How to be Polite While You’re Online (Netiquette)

“Netiquette” is slang for “Internet etiquette”. It refers to the accepted behaviours and practices regarding interactive online activity such as discussion forums, chat rooms, and email. Adherence to these guidelines will help make the online community in which you are participating more enjoyable for everyone to use.

Please note that the points discussed here provide general suggestions; for more specific information, you should read the guidelines for the community in which you want to participate.

Instant Messaging Etiquette

Don’t type in all capital letters
Typing in all capital letters on the Internet is considered rude because it is difficult to read and comes across as very aggressive (LIKE SHOUTING!). This rule of thumb is true across the Internet – not just when IM’ing. If you take away nothing from this ‘how-to’ other than knowing that typing in “caps” is widely despised on the Internet, consider it time well spent.

Try not to “pounce” other users
Pouncing” refers to sending someone an instant message immediately after that person signs on to the service. He or she may wish to perform other tasks while starting the messenger app. The person may need a few minutes to put up an “away” or “do not disturb” message, signifying that he or she doesn’t wish to engage in conversation at the moment. You should always wait a few minutes before sending someone an instant message.

Tell other users when you are away
Most instant messaging services provide a way of notifying other users that you are not responding to messages or have stepped away from the computer. Most make use of “away” or “do not disturb” messages. Another way of telling other users that you cannot answer their messages is to simply let them know in conversation that you must leave. You wouldn’t want someone to wait for your response for more than a few minutes.

Keep it casual
You may not want to use instant messaging to give someone bad news or make a major announcement. While some people may consider instant messaging similar to the telephone as a means of communication, others consider it much less formal.

Use reasonable fonts and colours
It can be very unpleasant to have to look at huge fonts or light colours while conversing on an instant messaging service. Try to stick the standard font size and colours unless you are positive that the other person doesn’t mind.

Email Etiquette

Avoid forwarding junk mail
Many folks repeatedly forward junk mail, such as “virus alerts”, chain letters and memes. Unless someone specifically tells you that he/she enjoys receiving these “forwards”, you shouldn’t send them. This is even more important if you’re emailing a co-worker.

Consider your audience
Avoid sending emails to everyone in your address book unless the information contained is vital for each and every person in it. Otherwise, these “mass emails” simply clog other people’s inboxes.

Use threads
When someone sends you an email and you wish to reply, you should always hit the “reply” button within your email client rather than beginning a new email. This allows users to keep track of the thread of conversation.

Be appropriate
What is acceptable in a casual email to a friend might not be acceptable in a work-related email. In general, for official communications, you should avoid using online abbreviations and emojis, and pay more attention to spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Use plain text
This one isn’t quite as important as it once was, since almost all email apps are HTML-enabled. But if it’s a professional email, you may want to consider sending it in plain text rather than HTML.

Avoid sending large attachments
Unless specifically directed to do so, may not want to send large attachments to your email contacts. Not everyone has a connection that’s as fast as yours, and large attachments can take a long time to download for some people.

Message Board/Forum Etiquette

Don’t spam
Within the context of message boards, “spamming” can refer to repeatedly posting the same message. This is considered poor etiquette and will usually result in the spammer’s removal from the forum or group.

Don’t be a troll
A “troll” refers to someone who enters a forum purely to flame or annoy other participants. “Trolling” is not acceptable in online communities and can result in one’s being banned from the forum or board. A troll can also refer to someone who has multiple usernames on the same forum.

Stay on topic
When you submit an off-topic post to a thread, it detracts from the discussion at hand. If you wish to discuss a new topic, you begin a new thread.

Try to spell correctly and use proper grammar
You should make every effort to spell correctly and use proper grammar within forums and discussion groups. If a post is incoherent, moderators and administrators may delete it.

Don’t get too carried away “flaming”
“Flaming”, within the domain of online communities, refers to heated exchange on a message board or in a chat room. In general, flaming is permissible only when it does not involve ad hominem attacks on other participants in the forum.

Chat Room Etiquette

Think before you speak
When entering a chat room – public or private, you should wait a few minutes before typing in order to get a feel for the flow of conversation. This way, you won’t say anything that is completely off-topic, which would detract from the conversation.

Refrain from profanity/offensive language
Don’t type anything in a chat room that you wouldn’t ordinarily say in public. Offensive language does nothing to enhance a chat room experience, and is usually strictly moderated.

What is spamming?
In the context of chat rooms, spamming refers to typing the same thing repeatedly. This annoys other chatters and will usually result in your ejection from the chat room.

Avoid typing long messages
No one wants to have to scroll through more than five lines to get to the comment after yours. If you have something long to say, try to break it up into smaller pieces or send it as a private message.


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7 thoughts on “How to be Polite While You’re Online (Netiquette)”

  1. Pingback: What We Talk About WHEN WE TALK ABOUT CAPS LOCK | The Shrike.ca

  2. Pingback: The Chronicles of the Great Nerd Warrior » Post Topic » Why I won’t repost your stupid thing to my Facebook profile.

  3. I love this Blog. Thanks for posting it.

    Kay – questions like that make me a little uncomfortable and I prefer not to answer those. We have privacy settings for a reason. Don’t be ashamed about using them. Go with your instincts!

  4. Not sure how to politely respond to request from casual strangers asking for personal info like ‘Where you live… What you look like? Can I call?” etc. Suggestions?

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