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Indiana University Bloomington

Distance Education

Netiquette defined:

Some simple rules of netiquette:

Recommended netiquette resouces:

What is netiquette?

Simply stated, it's network etiquette -- that is, the etiquette of cyberspace. And "etiquette" means "the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life." In other words, netiquette is a set of rules for behaving and interacting properly online. 

Why is netiquette important?

Each culture, (and cyberspace has its own culture), operates under a system of rules that may not be explicitly stated but are expected and enforced all the same.  When you enter any new culture you're liable to commit a few social blunders unless you know the rules. You might offend people without meaning to. Or you might misunderstand what others say and take offense when it's not intended. 

The rules in cyberspace are intrinsically different than those of everyday life because cyberspace presents such a novel environment.  Gone are the gestures, facial expressions, voice tone, laughter, body language and other features of human non-verbal communication that help inform our understanding of others. 

To make matters worse, the logistics of communicating in cyberspace make it easy to forget that you're interacting with other real people -- not just ASCII characters on a screen, but live human beings. 

So, as a result of missing out on important non-verbal clues, forgetting that people online are still real, and not knowing the conventions, well-meaning cybernauts can make all kinds of mistakes and miscommunications. 

The "Simple Rules of Netiquette" and the explanations that follow them are offered here as a set of general guidelines for cyberspace behavior. They probably won't cover all situations, but they should give you some basic principles to use in communicating online.

Some Simple Rules of Netiquette:

General Rules

  1. Make your messages easier to read by making your paragraphs short and to the point.
  3. Messages in all lowercase letters can be difficult to read, instead, use normal capitalization.
  4. *Asterisks* surrounding a word can be used to make a stronger point.
  5. Use the underscore symbol before and after the title of a book, (i.e., _Green Eggs and Ham_ )
  6. Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Without face to face communications your joke may be viewed as criticism. When being humorous, use emoticons to express humor. (tilt your head to the left to see the emoticon smile)    :-) = happy face for humor
  7. Never give your userID or password to another person. System administrators that need to access your account for maintenance or to correct problems will have full priviledges to your account. 

Group Communication

  1. Respect the fact that the class list is a closed discussion; do not forward mail from your classmates to others without their permission. 
  2. In an online forum or newsgroup, debate is welcome, but be tactful in responding to others. Remember that there's a person (or a whole class) at the receiving end of your post. 
  3. Keep your questions and comments relevant to the focus of the discussion group.  Information intended for an individual or small group of individuals should be emailed to those people directly. 
  4. If you are responding to a message from someone else, briefly summarize her or his post. 
  5. When posting a question to the discussion group, request that responses be directed to you personally. Post a summary or answer to your question to the group. 
  6. If you quote a previous post (by using the reply function for example), quote only enough to make your own point.
  7. Include your signature at the bottom of Email messages when communicating with people who may not know you personally or broadcasting to a dynamic group of subscribers.
  8. Resist the temptation to "flame" others on the list. Remember that these discussions are "public" and meant for constructive exchanges. Treat the others on the list as you would want them to treat you.
  9. Use your own personal Email account, don't subscribe using a shared office account or a friend's account.

Individual Communication

  1. If you want to get in touch with only one person in the class, send a message to that individual's e-mail address, not to the entire discussion list. 
  2. When replying to a message posted to a discussion group, check the address to be certain it's going to the intended location (person or group). It can be very embarrassing if they reply incorrectly and post a personal message to the entire discussion group that was intended for an individual.