Understanding Netiquette


The term netiquette combines the words Internet and etiquette to form a new word that stands for good manners online.

Here are some netiquette guidelines that hold across all electronic rhetorical situations:

Remember that you are interacting with real humans, not machines, and practice kindness, patience, and good humor.

Limit e-mails to a single topic, and use accurate subject headers. Include a sufficient portion of the previous text when responding to an e-mail, or use a dash to keep the conversation flowing and to provide context. For official e-mails, include your name and contact information at the end of every e-mail you send.

Remember that most forms of electronic communication can be reproduced. Avoid saying anything you would not want attributed to you or forwarded to others. Although you should not forward another person’s words without consent, people do it all the time.

Always seek permission to use other people’s ideas, and acknowledge them properly.

Always quote and cite correctly the words of others: do not copy other people’s words and present them as your own. This practice, known as plagiarism, is always wrong.

Bear in mind that without cues such as facial expressions, body language, and vocal intonation, your message can easily be misunderstood. Be wary of including humor that could be misread as sarcasm. Misunderstandings can escalate quickly into flaming, the sending of angry, inflammatory posts characterized by heated language.

Avoid ALL CAPS. Typing in all caps is considered shouting.

When sending text messages, use abbreviations appropriately. The standard for acceptable shorthand is determined by the level of familiarity between you and the recipient and the subject matter of the text.

Consider your tone. While informality is appropriate when interacting with friends, it’s important to remember the need for greater formality in using digital communication academically and professionally.

Always keep in mind that although digital communication may look temporary, its traces can last forever. When you burn a piece of paper, it’s gone. When you delete something from cyberspace, it can almost always be recovered.

Use words economically, and edit carefully.