exclamation marks or question marks). Should you see a thread with excessive punctuation in the subject, edit it by choosing “Modify” at the upper corner of the post. Capitalise the first letter in the first word also, or add title caps if you prefer.


No advertisements of any form are tolerated in any forum without prior approval. Private website links in the signature are fine as long as it doesn’t have too many links in it. Use your judgement based on our stated policies.


The following are considered spam:

* Very short posts that do not add value to the current discussion. For example, a post with only the words “yeah me too!” or an emoticon are spam.
* Off topic posts should be either removed altogether or moved to the appropriate place, depending on the moderator’s view on the content.
* Posts that obviously serve no purpose other than upping ones post count. Again, this is up to the individual moderator to decide.
* Posts like “XXX, I have a question for you” are considered spam. That should be done via private messaging. Often on-the-topic guidance is all that is needed there.
* Starting a new thread when a similar thread has already been started.
* Restating ones vote in a poll thread with no explanation.
* Any other posts that we deem inappropriate for other readers.
* Responses to spam posts should be considered as spam and be removed. However, spam warnings should not be given in such cases except in severe cases.
* Restating someone else’s opinion, or re-answering a question that has already been answered. Some members up their post count by re-answering a question in exactly the same way. “Yeah, what he said. for example.” If its occasional, leave it. If someone does that often, delete it.
* Posts that contain large amounts of smileys and/or spaces to make it look like they contain useful information often don’t. Be aware of those tactics to quickly up post count.

Give a bit of leeway to new posters (you can tell by their join date).


When you found a thread that is not relevant to a particular room, immediately move it to the appropriate one. Sometimes you should leave a “trail” and sometimes you shouldn’t. I usually leave it if there isn’t more than 2 close visible trails. Try not to leave too many “moved topic” notifications around, it makes the place look untidy.


We currently allow polls in most forums. Remove polls if they are idiotic and irrelevant. eg. John Doe made a poll titled “Who’s da man?” and put his name in the options. Polls like “What’s the juiciest kind of carrot???” are usually not productive and should be deleted.

Sexual Content:

Sexual content is not permitted except in the most general context. This includes sexually explicit avatars, use of violent sexual language, unwanted sexual advances, and anything else that could be hurtful and offensive.

We serve advertisements from Google (and occasionally private advertisers) in order to fund the sites operation. Accordingly, we must adhere to Google’s acceptable content guidelines in that regard. If we don’t, they have the power to de-index the site with a single click. As a general guide, we should be aiming at their published standard: “If your site has content which you wouldn’t be comfortable viewing at work or with family members around, then it probably isn’t appropriate”.

On the internet, Google is like God. Every site must bend to Google’s wishes or die on the vine. Google has more power than governments.

Closing Threads:

When you can foresee that a thread is going downhill, you should close the thread only as a last resort. A prime example will be flame wars or totally off topic discussion.

Off topic discussion can be split off, retitled and placed in the correct section (or merged with an existing topic if the usual suspects).

However, do not close threads just because the initial question/concern was answered. It is because although the first question is answered, the thread starter might have another question related to the original one. Bottom line is, don’t close a thread if a normal conversation is going on smoothly.

Whenever you close a thread, make a post to briefly explain the reason behind it. Moderators can post to closed threads.

Sticky Topics:

Don’t sticky anything unless you are sure it is of value. Review the current stickies occasionally to make sure they are still relevant to our members.

Suspensions, Warnings and Bannings: 

Either [insert], [insert] or I will deal with this. Please make a topic on the mod board if you think someone deserves a ban or warning.

Those who have ban buttons can freely ban Chinese spammers and the like. If you don’t have ban buttons, make a mod room topic to get it done.

Multiple Accounts:

Not allowed. End of story. Make a mod room topic if you find one.

Rules and TOS: 

Read it and be generally familiar with it. Remember that we do not delete members or remove members posts on a whim. If someone asks you to do that, refer them to the TOS with a link.


It is not the intent that mods here issue “missives from upon high”. Do not employ red capital letters or other high profile nonsense. Our actions should be discreet and not overly visible to readers. Nobody likes an over-moderated and oppressive forum. Do not moderate in topics you are controversially involved in. Try to be fair and objective with all posters; no favouritism.

Sometimes a bit of general guidance is all that is needed to guide a topic back on track. Members need to see that the mods are actually active, both as contributing members and moderators.

Do not publicly criticise or override another mod’s actions. We have a mod room for any disagreements between ourselves. Members must see that we are a cohesive team that work together and support each other.

Further questions, clarification and discussion on this topic is welcome. Don’t wonder…… ask!

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