« Back to Resources

Five Important Rules of Netiquette

"YOU ARE WRONG, YOU BLEEPING IDIOT.”

Unfortunately, critiques such as these qualify as feedback for today’s Internet publishers.  Browse through the Comments section of a typical on-line story, and you’ll discover that these abusive remarks are even commonplace.  Clearly contributors to these forums and others that welcome reader response need a lesson in Netiquette—the unwritten rules governing proper Internet etiquette. 

While informal, these rules are vital in serving to engender productive discourse. Their very aim is to stamp out the inflammatory dialogue that prevents it.  All-inclusive, Netiquette applies to readers expressing their opinions to writers of articles and blogs, readers of articles and blogs who are communicating with each other, people who are writing and sending e-mails, and even people who are blogging or responding to blogs on social networking websites.

Five Important Rules of Netiquette:

1. NO YELLING: Capitalizing and bold-facing every letter in a word is acceptable in certain circumstances because it’s the equivalent of emphasizing words while you’re talking. However, one person’s’ point of emphasis is another one’s version of yelling, a tactic that puts your reader on the defensive. With regard to these devices, consider your audience and tread lightly.  Saint Louis University’s “Netiquette Guidelines” also recommends avoiding multiple exclamation marks.

2. NO INSULTING: How does calling someone an idiot help your argument? Good behavior fosters good discussions. Bad behavior does the opposite. Furthermore, many writers don’t even look at the comments sections below their articles because they assume they will only be insulted by those who disagree with them. Consequently, writers may miss beneficial comments and facts that can aid the discussion.

3. NO HIJACKING: Taking control of an online discussion can be off-putting for fellow readers.  Share relevant insight, give others an opportunity to participate, and you become a valued member of the discourse.   Hijack the topic, fail to relinquish the floor, and bully your audience into your way of thinking, and others will abandon the conversation.

4. NO DWELLING ON MISTAKES: For many, the Internet is an informal arena where spelling, grammar, and word usage is invitingly casual.  Allow participants the escape, and refrain from pointing out their writing mistakes.    If, however, you simply must comment, Colorado State University’s “Core Rules of Netiquette” recommends addressing errors in private e-mails rather than public forums.  Just don’t be surprised if your educational attempts are unwelcome. 

5. NO SENDING NASTY E-MAILS:  When an e-mail angers you, never respond within the first 24 hours.  Waiting helps you regain composure and diffuses potential overreaction; an overreaction that could jeopardize your professional career or personal relationships.

Sources: 

https://www.slu.edu/school-for-professional-studies-home/student-information-and-registration/academic-policies/netiquette-guidelines
http://learning.colostate.edu/guides/guide.cfm?guideid=4
http://etc.usf.edu/techease/mac/e-mail/what-is-good-email-netiquette