Internet etiquette, or netiquette, is the informal set of rules and social conventions that govern or at least inform what is considered to e acceptable behavior.
Have you ever received an email written in ALL CAPS and felt the sender was yelling at you? Have you ever seen a thread on a forum devolve into name-calling and the passing of strongly-worded judgments? At work, are you ever copied to email chains that have absolutely nothing to do with your role and responsibilities? Of course you have. We have all experienced these types of violations of the unwritten rules that determine what is considered to be acceptable online behavior.
The informal, and sometimes formal, rules that dictate how Internet resources and websites should be used are collectively called Netiquette. All of the examples of poor behavior we mentioned above are examples of situations where Netiquette rules were disregarded and broken. Some of the most common netiquette guidelines, and the ones violated in the examples above, are:
- Never type an email or message in ALL CAPS. It is interpreted as yelling.
- Don't engage in personal attacks, known as flaming, when you disagree with someone online.
- Only send a message to the people who actually need to receive it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are all netiquette rules informal?
Most netiquette rules are informal. However, in some cases organizations and websites have created formal guides and tutorials that include specific netiquette guidelines and rules. In the case of an organization like a business, these guidelines tend to be administrative and are likely to include instructions on how to create an acceptable email signature, whether or not the use of abbreviations in business emails is considered to be acceptable, and recommendations on proper formatting (don't use ALL CAPS). In the case of a website or online service, netiquette guidelines to be behavioral and encourage positive participation within an online community. Quite often website netiquette rules are included in the platform's terms of service, in which failure to follow the guidelines can lead to banning from the platform governed by the rules.
Are netiquette rules the same on all online platforms?
Netiquette guidelines often vary from one platform and setting to the next. For example, in instant messaging it is common – even preferred – that users make use of well-known acronyms and abbreviations. However, in professional emails, abbreviations are normally best avoided. As in all things in life, the key is to know what is expected in the context where the communication takes place, and to follow the unwritten rules that established users of the platform are following.
Where can I learn more about netiquette?
Here at Learn the Net we have an article with netiquette guidelines, as well as a Quiz to help you master the basics of online etiquette. If you want to learn more, check out Colorado State University's Core Rules of Netiquette: Introduction. Also, look for the Frequently Asked Questions or Beginner's Guides offered by any specific platform where you are worried about following proper etiquette. Lastly, before engaging in too much conversation on a given platform, take the time to observe the interactio of others to get a handle on what is considered proper behavior.