The Do’s and Don’ts of Internet Etiquette

Online communication etiquette

As a kid you were taught a few things about the proper way to relate to people. You learned basic etiquette and manners, not to interrupt others while they were speaking, and when to say “please” and “thank you”.

However, when it comes to online communication, the rules of etiquette can sometimes get a little fuzzy. Let's take reading social media status updates for example. It can be challenging to know whether a person is being serious or not without the benefit of face-to-face contact to support the emotional message behind the status update. If you've ever misinterpreted a message or been misunderstood yourself, you know exactly how challenging online communication can really be.

Let's take a look at a few basic rules that will help make sure people only hear what you want them to hear.

Do say what you mean: Avoid being intentionally confusing – people will get confused. Just because you can hide behind the anonymity of the internet doesn’t mean you’re a different person. Communicate like you would if you were standing face-to-face with the person you’re talking to.

Do follow these guidelines when you’re sending or receiving emails involving multiple parties:

  • Unless you really mean to, don’t click “Reply to All.” Most people don’t want to keep updated on every single detail of the conversation. Just include the recipients to whom the message applies to. 
  • When forwarding an email, remove extra emails from the content to respect the privacy of those people.
  • Remove any comments in an email that is being forwarded that you don’t want others to see.

Don’t be careless with another’s information. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 66 percent of adults who access the internet use social media such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or LinkedIn. So you need to remember that anything on the internet cannot be guaranteed to be private. Almost everything you put up can be accessed by someone in some way. Never share something that concerns someone else without checking with them first. Not everyone wants their private lives exposed for all to see.

Don’t use text acronyms: When emailing, avoid using text acronyms like “LOL” or “l8rs”. Be clear and concise.

Don’t use all capital letters or too many exclamation points. One exclamation point is really just fine. If you need more emphasis use a few more, but be careful not to come off as sarcastic or yelling.

Don’t post status updates when you’re angry. It can be tempting to update your Facebook status while you’re in a sour mood, but just like you try not to talk to everyone when you’re feeling upset, don’t say something to all your friends that could easily be misinterpreted.

Just remember, the internet is part of “real life” and the things you say affect real people. That being said, it is also a great place to address a large audience. Just be careful what you say and think carefully about what you choose to share online – the internet lasts forever!

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