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Netiquette Guide

Core Rules

The following rules should be considered in all communication via online/virtual methods. This includes class discussion forums, emails to college personnel or other students, and in virtual lecture chat feeds.

For class-specific guidelines, please reference the syllabus, any identified course policies in Moodle, or the instructions for individual assignments.

Rule 1: Remember the Human

The golden rule of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” should be applied in all communication formats. Before you click ‘send’ and put words out that you can’t reel back in, consider how you would feel if someone else had written it. Remember to be careful – once a message is sent you have no control over what a recipient may do with it.

Rule 2: Adhere to the Same Standards of Behavior Online as You Should in Real Life

Strive to adhere to the laws and ethical standards of ‘the real world’ when interacting, responding, and posting online. Most of the time people do not behave rude or obscenely in-person – it should be the same when online.

Rule 3: Know Where You Are in Cyberspace

“There is a time and place for everything” is a familiar saying to most. Individuals should always consider who the audience or recipient of their message will be and use that as a guide for their structure, tone, and verbiage. The way you speak to a close friend or your peers will likely vary from how you should speak to an instructor or potential employer.

Rule 4: Respect Other People’s Time and Bandwidth

We live in a technology-centric world now where everyone sends and receives digital messages regularly. Considering this it should be your goal to communicate in a concise and to-the-point manner. Avoid redundant messages, using the “reply all” function when it’s not necessary, and avoid irrelevant graphics or images attachments/signatures.

Rule 5: Make Yourself Look Good Online

A great aspect to communicating virtually is the absence of judgement related to characteristics such as physical appearance or clothing, the sound of your voice or accent, etc. It’s obvious that this type of anonymity empowers individuals whether that is a positive or negative aspect of the online world. The aspect you will be judged on though is the quality of your writing. Therefore, consider the following any time you compose something:

  • Be polite and cordial
  • Use correct spelling and grammar – proofread for errors as you go
  • Stay on topic and keep your posts relevant to the conversation (i.e. in a discussion forum)

Rule 6: Share Expert Knowledge

The internet was originally created to facilitate and promote the sharing of information among scientists. Because of this every person should feel comfortable sharing their knowledge when it is appropriate and applicable. If you ask a question and get multiple responses then take the time to compile all of those answers together and re-post for everyone’s consideration. Similarly, if you find a suitable website or online resource that could assist others, consider sharing that information (within the context of the discussion forum or assignment’s instructions).

Rule 7: Help Keep Flame Wars Under Control

Disagreements are not uncommon in online social forums. Disagreements that escalate however can involve very heated and sometimes angry responses – on social media and online forums this kind of back-and-forth may be called a “flame war” (where antagonistic comments are posted to spark more comments). To forward the process of instruction however, it’s up to everyone in a discussion to promote civility and redirect a stream of comments that detour from the initial question or discussion seed.

Rule 8: Respect Other People’s Privacy

Interacting with others on the internet may foster a sense of anonymity depending on the setting. Always respect the fact that others are sharing private information with you that you should respect and not share locally or otherwise. Similarly, don’t disclose information about yourself that is comprising or details that you would not share in a public group otherwise.

Rule 9: Don’t Abuse Your Power

Be mindful that there are individuals in online environments with expertise and training that goes beyond the average user. Depending on the scenario this may actually be you. If you are a new user always be respectful and cautious of new interactions. Likewise, if you are a user with “power” that does not make it acceptable to abuse others through your abilities.

Rule 10: Be Forgiving of Other People’s Mistakes

Everyone is “new” at some point in their online journey. Regardless of your experience it’s considered good practice to be forgiving of others who display poor netiquette or don’t follow posted instructions. On a related note, being knowledgeable about a subject or knowing proper netiquette is not a license to correct other individuals at every turn.

Remember to apply the concept of “praise in public and correct in private” if you are in a position to correct or advise someone.

*These rules were adapted from The Core Rules of Netiquette Shea, V. (1994). Core rules of netiquette. Netiquette (Online ed., pp. 32-45). San Francisco: Albion Books