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netiquette rulesNetiquette is short for network or internet etiquette. It encompasses the special set of social conventions found in online interactions. While netiquette rules are very similar to good behavior or etiquette in offline encounters, there are subtle differences that can easily make or break a good impression.

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.

netiquette rules


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.

netiquette guidelines

Above all, a well written message with proper spelling and punctuation is a pleasure to read and makes you look competent.


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.

netiquette guidelines

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.

netiquette guidelines

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 15 Popular Codes For Smiley Faces & Their Meanings 15 Popular Codes For Smiley Faces & Their Meanings Read More

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.

netiquette rules

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:

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?

Image credits: JPagetRFphotos, Olaru Radian-Alexandru, SFerdon, Yayayoyo, James Thew

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  2. Joe Lavery
    August 2, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    #9 Reduce top posting.  I cannot respond to 'pls answer questions below'.  Sender should summarize in their current post and when possibly clean up lower posts. 

  3. Jeffery Fabish
    August 2, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Fantastic post!

    +#8 - Add specifications and or details 

    Nothing worse than posts saying "It won't work". Thanks, I somehow figured that out when I clicked on support forum (:

    • Cell Travis
      August 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm

      Yes, I agree. Those "jumping the gun" kinds of posts can be annoying, to say the least, triggering off a series of on-topic & off-topic impulse reactions of their own.