All human interactions involve emotions. What makes online communication so difficult, is the absence of emotional cues like body language, tone, or facial expressions. Humans instinctively replace this lack of information by looking for other hints and most of them are found in the way you express yourself in your writing.
The following netiquette rules point out the pitfalls of online communication and explain how you can use netiquette to your advantage.
1. Research Before Asking
When you’re about to ask a question online, please do a little bit of research first. Chances are that someone had the exact same question, asked it online, received an answer, and the whole thing was indexed by your favorite search engine. So instead of making someone else search Google for you, just do it yourself. You may of course ask your question, if you couldn’t find anything relevant or if you couldn’t make sense of it.
If you fail to adhere to this rule, you may well find yourself forwarded to this page one day.
By the way, searching Google is the secret weapon of many geeks, just have a look at How People See Me When I Fix Their Computers (Geeky Fun).
2. Use Subject Lines Properly
Most of us suffer from information overload and we use subject lines to scan and evaluate the content of an email or forum post. If you want us to open and read your message, use a relevant and descriptive subject line that adequately describes the content of your message. Single keywords don’t work, but something like ‘need help with setting up email filtering in Outlook‘ gives a good idea what the request may be about.
3. Be Brief
So you were lucky and the recipient of your message decided to open and read your post. What they find then is a single paragraph of a thousand words, which, in the worst of cases, lacks punctuation. Frustration!
Again, you can make it easy for people to scan your message and quickly reply. Use short sentences. Pack them into short paragraphs of no more than 5 sentences. Actually, try to keep your message as brief as 5 short sentences – and please stay on topic!
4. Spell Check & Proof Read
We are all human, so we all misspell words or make typos. That’s what spell checkers are for. Please use them.
Proof reading, on the other hand, is something you have to do manually. It helps you notice missing words, bad grammar, typos that change the meaning of a word and are thus not caught by your spell checker, e.g. use vs. sue, or missing punctuation, which can change the meaning of an entire sentence, e.g. “Let’s eat, Grandpa.” vs. “Let’s eat Grandpa.”
Above all, a well written message with proper spelling and punctuation is a pleasure to read and makes you look competent.
5. DO NOT SHOUT
Typing in all CAPITALS or UPPER CASE letters, is the written equivalent of yelling or shouting. Obviously, shouting at someone is very rude. So please turn off the CAPS LOCK when communicating in writing online. If for some reason you cannot turn it off, do mention it to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
6. Use Emoticons
It’s very difficult to express emotions in writing. Hence, use emoticons to indicate disappointment :( or a joke ;) or other feelings in your messages. Emoticons can help to avoid misunderstandings.
Not only should you learn to use them, you should also learn to read them. I have dedicated an entire article to the topic: 15 Popular Codes For Smiley Faces & Their Meanings
7. Be Courteous
Remember that there is a human being on the other side of the screen, too. They deserve to be treated with respect and courtesy, just as you would like to be treated. Moreover, everything you do online is on record and can haunt you for years to come.
They say the Internet never forgets. If you are smart, you will use this in your favor! Respect standard etiquette, follow the rules, help newbies, become an expert for a specific topic, and generously share your knowledge. These are just a few tips to keep a clean slate and make your online communications a bliss.
Need more netiquette guiding? Check out these resources:
We also covered etiquette on other subjects, see the pages and tools profiled on the MakeUseOf Directory:
- International Etiquette Guide: Learn Etiquette & Manners Of Other Countries
- TravelEtiquette: Travel Etiquette Tips For Worldwide Travel
- Etiquette Survival Guide: Get Etiquette tips & advice regarding various situations
- YouParkLikeAnAsshole: Learn & Educate Others Car Parking Etiquette
What is your pet peeve in online interactions with others? Or do you happen to be a deliberate offender regarding any of the netiquette rules above? What is your reason?