Netiquette Rules for Electronic Communications

The following list is simple Netiquette Rules to follow for electronic communication with emails, newsgroups, online classrooms, and other Internet media. Communication using the Internet can reflect positively or negatively on the writer based on how the audience perceives what they read. Avoiding mistakes by using Netiquette Rules as part of a writer's style will help lead to professional results and avoiding embarrassing situations like the one described under double-checking the email address. Take the time to apply Netiquette Rules to your electronic message, and your writing will improve and help convince the audience that your electronic message is legitimate and worthwhile to read in today's fast-paced Internet world.

Spelling and Grammar

Always use good grammar and correct spelling. Poor grammar and miss-spelled words are unprofessional and reflect poorly on you and your message. A suggestion is to type your message or information into MS Word, apply the spell and grammar checker, make changes, then copy and paste the text to your communication source. Take the time to ensure your audience does not have to read a poorly written message with typos.

Netiquette Top 10 List

  1.  Spelling and grammar!
  2.  The YOU attitude!
  3.  Get to the point!
  4.  Proofread!
  5.  Use good tone!
  6.  Double check the address!
  7.  Attach in Adobe PDF!
  8.  Messages are permanent!
  9.  Respond promptly!
  10.  Be professional at all times!

The You Attitude

When communicating in the business world, avoid using "me" or "I" with your message. Business messages should be about the reader and not the writer. Talk about the other person and use the word "you" and "your" in your message. After all, it is a "me" world out there and that is what your business audience wants to hear about--themselves and not you. There are exceptions to this rule like in online classrooms and Web sites; however, business writing requires the "you" attitude at all times while sending emails, memos, and letters.

Write Concisely

Get to the point. Follow the concept of concise writing and do not ramble on with unnecessary words. Only write what is necessary so your audience can quickly read your message and move on. People have many other emails and Web sites to read, and if you write senseless words leading to a long email or electronic message, people might click out early and move on to their next reading.

Proofread

Always proofread your message! You do not have the opportunity to use body language while communicating over the Internet, and people may miss-interpret your message if you do not write with good tone. Do not write messages that are confrontational, rude, foul mouthed, or All Caps (MEANS SHOUTING!). A good suggestion is to read aloud your message to ensure it is a polite and courteous communication for your audience.

Use Good Tone

Good tone is critical with electronic writing. The wrong words can leave a bad impression and upset the reader--especially with emails and in online classrooms. It is easy to sound bossy and unprofessional with persuasive messages, and since most situations are asynchronous, you do not have the opportunity to immediately respond or allow the audience to see body language or hear the tone of your voice. Always check your writing to ensure it is polite and neutral regarding requests and conveying information. An email with good tone can accomplish much more than one that is overbearing and with the "me" attitude. Remember, the "you" attitude is a good way to convey your messages with good tone.

Double Check Email Address

With email programs, it is easy to send a message to the wrong email address. This happened to a colleague recently, and he lost a lucrative account with my company over the incident. He did not like something I did, and lashed out at me to another colleague (with intentions of doing so behind my back) via email. The message inadvertently ended up in my email box and revealed his true attitude towards my company and me. Consequently, I am no longer his customer. Before clicking the send button, always check the email address of the recipient.

Electronic Writing


Keep File Sizes Small

People do not want to wait for long downloads. Even with today's high-speed connections, large files sizes are annoying and will cause the person downloading the message to abort. If you know your file size is large, be sure to convert the file to a PDF format prior to attaching the file. Always convert long documents, large graphics, and pictures to PDF format to ensure the file size is reasonable and downloads quickly--especially for those who do not have fast connection speeds. If you do not want to convert pictures to PDF, optimize them using Photoshop or another image program.

Internet Messages are Permanent

The above story about a colleague leads to another point about the Internet. Be careful what you write! Sometimes it is best to keep thoughts to yourself because the Internet is a permanent record of what you send. You cannot retract or delete messages or posts (in most cases), so if you do not want your message read by the wrong people, you probably should communicate your message using another media and avoid sending it electronically.

Be Respectful

Respond to other people's messages promptly, and if they ask for a return acknowledgement or receipt of an email, give it to them! Be polite, friendly, and professional at all times. Many of these rules imply respect for the reader; the Internet is a permanent message and reflects on you as a person. Use these rules to your advantage by thinking about your message and who reads it. The Internet can be a great tool for building a good reputation and respect from your peers.

Be Professional at All Times

Avoid getting into arguments in chat rooms, online classrooms, or with emails. This happens often and is a result of the ease of sending a message while upset, and out of spite or revenge. Since the other person is not present, people often use the power of electronic writing to vent or lash out at each other. If you become upset at a person, do not respond electronically until you have had time to put the issue into perspective. Remember, electronic messages are permanent. Do not put yourself in a position with an unprofessional message you may regret later. It may come back to haunt you!

Summary

The number one reason people go to the World Wide Web is to read. Therefore, following simple Netiquette Rules for electronic writing is critical to a well-received message. You can make a positive or negative impression on those who read your electronic communication. The choice is yours. While communicating electronically, people often never meet each other in person, and this may be the only way you are perceived. Use good writing skills and follow these Netiquette Rules to make a lasting positive impression, and you will gain respect and people will look forward to reading your messages. And remember, it is just as easy to create a poor impression if you do not follow Netiquette Rules, so take the time to communicate effectively over the Internet. You will be glad you did later!

Netiquette Rules by Mark C. Frank © 2007