As use of the Internet expands into every aspect of people’s lives, from emailing pals and coworkers to scheduling job interviews and doctor appointments, many of us have become complacent and tossed proper etiquette aside. This is unfortunate and may create problems if we don’t learn a few basic rules. Internet etiquette, also known as “Netiquette,” is essential in a civilized work environment or personal relationship.
The first rule of Internet etiquette is to be nice. Never flame or rant in a public forum. Show respect for the opinions of others, even if you don’t agree, and refrain from name-calling. Avoid saying anything negative about others.
Never say anything negative about your company, your former company, your boss, or your coworkers. You never know what may wind up being forwarded, whether it’s intentional or an accidental slip of the finger on the “send” button. If you are unsure of anything you’ve typed, hold it in draft mode and read it later before releasing the email or post.
Being nice includes avoiding cyber bullying. Think about how you would feel if someone said whatever you just typed about you. If you find it the least bit disturbing, delete it. Cyber bullying may lead to disaster if a despondent person perceives he or she is being threatened.
Learn Internet Acronyms
As communication on the Internet explodes, so does the use of acronyms.
Learn what they mean so you won’t misunderstand messages and comments.
Some of the most common acronyms include:
BTW - By the way
TTYL – Talk to you later
LOL – Laughing out loud
ROTFL – Rolling on the floor laughing
FWIW – For what it’s worth
POV - Point of view
B/C – Because
AYOR – At your own risk
B4N – Bye for now
DH – Dear husband
DF – Dear friend
EML – Email me later
JK – Just kidding
SFW – Safe for work
OIC - Oh I see
TYVM - Thank you very much
AFAIK - As far as I know
IIRC - If I recall correctly
For more Internet acronyms, see the Internet Slang Dictionary.
Keep Messages and Posts Brief
Most people use the Internet to save time, so honor that and keep all messages as brief as possible. If you have more to say, try breaking it up into smaller topics. This will force you to be more organized and enable the reader to digest the information in a more orderly manner.
Avoid using all caps in any email or post. Some people think that keeping the caps lock button on for the entire message will make it easier to read, while it actually does the opposite. It is not only difficult to read, it comes across as shouting, which is rude.
Whether you are sending email, instant messaging, commenting on Facebook, or posting a message to your blog, you need to remember that anything you put on the Internet can be there forever. Even if you remove the material, someone may have copied or saved it. One rule of thumb many people use is to never post anything you wouldn’t want your parents or boss to see.
Protect Personal Information
Since anything you post on the Internet is out there for all to see, avoid adding anything personal. This includes your address, phone number, social security number, and driver’s license information. You don’t want to make things easy for identity thieves, burglars, and predators.
Obey Copyright Laws
Never copy someone else’s work and post it as your own. It is against copyright law because it is considered stealing. It is always a good idea to ask permission before quoting anyone, but that isn’t always possible. If you want to quote someone, keep the quote short, cite the source, and put a link to the complete written work.
If you allow your children to access the Internet, make sure you know what sites they visit and who their “friends” are. Monitor all their Internet activity very closely. Not only should you protect your children from predators, you need to make sure they don’t post something that can come back to haunt them when they are seeking admission to college or looking for a job in the future.
Before You Click “Send”
It is always a good idea to reread anything you type before clicking the “send” button. If you have time, step away for a few minutes and come back to it with fresh eyes. If not, at least check your spelling, grammar, and tone of the message. If it is late at night, and you are extremely tired, it’s probably best to wait until the next morning. You can save most messages and posts in draft mode.
If someone appears to be new to the Internet, offer your assistance. Share information on proper etiquette, send them a link to a list of acronyms and emoticons, and offer to answer any questions until they get the hang of it. If you see that someone has posted something inappropriate, let him or her know privately. Never do anything to publicly embarrass anyone you know online.