Internet etiquette, or netiquette guides us in proper behavior on the Internet. There are widely accepted rules of behavior to follow when you're online. It is very important to learn and follow these rules.
Sometimes the online world can feel "pretend" because you cannot see the person who you are talking to. So, it is very important to remember that you are dealing with "real" people online and you should use your very best manners - just as you would at home or at school.
As a newbie (someone new to the Internet) you should become familiar with the acceptable rules of Internet behavior. Here are a some tips that can help you become a responsible Netizen.
Do unto others, as you'd have others do unto you. Be polite and courteous at all times. Remember that you're not communicating with a computer screen, but with a human being who has thoughts and feelings just like you. So, always think of the person on the receiving end of your messages.
Do not TYPE ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS for emphasis. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING. If you need to emphasize a word, use asterisks, like *this* or lines, like _this_.
Remember that the written word is hard to interpret. When you speak to someone, that person can hear the tone of your voice. If they can see you, they can take visual clues from your face and body to better understand your meaning. All of this is lost in text, and sometimes responses can come across as mean or rude, even when you did not intend them this way. This is the reason some people use emoticons (visual clues) in their e-mails, it saves a lot of confusion.
Be careful not to use rude or bad language online. Many providers will terminate your account.
Don't break any laws. When you're on the net, follow the same rules of behavior that you would in real life. Remember, if it is against the law in the real world, it is against the law in cyberspace.
Be universal. Other users have different Web browsers, different online services, different e-mail programs etc. So don't, for example, send out e-mail with text formatting -- boldface, italics, indentations, etc. -- because many other programs will not be able to read the formatting and the recipients will receive your e-mail filled with muddled codes.
Be brief whenever possible. No one wants to read through a lot of unnecessary information. If you are replying to an e-mail, try editing out unimportant information and anything that is repeated.
Don't flame. Do not send rude or offensive e-mails or postings. It's bad manners and can get seriously out of hand (flame wars). So don't flame others and if you are flamed, do not respond: you will never win. If you are flamed in a forum or chat room, or if you receive hateful e-mail, let your parents or teachers know.
Always identify yourself. If your parents require you to use an online name instead of your real one, that's fine - use your online name consistently. Never send e-mail without including your name at the bottom of the e-mail. Similarly, don't post forum messages without identifying yourself, this is seen as rude.
Make a good impression. Remember that the written word is the only way you can represent yourself online, so spelling and grammar count. If you are going to be writing a large amount of text for other people to see, make sure you break it up using paragraphs, it will make it easier on the eye for those that will read it.
Be patient with newcomers. Once you have become an Internet expert, it is easy to forget that you started out as a newbie too. Learning the rules of cyberspace is much like learning a new language; it takes practice, and includes making mistakes. So if you come across someone else's mistakes on the net, don't put them down, just politely point them in the right direction for guidance (send them a copy of these rules to get them started on their way!).
Things to remember about your e-mail account:
- Check e-mail regularly... so you can respond quickly
- Delete messages after you read them... frees up storage space for more productive use
- Don't send confidential information in your mail... others may be able to read/access it
- Don't be hasty when you send... if you write a message when you're upset, wait before you send it
- Respect the privacy of others... don't share someone's email address without their permission
- Always fill in the subject box so people can see what the mail concerns
- Don't send chain letters... they're as annoying on the internet as they are in real life
Things to remember when participating in a discussion group:
- Before asking or responding in a newsgroup, take the time to feel the group out
- Stick to the topic of the discussion group
- When quoting someone, use only the portion of the quote that is absolutely necessary
- Avoid "flame wars"
- Don't send personal messages to an entire newsgroup, use e-mail
Revised from "A Guide to Etiquette on the Net", contributed by Maria Georgiou