Internet Etiquette

When communicating electronically, you do not have the luxury of your tone of voice, body language or hand gestures aiding you in getting your point across clearly. Therefore, internet users have developed some widely accepted techniques that contribute to proper "Netiquette." Being mindful of the several tips listed below to ensure that your communications over the Internet will not offend anyone.

Keep your messages short and to the point.

Many people do not like reading long messages on a computer screen, or worse, on the small screen of a cell phone or other mobile device.

Check your spelling.

Nobody likes trying to read an email with spelling mistakes. Most email programs today include spell checkers. Please, check your spelling before sending your messages.

Use plain text.

Elaborate text formatting such as Rich Text Format, HTML, and other fancy email formats can arrive as gibberish to the recipient if their mail client cannot properly decipher the message. To make sure that your message is readable, use a plain text format unless you are told otherwise by the recipient.

Use mixed-case letters.

Using all capital letters is considered SHOUTING, and is in bad taste. Using all lower-case letters can make your message difficult to read. Make sure that you turn off your caps lock before you start typing an email message, discussion group posting, or any other form of online communication.

Summarize the contents of your messages in the subject line.

Summarizing the contents of your messages in the subject will assist the recipient in organizing and prioritizing his or her email.

Compose your emails as though they will be posted publicly.

Email is not as private as you may think once it leaves your computer. Your email can very easily be forwarded by the recipient or printed out and left somewhere. If your message is safe to read in public, it is safe enough for email.

Only Carbon Copy (CC) your message to those who need to read it.

People receive a lot of extraneous email messages these days. Carbon copying your message to those who do not really need to read it will only add to the problem.

Use Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) when sending a message to a large group of people (especially those who may not know each other).

Using Blind Carbon Copy to send your message to a large group prevents the recipients from seeing the list of email addresses that the message was sent to. By listing all recipients in the "To" field of your message, you are effectively broadcasting each person's email address to everyone else on the list.

Only send your email messages to those recipients who wish to receive them.

Most bulk email (email that is sent to a large number of people) is considered to be spam (junk email). Spam email is considered to be annoying and unwanted by most people. Unless the message needs to be read by a large number of people (and in that case you should use blind carbon copy), do not send it.

Include your name at the bottom of your message.

Some older email programs do not make it easy to identify the sender of an email message. Including your name and return email address at the bottom of your message makes it easier for the recipient to identify and respond to you.

Keep file attachments as small as possible.

Large attachments (files over two megabytes) can clog up the recipient's emailbox and can also cause problems with older mail systems. Unless the recipient gives explicit permission to do so, do not send attachments larger than two megabytes.

Do not re-distribute material that is not yours.

This is essentially copyright infringement. Taking images from another's website for re-distribution, forwarding a personal email message, or sharing files or phrases that do not belong to you is considered to be rude and in many cases, illegal. Materials include: email messages, images, programs, music, movies, etc. This practice is often referred to as "leeching" files.

Keep your signatures or "sig files" short.

Signature files are usually composed of an individual's contact information and placed at the end of their email message. Signatures longer than 4-6 lines can get confusing and difficult to read.

Use abbreviations wisely.

In the quest to shorten email messages, many people use abbreviations for common phrases. Typical abbreviations such as BTW and FYI are acceptable to use, but less well-known abbreviations might be inappropriate or confusing to those who are new to the Internet.

Think before you hit the "send" button.

Sending harsh, attacking, and otherwise abusive email messages is called "flaming." It is very easy to respond to an email quickly without thinking about the ramifications of what you are saying. Misinterpreting an email message and then firing back a flame response is very easy to do and only leads to confusion and further flame messages.

Sending a flame message to someone who has "flamed" you will only worsen the situation. The most agreed upon course of action is to not respond to a flame message.

Read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

Most mailing lists, discussion groups, and newsgroups have prepared a Frequently Asked Questions document that offers answers to the most commonly asked questions. Asking questions that are already covered in the FAQ is often considered rude.

Always "lurk" in message boards, newsgroups, and forums before making your first post.

"Lurking" basically means that you are simply reading the posts of others without actually posting yourself. Many online forums have very specific rules of conduct and it is always suggested that you find out as much as you can about the general operation of a forum before actually posting.

Follow the rules.

If a website, discussion group, or mailing list has posting guidelines in place, follow them. Failure to do so often irritates the administrators and could get you kicked out of the group or off of the website.