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Netiquette primarily involves any communication you may send out or receive from the net.

The Internet has made it possible for people all around the world to connect with each other in meaningful ways. Despite what you might hear about the net being anarchic, in fact there are rules. The rules are simply guidelines to make net life more pleasant for everyone. They attempt to take into account the fact that everyone uses the net in different ways and for different purposes, and that in order to accommodate the millions of people who use the net regularly, some guidance for acceptable use is necessary. These rules are called Netiquette.

  • Look good and make sense. For most of us there aren't too many ways of making yourself look silly in front of hundreds of people, but sending a badly spelled, grammatically incorrect, thoughtlessly put together e-mail message is one. E-mail can be a spontaneous form of communication, and to some extent the form of the message will depend on where you are sending it. It probably won't matter if a quick note to a friend has a spelling mistake or two, but if you are involved in a project with others, your message represents not only you, but any organization you may be representing, and you will want to make sure that your message looks good and contains accurate, worthwhile information.

  • Spelling and grammar are not the only important things. In cyberspace your only method of communication is by writing, and you may never meet any of the people you are communicating with face to face. So like it or not, you will be judged by the quality of your writing. You don't have to be literary, but you do have to be clear and intelligible. Use mixed case, UPPER CASE LOOKS AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING UPPER CASE LOOKS AS IF YOU'RE SHOUTING.

  • Mail should have a subject header that reflects the content of the message. If you are writing to a newsgroup or mail list on a new subject, start a new email from "scratch", don't reply to an existing email and change the heading -- it will mess up the "threading".

  • Unsolicited e-mail advertising is unwelcome (and forbidden in many countries).

  • When attaching files, don't send any larger than about 50k. In many situations (certain mail lists, certain news groups, no attachments are acceptable. Read the mail list first, ask if you can't tell for sure.

  • Keep your communications to the point. Try to be as concise as possible. In cyberspace, longer is not necessarily better. The great joy of e-mail is the ability to communicate rapidly and easily, which means short, to-the-point messages except in exceptional circumstances. To keep messages short, use some common abbreviations:

    • A <g> enclosed in brackets indicates grinning.
    • <bg> enclosed in brackets indicates a big grin.
    • <vbg> enclosed in brackets indicates a very big grin.

Click on the link below for a page of Acronyms not in brackets.


  • If you are going to answer a question try to make sure that you are giving accurate information, even if it means going away and checking. Try not to answer questions where you have only a vague idea of the answer. If you give an uncertain answer, try to express your uncertainty.

  • If your Internet access is through a corporate account, check with your employer about their policy regarding private e-mail. You might as well know: (1) most of them feel they have the right (and can back it up legally) to review any email you send or receive, and (2) most of them are not tolerant of bandwidth abuses, especially because they can get in trouble if you, for example, copy things illegally.

  • Don't assume any Internet communication is completely secure. "Never put in a mail message anything you would not put on a postcard". Likewise, independently verify any suspect mail, as addresses can be forged. There are a lot of complicated issues to do with privacy on the net, and no matter how many times guides like this talk about your right to privacy, not everyone behaves as ethically as might be hoped. Electronic networks are different than the ordinary mail system, you can probably tell if someone has opened a letter addressed to you, but it's unlikely that you would realise if someone had read one of your e-mail messages. It is possible for people to intercept e-mail, for both legitimate and illegitimate purposes. For example, the system administrators of your network might well have the ability to read your e-mail. People have been sued for libel because of what they wrote in an e-mail message, so it pays to be careful.

  • If you are forwarding or re-posting a message, don't change the original wording. If you are replying to a message, quote only the relevant parts. This can be a little tricky, but it really does help the reader(s). (See the note above about starting a new thread from scratch if you start a new subject -- don't reply to an existing email and change the header.)

  • Never send chain letters, they are forbidden on the Internet. If you are at your job, notify you System Administrator if you receive one. Never send (or resend) letters promoting pyramid schemes.

  • Do not send abusive or heated messages (flames). If you receive a flame, it is best to ignore it.

  • Take care with addressing mail.

  • Allow time for mail to be received, and replied to, keeping in mind time differences around the world and other people's busy schedules. Some mail lists and news groups can take hours or days before a message is resent (in other words, before you can tell that it was sent).

  • Even the most high tech cables have a limit to the amount of information they can carry, so you need to remember that there are physical limits to cyberspace. As a responsible netizen it is part of the deal that you make an effort not to waste bandwidth. Not every one can connect into the Internet from school or business, many people have Internet accounts at home which means they have to pay for them. So while it may not cost you anything to send a long, rambling post, it might cost the recipient money to receive it. And, people in other countries often cannot get deals for unlimited Internet access -- many pay by the minute for connection time, which is why they: (1) don't want attachments on newsgroups or mail lists (or on unsolicited commercial or personal email), (2) don't want HTML formatted mail (that's one reason), (3) do want you to "If you are replying to a message, quote only the relevant parts."

  • Remember the Internet is a global community, and other people's values and outlook on life may be different to your own. Be tolerant and careful with slang or phrases that may not be understood in another country.

  • Don't use HTML -- one reason was already discussed (bandwidth), other reasons are that it can be very difficult for someone else to read, whether their mail reader can display it properly or not. If it can display it properly, it may be in odd colors or sizes (not necessarily the sizes you sent) or display with HTML tags. If you send mail in plain text, it will appear on their machines in their preferred size and color.

  • Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express are capable of and are the primary carriers of viruses and so forth. Among other things, they encourage other newbies to use them also, which just contributes to the problem. If you must use Outlook or Outlook Express, practice safe "Internetting" -- use protection, (keep your antivirus program updated weekly). Also be sure to check regularly with Microsoft's website for any critical updates that will need to be downloaded and installed for Microsoft Outlook or Microsoft Outlook Express.

  • Setup any automatic e-mail notifications carefully. Some e-mailers allow you to set up an automatic out of office e-mail notification -- if an e-mail comes in while the software thinks the "owner" is on vacation, it automatically sends a notice back to the e-mail sender that the addressee of the original mail is out of the office (perhaps with an indication of when you will be back in the office). There are few things that makes you look more (pompous | arrogant | inconsiderate | stupid) than when your automatic e-mail responder sends an out of office notification to a mail list or newsgroup that you've subscribed to, which is then forwarded to each subscriber on the list. (This may also get sent to you again because you are part of the newsgroup, and may then be resent to everyone on a newsgroup and forms an unending loop of e-mails.) If you can't find any other way to handle the problem, unsubscribe from those mail lists or newsgroups before you "enable" your automatic out of office e-mail notification. Or, get a separate e-mail address for your mail list and news group subscriptions, and don't set up an auto responder on that e-mail address. Of course, if you do accidentally do this, just apologize and get on with your life (but take steps to not let it happen again).

  • Consider carefully before top posting. (Maybe an advanced subject that requires some explanation -- here's a start.) Usually when responding to a posting on a newsgroup or mail list, you quote some part of the original post and put your comment or response below that. Many "inhabitants" of newsgroups or mail lists believe any other approach (like posting comments above the original post) is a grievous sin. Actually, I occasionally top post intentionally -- on the rare occasions when I have a comment that is not specific to any specific part of the original post, I will sometimes put the comment at the top of my response, and quote only enough of the original post so that someone reading the post gets the gist of what I am responding to. I like it because I don't have to scroll down to read such top posts, but it only works when the comment is truly generic enough that it doesn't have to be in the context of a specific statement in the original post.

Netiquette isn't something you learn overnight; so don't let your fear of not knowing cyber-protocol hold you back.


  • <If you edit this page: add your name here; move this to the next line; and include your comment marker (initials), if you have created one, in parenthesis before your WikiName.>

[[Main.ValHaring#01 Aug 2002][]]

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