Teamail Guide to Netiquette
Or: How to be a good 'netizen
'Net newbies, start here and you'll never make a cyber faux-pas.
The Internet surely brings people together -- all kinds of people from all over the world, of many ages, cultures, and backgrounds. This may be the best feature of the 'net! But wherever you have a group of people -- whether in person or across cyberspace -- it is important to respect the protocols of behaviour set by that group. That's where netiquette -- etiquette for the Internet -- comes in.
As a general rule, you should simply behave as courteously and considerately towards on-line acquaintances as you would to any "real" person you might meet. There are, however, certain situations you will encounter only on-line. Here are some guidelines for getting along within the cyber community, including email lists, person-to-person email, newsgroups, chat rooms, and other forms of communication.
- Don't get attached. Do not send unsolicited attachments to email messages. This is especially important on an email list. There are many Internet browsers and email software types, numerous operating systems, and multiple versions of most software. Any of these may not be able to read attachments from the configuration you are using. At best it means that the person(s) you are sending it to can't view it; at worst it can cause serious problems for their emailing system, such as not being able to open the message it is attached to. Additionally, many people will not open attachments of any kind for fear of introducing a virus to their system. Before sending an attachment, ask if it's okay. On a mailing list, this means contacting the list administrator. (Teamail™ does not permit attachments of any kind.)
- NO NEED TO SHOUT! Using all UPPER CASE letters is considered shouting, and many people take great exception to materials in this format. It's true that it's easier to leave the Caps Lock key on as you keyboard so you don't have to change between upper and lower case letters. But if you plan to spend any time at all communicating in cyberspace, it's a wise idea to invest some time learning good (or at least passable :) keyboarding skills. To emphasize a particular word or phrase, do not CAPITALIZE IT but rather surround it with asterisks *, the symbol normally located on the Shift-6 key. *This is a very important point!*
- Be neat and small. Clean up your messages before sending replies. It's not necessary to re-send the entire message you are responding to. If your email or newsgroup software is set up so the full message is copied when you select Reply, be sure to delete all text that does not immediately relate to your own message. Remember that everyone else has already read the original message, so they don't need to receive the whole thing again. If you want your readers to be reminded of part(s) of the original message, quote only enough of it to get the idea across. Delete everything else, including signatures and footers. Why? First, because larger messages take longer to download and open on the recipient's system. Second, long copies are very frustrating for people who get their list messages in digest format (see the Teamail™ FAQ for information on digests) because they have to scroll through it all and search for your response. Cleaning up your messages takes only a few extra moments. If you are in doubt about whether to keep or delete any text from a prior message, get rid of it.
- Remember the "Golden Rule." Behind every email address is a real person, with feelings, just like yourself. Treat each one with courtesy and respect. If you disagree with something that has been said, feel free to question or comment or present your viewpoint. But keep it civil. Do not make nasty or unpleasant remarks. Consider your words carefully. Before clicking the Send button, re-read your message. Would you say this to someone else's face? How would you feel if you received a message like this? If someone makes a personal attack on you, try to ignore it (remember that not everyone knows the rules of netiquette -- or of plain human etiquette). Do not escalate the situation by responding in kind. This is called flaming, and is considered quite uncivilized behaviour. (See the Teamail™ FAQ for what to do if you feel that someone on the list has been rude to you.) Also bear in mind that U.S. and international laws, including libel and slander laws, do apply to cyberspace -- and that it's easier to trace an anonymous or forged message than you might think. Not only that, but once anything -- text, image, video, etc. -- is online, it's there forever. It can be reproduced in places you never thought of, and viewed by people you never expected to see it. Don't let your words come back to haunt you!
- Get cultured. The Internet brings together people of all ages, cultures, and expectations. It's very likely that a good number of the people you meet on-line will be very different from you, and they may not speak your language fluently. What's considered a joke in your neighbourhood might be an insult in someone else's culture. Always presume that the other person has good intentions and that there has simply been a miscommunication. Ask politely for clarification. You (or the other person) may learn something!
- Know your place. Each online venue -- mailing list, newsgroup, social networking site, or chat room has a "personality." What may be acceptable in one community can be considered quite unacceptable in another. Read the messages other people are posting. If the group publishes a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) or list of rules, read it. Once you have a feeling for where you are and how to act to fit in, go ahead and participate.
- Count you in? Avoid posting "Me, too" messages. If you can't contribute something more to the discussion at the moment, wait until you can. Each message you send must be trafficked, stored, downloaded, and read. Unless you're in a chatty-type group where they're acceptable, avoid sending short messages that don't add new content ("I like that too," "Nice post," and "That sounds like fun" are examples of chattiness.) Your readers will appreciate it :-).
- Be thankful -- in advance. If you're posting a request for information, add the notation "thanks in advance" or "TIA" to your message. Then when someone (or many ones) answer your question in a reply post, you won't have to then post a thank you -- in other words, you won't be sending yet another tiny message that others have to open and read. Of course, if someone is extremely helpful or does a personal favour for you, it's courteous to acknowledge the effort by sending a thank you message direct to that person.
- Express yourself! When you're speaking with someone in person or on the telephone, you can see facial expressions and hand gestures, and hear tones and inflections that indicate the speaker's meaning. This personal touch is missing in email. It can be difficult to understand someone's else's intentions -- or to express your own -- in email, where words appear on a seemingly impersonal computer screen, and may have been written in haste. Remember that there are real people reading the messages. You can clarify your meaning with emoticons, little text symbols that express the meaning behind the words. The most common emoticons are :-) or :) for happy or "I meant that as a joke," :-( or :'-( for sad, ;-) for wink, :-o for surprise or shock, and :-D for laughing. (If these don't make sense, just bend your head a little to the left. :) Emoticons are created with simple keyboard symbols. You can also use words in brackets, such as <smile>, <grin>, <VBG> (very big grin), <blush>, or <grrrr>, or standard acronyms such as ROFL (rolling on the floor laughing) or IMHO (in my humble opinion). A few extra keyboard strokes can save a lot of misunderstanding :-).
- Avoid swelled heads :-). Are you sending your message to many individual addresses, or using a list of addresses from your address book? Or to multiple mailing lists and/or newsgroups? This is called spamming or "list spamming," and is not permitted in the Teamail™ community or on many other lists and groups. If you must send the same message at one time to multiple addresses, place the addresses or mailing list in the bcc: (blind copy) line rather than in the To: or Copy: line. This way your recipients won't have to scroll through a lengthy header made up of email addresses to find your message. And it's also a courtesy to the many people who do not wish to see their email addresses broadcast to a group of people they don't know. This also relates to ...
- Be courteous to your host(ess). It takes a lot of work to set up and maintain email lists, message boards, chat rooms, and other interactive communications forums. Out of respect for the owners of these forums, avoid promoting -- or even mentioning -- similar forums or lists, boards, etc. For example, if you subscribe to a list that discusses candy, it's considered impolite to post a message telling subscribers about other candy discussion lists -- just as you wouldn't walk into a candy shop and tell the other customers about a candy shop down the road. Using cc:s and To:s with multiple list names ("list spamming," see above), or copying a post from one list or board to another is likewise impolite. If you're unhappy with something about a list, message board, etc., either contact the owner/administrator to try and resolve the question, or simply unsubscribe and find a community that is more to your liking -- there are plenty out there, with something for every interest and personality. This goes back to simple common courtesy.
- Give credit where it's due. Respect copyrights and ownership of written materials and images you may find on websites, in newsgroups, in chat rooms, in mailing lists, and in personal correspondence. Do not copy information or images to any other place -- including sending to your friends or posting on your own website -- unless you have the written permission of the person who created and/or owns it. On websites, you will usually find a copyright notice or notice of ownership, along with an email address to contact for permissions. In newsgroups, chat rooms, and mailing lists, posted material is generally considered to be the property of the person who posted it. Do not repost or redistribute it anywhere else (online or off) without contacting the originator to request permission or before receiving his/her permission. (Don't presume that the owner will give you permission, because they may choose not to, so don't post while you're waiting.) Just because it's easy to copy and send or repost is neither reason nor excuse to exploit someone else's hard work and property rights. Even if it's something that you just know everyone will want to see, resist the urge. A much better solution is to include a link to the material. For example: "There's a great article at http://article.com." Your readers can then click the link and view the material if they choose.
- Respect the privacy of others. Do not use anyone else's email address for purposes of sales or solicitations of any kind unless they specifically request it. It's that simple.
All materials contained herein Copyright © 1997-2014 The Cat-Tea Corner/JPB unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Content may not be reproduced, in full or in part, in any format, online or off-line, electronically or in print, for any purpose, without prior written permission. For design or reprint information please contact the webmaster.