The Art of Netiquette

What is “Netiquette”?

Netiquette is a neologism for Network Etiquette or E-mail Etiquette – the do’s and don’ts of online communication.  By observing a few basic guidelines, the “rules of the road” of Netiquette will guide you with ease wherever your cyberspace journeys may take you.

The following is a list of some of the more common rules associated with Netiquette to help you effectively communicate with others electronically.

1 –Do not type in all caps:  Writing in all caps denotes YELLING or SCREAMING online.  It’s difficult to read, and those who succumb to all caps are considered lazy.

2 –Do not leave the subject-field blank:  Fill the Subject: field blank with a concise description of the content of your e-mail.  Terms such as Hi, Help, or Please may be construed as spam and the recipient may delete your email before opening it.

3 –Avoid colored text and backgrounds in your day to day correspondences:  Too often colored text or textured backgrounds are difficult to read.  Your goal is to create a flow of communication, not frustration – so if you feel inclined to indulge, use sparingly.  

4 –When sending a group message, list recipients e-mail addresses in the BCC field: As a courtesy to those you are sending a message to, put their addresses in the BCC field to hide and protect them from the view of others.  Long lists of e-mail addresses at the beginning of an email are not only irritating, but convey the message that the sender doesn’t respect the privacy of others.

5 –Resist the temptation to forward chain letters, virus warnings, or dumb jokes:  Not everyone may enjoy your sense of humor or, indeed, have the time to read jokes.  And no one, I repeat: No One, wants to receive a chain letter.  In addition, virus warnings received from others are generally hoaxes (check out: for updates for virus alerts and hoaxes).

6 –Research a website for information by reading the “Frequently Asked Questions” section: Before asking a question, read the FAQ’s or messages posted by others.  If you don’t take the time to peruse the site and inquire about something posted in the FAQ, you are not only wasting other people’s time, you may be ignored.

7 –All private e-mail is considered to be copyrighted by the original author: It’s considered bad taste to post an e-mail that someone may have sent, unless you have explicit permission to do so.  Respect other people’s privacy and ask before you post.

8 –Remember the human: When you’re holding a conversation online, via email or responding to a discussion group posting, it’s possible to misinterpret your correspondents meaning.  It’s just as easy to forget there is a person with feelings on the other side of the screen.  Remember to think before you post and ask yourself: Would I say this to the person’s face? – then respond accordingly. 

9 –Know where you are in cyberspace: When entering a new domain, become acquainted with the site first.  Read the archives and listen to online chats before deciding if you want to actively participate. 

10 –Share expert knowledge: Don’t be afraid to share what you know.  If you’ve researched and written up a project that may be of interest to others, post it.  Sharing knowledge is a long-standing tradition on the net, and makes the world a better place. 

For more information, check out:

The Core Rules of Netiquette, Virginia Shea

Netiquette Matters !, Judith Kallos (for companies interested in implementing Netiquette)



--The Writing Center thanks Emma Rainey for contributing this handout.