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Netiquette: Computer and Laptop Etiquette on the Internet

Netiquette, a name for network etiquette or Internet etiquette, is a way of conversing and interacting with others on the Internet in a professional and friendly manner. Since the Internet can be impersonal and misleading due to its lack of non-verbal communication, network etiquette rules are important to follow, especially when interacting in a business, school, or any other professional setting. Even at home when casually interacting with others on the Internet, it is still important to remember that there is another real person on the other side of the computer, and respect should always be used. Computers are faceless so it can be very easy to forget that there are other people online who can become offended or misled by words that are typed or pictures that are shared on the Internet. The following is a list of tips that one should follow while interacting with others in different ways online. 

Chat Rooms/Discussion Groups Etiquette

  • Be aware of the capital letters. Typing in all capital letters appears to other users as if the writer is yelling. Also, be aware of fonts and sizes. Too small of a font or a pale-colored font may be difficult for others to read.

  • Help others learn by adding new information and insights to comments lists and forums. Don't just agree or repeat information that has already been said. Wasting others time online is viewed as poor netiquette.

  • Do not get involved in flame wars. Flaming is an insulating interaction on the Internet between two or several users. There are many intentional flamers who post offensive or controversial materials in order to start flame wars. It is always best to ignore these types of posts.

  • Always keep others in mind, and remember that one’s written words represent one online.

  • Be safe by not giving out too much personal information. In turn, do not immediately ask someone a personal question, such as location or age, before getting to know them in the conversation. Anyone could be writing messages, so be aware that you may be talking to someone of any age, sex, and culture.

  • Always introduce yourself when entering a chat room. As in real life, when entering a room, it is common manners to introduce oneself.

E-mail Etiquette

  • Even though an e-mail is normally directed towards one person or a group of people, always remember that anything you write can be made public or shared with others. It is important to keep this in mind when composing an e-mail.

  • Do not forward chain e-mails or e-mails containing hoaxes. These types of e-mails are seen as a nuisance and can cause the receiver to worry that you may forward future potentially harmful e-mails.

  • Proof-read and spell check your e-mails before sending. Once again, these e-mails can be made public and could reflect poorly on the sender of the e-mail.

  • Always write a subject line for an e-mail. The subject line not only tells the reader what the e-mail will be about, but also gives them clues as to whether or not it is a spam e-mail. Without a proper subject line, your e-mail may not be opened by the recipient.

  • Limit the length of the subject line of an e-mail. The subject should be concise and not waste time getting to the purpose of the e-mail.

  •  Be aware when you use the “reply to all” button when using your e-mail account. Accidentally replying to all of the e-mails in an inbox instead of just one can cause confusion of the recipients and some might even become offended depending on the content.

Helping and Respecting Others Online

  • Always be respectful. Use constructive criticism instead of bluntly typing negative things. This can help prevent the receiver from becoming offended and be able to more clearly understand the message.

  • Social media should be treated as carefully as an e-mail. Although it is possible to change the security settings on the social media network, as with e-mail a message, post, or picture can be forwarded to anyone.

  • Respect copyrights. Always use quotes when using material that someone else has spoken or written, and give credit to all content that is not one’s own.

  • Be careful when using sarcasm. Sarcasm is much harder to pick up on in typed online conversations as the reader does not hear voice tone. Using emoticons can help, but often it is better to avoid it altogether to avoid confusion.

  • Be aware of joke or playful humor when e-mailing others, especially those from another region that may not understand certain types of humor. Emotions are hard to infer from typed words.

  • Emoticons can be used to substitute non-verbal behavior. Find a list of common emoticons and use in online conversations to help others understand the mood of the conversation better.

  • Always try to help better others' experience online by sharing your knowledge.

Below are some educational links to help one learn more about online etiquette:

What is Netiquette?

School Netiquette

Business Netiquette International

Internet Culture: Chatroom Etiquette

Netiquette for Kids

E-mail Netiquette

Netiquette: Tips for Writing Online Messages

Emoticons: E-mail Body Language

Purdue OWL’s E-mail Etiquette

Why Observe Netiquette?