Netiquette: What does it mean and why it’s important

Netiquette. You may not have heard the word but you subscribe to it’s key rules everyday without realizing it.

Author Virginia Shea coined the term “netiquette” in her 1994 book of the same name. Netiquette – network etiquette – focuses on the ‘proper’ way to communicate online. Just as we have social norms and degrees of etiquette with in-person communication, the same goes for online communication. The importance of netiquette has only become more apparent with the heavy reliance on Slack, email, and other internet communication tools.

The Ten Rules of Netiquette are as follows:

  • Rule 1: Remember the human
  • Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior online…[as you would in person]
  • Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace
  • Rule 4: Respect other people’s time and bandwidth
  • Rule 5: Make yourself look good online
  • Rule 6: Share expert knowledge 
  • Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control 
  • Rule 8: Respect other people’s privacy
  • Rule 9: Don’t abuse your power 
  • Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes (Shea, 1994)

Many people seem to forget that what happens online impacts a human on the other side of the electronic communication. Whether it be a snippy email or wasting time with a long, self-serving monologue, it can be damaging to not only intercorporate relations but also one’s own personal brand. Spending an extra few seconds before you send an email or slack communication can make a huge difference.

Remember, write everything like it will be read in a deposition one day…because you never know, it may be. Take the extra time and see if the words on the page convey not only your message but the meaning behind it. If you think you come off a bit grumpy, the person on the other side is going to assume you are angry. If the email has a lot of explanation, it may be best to pick up the phone and explain it over a call.

Email is not the only way to communicate! Remember, some things are better left to verbal communication methods. In-person (when possible), phone calls, or Zooms are also great options for times when email is simply not appropriate.

We all mess up sometimes and a typed ‘I apologize’ holds a lot of weight! If you sent an email that wasn’t well-received, don’t be afraid to apologize and clear up any confusion.

Now, go out there and make sure you put your best virtual foot forward.

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