10 Tips to Ensure You're Using Good Netiquette

How strong is your “netiquette?”

Netiquette refers to your Internet etiquette, or the way you behave online and on social media. Because the majority of online communication is completely non-verbal, you cannot see or use facial expressions or tone of voice to back what you are typing. Thus, something said sarcastically or tongue-in-cheek can be taken literally, creating serious social problems.

Also, the things you do and say online can come back to haunt you when you are ready to look for a professional position, because nothing posted on the web is completely private.

So how can you practice good netiquette? Here are some tips to help make your online communication clearer, more polite, and more professional:

1. Be Cautious with Sarcasm

Even if you have a sarcastic personality, be very cautious using it online. People cannot read your tone of voice or facial expressions, so that sarcasm is lost when you’re typing. In fact, sarcastic comments have ruined friendships and caused serious disagreements online, all when the issue at hand was not actually something worth arguing over.

2. Never Send Spam

You hate junk emails. So do your classmates. You hate spammy posts circulated on social media. So do your classmates. Before forwarding or posting something, verify the source as credible. Stop circulating the chain letters and rumors that make the Internet a time waster.

3. Use Good Grammar

Yes, it may just be a forum post, but if it’s filled with typos and poor grammar, it may reflect poorly on you as a student and future professional. Use proper language whenever possible, and avoid casual abbreviations (lol, ttyl, brb) that could be misunderstood or misinterpreted by some.

4. Consider your email address

From the address and subject line, your emails should reflect a high level of professionalism. The email address you use should be free of nicknames, slang, or strange spellings. Consider separate addresses for personal and professional use. 

5. Avoid the Temptation to Over Share

Discussion forums can offer a chance to share your learning experiences with fellow classmates, as well as your instructor, but remember these are platforms for thoughtful, academic conversations.

Avoid posting personal information — like off-topic information about your day — or questions about your course performance that would be better suited to a direct email to your instructor.

6. Don’t Type in ALL CAPS

In online communication, ALL CAPS is considered yelling. This is not a way to emphasize what you are saying. It is rude and can be considered offensive. If you need to emphasize something, use italics or bold typeface instead of all caps.

7. Practice the Golden Rule

When you are online, remember to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat people the way you would like to be treated, and you will avoid quite a number of potential problems. Remember, on the other side of that computer screen is a real person with thoughts and feelings just like you, so talk to them with kindness.

8. Return Messages Promptly

If someone sends you an email or an online message, send them a response quickly. If you cannot send a thorough reply, at least acknowledge that you received the message. People often wonder if their messages went through when they send them online, so when you send an acknowledgment they will have peace of mind that their message did, in fact, get received.

9. Respect the Privacy and Rights of Others

If you have someone’s permission to share their words, then do so, but remember that people’s words are their own property. Do not forward personal emails or share statuses without the original person’s permission. If you know information about someone, do not share it online without asking them first.

10. Identify Yourself

Identify yourself in online communications, like email. Let the recipient know who you are. Don’t forget to sign the email at the end. Treat the email with the same professionalism you would use with a written communication.

The power of the Internet has created a world where communication takes place through a screen, rather than in person. It’s critical that you practice good manners and have your netiquette in hand every time you go online and interact with people.

For more tips for online students, explore the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Online Learning Blog, or follow us on Facebook — don't forget to choose "see first."

About this Author
Hope has worked with online students for more than five years, telling their stories and sharing tips for succeeding as an online student.

Keep Exploring

Previous Blog Post

 Before you’ve even started cramming for that final exam, the prospect of graduation sets in motion a series of events that will hopefully lead to a job offer or promotion.

Hope Aucoin is pictured outside in a white collared shirt with black spots.
Next Blog Post

No first day of class looks the same for University of Louisiana at Lafayette online students.

Hope Aucoin is pictured outside in a white collared shirt with black spots.