Navigating Netiquette

Netiquette Pic

Netiquette (net etiquette) is a set of guidelines that helps create a standard for acceptable ways to communicate online. This is especially useful in e-mail and on online forums such as social media, newsgroups, or blogs.  To avoid making unintentional social blunders online, check out these tips on how to have good manners in cyberspace.

  • Remember when communicating online that there is an actual person on the other end of your communication. Type as you would speak to someone in person and treat others how you wish to be treated.
  • Know your audience. Some online forums are more casual and informal and some are more professional. Be sure you are following the structure of the domain in which you are using. This is especially important with anything that is a professional interaction such as an e-mail between coworkers or a discussion group in college.
  • Check your posts for spelling and grammar errors. Even a simple typo can sometimes change the way a person views your online communication especially if it is your first interaction with the individual.
  • Share advice with others if it is a topic you are aware of. Do not share advice that could be detrimental to another person such as making medical recommendations if you are not a doctor. Try not to dominate online conversations. Treat them the same as you would a group conversation in public.
  • Be patient with others you encounter online. Some people are not as tech savvy as others so try to always give others the benefit of the doubt and treat them with kindness.
  • Avoid using sarcasm online even if it as meant as a harmless joke. In online communication, we do not have the benefit of hearing tones of voice or seeing facial expressions. This makes it very easy for others to misinterpret what you are saying.
  • Try to keep posts, discussions, and e-mails concise. This helps your audience clearly understand what you might be trying to say and also makes it more likely that others will take the time to read your message.

These rules of thumb are great to follow in any online situation. One of the most popular methods of online communication is e-mail. Since it is used so prevalently, especially in business settings, it is a wise idea to follow a few additional tips on e-mail etiquette.

  • When creating an e-mail address, consider using one that is professional and appropriate. This makes it much more likely that your recipients will take you seriously. People are more likely to accept an address like, but may baulk at something like
  • When writing an e-mail, use a clear, direct subject line. Examples are “Change in Meeting Date”, “Proposal Suggestions”, and “Training Presentation”. This helps a busy recipient know exactly what your e-mail is about, especially if that person has been waiting on something from you.
  • Address your contacts formally. It is appropriate to use “Hi” and “Hello”, but not so much so to say “What’s up” or “Yo”. It is always best to lean towards more formal if you are not sure of your audience.
  • Spell the name of your contact correctly. Do not abbreviate his or her name unless you are certain that is how your contact wants to be addressed.
  • Do not write in “text speak”. Spell words properly, write in full sentences, use proper punctuation, and do not write in all capital letters. This is considered shouting in the internet world and it also makes your messages more difficult to read.
  • Use standard fonts when writing and keep your backgrounds plain. This make e-mails load more easily and also makes them easier to read.
  • Do not forget your attachments. This can be frustrating for recipients who now have to e-mail you back to remind you to send the attachment that they were waiting on. Most new versions of Outlook will prompt you if you have the word attachment in the e-mail body and no file is attached.
  • It is a good idea to compose and review your e-mail before actually adding in the contact’s e-mail address. This will help you prevent accidentally sending a message before it is ready.
  • Always review your e-mails. Be sure to read them carefully. Many applications will automatically correct a word that is typed incorrectly, but they may not replace it with the word you intended. This is why it is important to read the e-mail and not rely solely on spell check.
  • Think about how your message might sound to the person receiving it. If you feel like it could be taken as harsh or angry (even if this is not your intention), consider rewriting it.
  • Do not compose e-mails when you are angry. It is likely this will come out in your writing and the recipient will feel it. Take a break, work on another project, then go back to your e-mail once you are feeling calmer.
  • Do not always click on Reply to All. This is a good option only if you know that all of the people copied on the e-mail would like your response. Sometimes, Reply to All can become a nuisance and unnecessarily barrage people’s inboxes.
  • Make sure your recipient is correct before sending an e-mail. If you know people that have the same initials it is easy to select the wrong contact from your drop down list.

Technology is fun, exciting, and can be extremely useful in both business and personal settings. Following these guidelines can help ensure that your online experiences are pleasant for you and others. Remember, when in doubt, go the human route. If you are unsure of the tone of an e-mail you received, pick up the phone and call the sender to clarify. Walk over to a coworker’s desk if you need to discuss something that could be construed as touchy or even something that might be overcomplicated. Respect those you come in contact with online just as you would in person and you should end up having majorly positive online experiences and gain the respect of those you communicate with.

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