What is “Netiquette”?  Simply put it is “Internet Etiquette” or the conventions of politeness pertaining to e-mail and technology use.  As the Internet continues to evolve, so do the issues that impact the way we use it and interact with others.  It is important to recognize that online communication is different from that of the face-to-face world, with its own unique customs and practices. 

Basic E-mail Guidelines

  • Mail on the Internet is not secure.  Never include anything in an e-mail message that you would not want printed in the newspaper.  E-mail is sent unencrypted and is easily read.
  • Be careful if you send anything but plain text (also known as ASCII text) as e-mail.  Some recipients may use e-mail programs which cannot open e-mail messages composed in HTML or they may not be able to open the attached files that you try to send.
  • Be cognizant of the size of the e-mail messages and attachments that you send.  The recipient’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) may have limits regarding the size of attachments or mailbox quotas.  It might also take the recipient a long time to download your message if he/she does not have a high-speed Internet connection.  If you must send a large attachment try to compress it or zip it first.
  • Include a signature (an identifier that automatically appends to your e-mail message) that contains the method(s) by which others can contact you (usually your phone number, fax number, etc).
  • Do not request a “read receipt” for every e-mail message that you send.  Instead, save this for communication that is time-sensitive and/or requires a fast response.
  • Be sure to double-check the “To” and “From” fields prior to sending your message to make sure you are sending it to the intended recipients.
  • Do not type in ALL CAPS.  This denotes screaming or yelling.  Instead, use bold type or underline if you feel the need to emphasize your point.
  • Do not type in all lower case as this is seen as overly informal and unprofessional.
  • Remember that the recipient is a person with feelings.  Since they cannot see your non-verbal cues in an e-mail message you should try to be cautious about how your messages are worded.  When in doubt, ask a co-worker or friend to read it and tell you how they interpret its tone before you send it.
  • Be to the point without rudeness or being abrupt. It's a good idea to start a message with a "Hello" or "Hi".

Business E-mail Etiquette

  • Sending threatening, slanderous, insubordinate messages is strictly prohibited.
  • Sending racially and/or sexually harassing messages is strictly prohibited.
  • Pyramid schemes are illegal and should not be transmitted through e-mail.
  • The representation or you as someone else, real or fictional, or a message sent anonymously is prohibited.
  • Sayings or quotes attached to the signature line of an e-mail message or attached document could be perceived as an official University position.  Use discretion.
  • Watch punctuation and spelling.  It can reflect on your professionalism.  Use spell checking and grammar checking programs when possible.
  • For important items, let senders know you have received their e-mail, even if you cannot respond in-depth immediately.  They will appreciate knowing their message has been received and read.  It is best to try to respond to e-mail within one business day, even if it is just to acknowledge that you received the message.

Discussion Forums, Newsgroups and Listservs

  • Don’t be a “spammer” or you might get “flamed”.  When posting a message to an online forum or listserv, stick to the topic. Don't indiscriminately post unrelated comments or advertisements. This is known as spamming and it can lead to flaming, the practice of posting intentionally hostile or insulting messages.  The best response to being flamed is no response at all.
  • Use subject lines that are accurate. This piece of advice is especially true if you are sending a message that is commercial or that is asking people to spend money. (Instead of a subject line of "Chocolate in my office" says "School fundraiser: buy chocolate in my office.")  Do not leave the subject field blank.
  • If an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions, pronounced "fay-ai-queue" or "fak") exists, read it before asking a question. If you don't see one, look for it. This advice is especially true for news groups or discussion forums where people tend to be impatient with "newbies" who ask basic questions that are answered in the FAQ.

Chat and Instant Message

  • Use abbreviations when possible, but only if your reader will understand and if the e-communication is not formal. Abbreviations such as the following are used most often in chat sessions, less frequently in e-mail.

BTW By the way
IMHO In my humble opinion
LOL Laughing out loud
ROTFL Rolling on the floor laughing
BRB Be right back
BFN Bye for now

  • Smileys, or emoticons, can help convey your intention (for example, being humorous or sarcastic).  They have become such a standard part of Internet communication that you'll often seen an abbreviated version without the "nose" ( - ).  These are most commonly in online chat and informal e-mail messages.

:-) Happy 

:-e Disappointed

:-(  Sad 

:-< Mad

:-o  Surprised

:-D  Laughing

:-@ Screaming 

;-)  Winking

:-|  Indifferent


For more cyber-protocol tips, visit some of the sites listed below:

Netiquette 101:

Business E-mail Etiquette Basics:

Wikipedia – Netiquette:

Writers Write Internet Journal:

Learn the Net:

Netiquette Quiz:

Instant Messaging and Live Chat Etiquette Tips:

 Last Modified 11/8/16