You’re in the middle of a conversation with somebody on a forum or social media. It’s going well and the vibe is good. Feeling like you have built up a rapport, you say something sarcastic in the hope of making them laugh. But that doesn’t happen. Instead, they get offended and the conversation is ruined.
You’ve just broken netiquette without even realizing it. And to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we’re going to dig into some key netiquette examples in this article.
Summary: Netiquette is shorthand for internet etiquette. Think of it as the basic rules of online communication. If you understand netiquette, you account for cultural differences and understand how to communicate with internet users with the same level of respect you’d give them in real life. Netiquette examples include using inclusive language, never sending spam, and giving context to your responses.
What is Netiquette?
Also known as internet etiquette, online etiquette, and network etiquette, netiquette is about the rules you follow in the online world. With good netiquette, you ensure acceptable online behavior in your messages, social media posts, and all written communication with other internet users.
Netiquette came into being because of the lack of something that’s present in all face-to-face conversations:
With in-person social interactions, you can communicate subtext and meaning through your body as well as your words. You don’t have that luxury when writing messages on the web. Your words are your only form of communication so you have to be careful with them.
If you fail to observe good netiquette, you open the door for miscommunications with other people. In some cases, these miscommunications can be solved with a simple private message explaining the issue. In others, they end in flame wars that result in people arguing online.
Netiquette is also essential for maintaining social values on the web. By following these rules to govern online behavior, people can identify issues like cyber bullying and ensure they’re speaking to real people with the respect they deserve.
Ultimately, netiquette emphasizes that your words have power. It enables you to use that power effectively by helping you write messages and posts that communicate your intent without hurting or offending anyone.
The Netiquette Examples
Now that you understand the basics of netiquette, it’s time to look at some netiquette rules and examples. By following these examples, you ensure you communicate with the same respect that others show you and avoid misunderstandings.
Example No. 1 – Including Context
Let’s imagine that you’re in a chat room or online forum. A lot of people are communicating at the same time, which can make conversations difficult. If the online environment is especially busy, your response to another person may get lost in several other responses.
Including context is the key to avoiding this issue.
The best example of context in online communication involves quoting the person that you’re responding to. Many online platforms also allow you to tag the person you’re responding to as you quote them.
This accomplishes two things.
First, it ensures that everybody involved in the conversation knows what your response refers to. Second, tagging and quoting allow the message’s original sender to see that you’re talking to them.
By doing this, you avoid miscommunication by ensuring nobody can mistake a message you intend for another person as one you’re sending to them.
Example No. 2 – Use Respectful Language
Hate speech has no place in respectful conversations. Unfortunately, far too many people take advantage of the anonymity the internet provides to use terrible language that they would never use in real life.
By using respectful language, you treat everybody you speak to with the same respect you’d expect from them.
What is respectful language?
It’s perhaps easier to answer that question by pointing out examples of disrespectful language. Cursing, name-calling, racial slurs, and deliberately inflammatory opinions should all be avoided.
Example No. 3 – Be Wary With Sarcasm
A lot of people use sarcasm when they’re making jokes. Usually, you can communicate sarcasm through the tone of your voice and your facial expressions. But it’s much harder to do that in the digital world unless you’re using video chat tools.
As a result, off-hand sarcastic comments are dangerous when communicating online. Something that you intended to be sarcastic could be misconstrued as a straightforward insult by other users.
For example, let’s say you’re talking to a friend who performed poorly on a recent exam. You might say something like “Nice work, Einstein,” as a lighthearted joke that your friend would likely laugh at in a regular social interaction. But online, that sarcastic remark can look like an insult.
Many people denote sarcasm in chat rooms and most websites by using “/s.” But even that may not be enough without further explanation. It’s best to avoid sarcasm unless you’re speaking with somebody who knows your personality and understands when you’re being sarcastic.
Example No. 4 – Double Checking
When you’re in the middle of a fast-paced conversation, it’s easy to send replies as soon as you write them. While speaking too quickly in verbal communication allows you to catch flubs and correct yourself, doing it online can lead to problems. A single misspelling can lead to disaster.
For instance, let’s say you’re talking to somebody about ducks. Now, take a look at your keyboard. If you have a standard QWERTY keyboard, you’ll see that the letter F is right next to the letter D. We’ll let you do the math on what failing to catch a mistake could lead to there.
Example No. 5 – Limit Sharing Personal Information
You may not know the people you’re talking to online. That’s dangerous, especially if you start sharing personal information. That information can be used against you in so many ways, including blackmail and identity theft.
A simple netiquette rule here is to never share too much about yourself online. Even telling somebody your name and date of birth could be enough information for them to hack your online accounts. Reserve personal details for private conversations with people you trust.
Example No. 6 – Avoiding Spam
Imagine that you’ve given your email address to an individual or company so you can chat using a different online platform. You’re expecting useful messages or an interesting conversation. But what you get is a flurry of emails all trying to sell you something.
Most web users hate spammy posts. The email example is ideal. We’ve all experienced seeing our inboxes fill up with junk mail that we’ll never read and don’t want to have.
However, there are plenty of other examples. Sharing spammy posts on social media could lead to followers ignoring you. Trying to sell services in the comments sections of other people’s posts is spammy too. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t want to receive it, you shouldn’t send it.
Example No. 7 – Using Legitimate Profiles
While you should be wary about sharing too much personal information online, good netiquette also means being yourself when sending messages. In other words, don’t hide behind false profiles or personas when communicating online.
Trolls and cyberbullies tend to use fake profiles. In both cases, they create temporary accounts that they use to insult or harass other people. This is terrible netiquette, due to its insulting nature and the way these people act online is often nothing like they’d act in front of people in real life.
Example No. 8 – Respecting Privacy and Copyright
Other people will send you messages and content online. Good netiquette requires you to treat that information with respect. The best way to do so is to think about how you would feel if somebody shared the information you’ve received if you were the one who’d written it.
In the case of private messages, that information is private for a reason. Somebody has trusted you to read that information and keep it to yourself. Sharing it online betrays that trust, which could lead to the end of friendships and working relationships.
Copyright is another issue that falls under the definition of netiquette. Copyright applies to any unique thing that another person has created. In addition to the obvious, such as books, this includes text, memes, and videos.
Making a carbon copy of somebody else’s work and sharing it online under your own name is terrible netiquette. It also places you at risk of violating copyright laws. If the original creator of the content is unhappy, they can request you take the offending piece down or face financial consequences.
The only exception to this is the fair use rules. These rules allow for the acceptable use of other people’s copyrighted material as long as you add something of value to it. Commentary videos on YouTube are good examples because they involve people providing their own opinions over copyrighted material.
Example No. 9 – Using Good Grammar
Casual abbreviations, such as lol (laughing out loud) and brb (be right back) can be easily misunderstood by people who aren’t familiar with them. If good netiquette means using inclusive language when writing, these sorts of terms may not be acceptable. However, your judgment applies here as some websites and platforms are more accepting of these terms than others.
Even so, maintaining good spelling and grammar are important for good netiquette. The way you write helps to demonstrate your knowledge of a subject. Others may doubt your knowledge if your posts and messages are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.
Furthermore, proper spelling and grammar reduce the possibility that people will misconstrue the meaning behind your text.
Example No. 10 – Avoiding All Caps Words
Capital letters obviously have their place in your written messages. However, writing in all capitals is poor netiquette because it gives the impression that you’re shouting at other people. Take this as an example:
THIS IS AN ARTICLE ABOUT NETIQUETTE!
This is a fairly innocuous phrase. But seeing it in all capitals lends the phrase an aggressive quality that others may not like. Even if you’re using capital letters for emphasis, you have to be wary of the possibility that others might think you’re taking something fairly simple far too seriously.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we need netiquette rules?
Netiquette rules help us to communicate clearly and respectfully online. They reduce the possibility of misunderstandings occurring, which leads to more pleasant web-based conversations. Good netiquette also demonstrates that you respect the people you’re conversing with.
What are the consequences of bad netiquette?
The consequences of bad netiquette vary depending on the circumstances. In minor cases, poor netiquette can lead to misunderstandings that you have to clear up privately. However, failing to follow netiquette rules in more professional settings or on certain online platforms can lead to bans and losing the respect of your peers.
What is netiquette as a student?
All of the examples described in this article apply even more so to students. As a student, you’re in a semi-professional setting where you’re expected to communicate with other students and your faculty with respect. Key netiquette rules as a student include using proper spelling and grammar, avoiding spam, and treating others with respect.
Author: Tibor Moes
Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab
Tibor is a Dutch engineer and entrepreneur. He has tested security software since 2014.
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