Consider Your Audience
There is a person on the other end of the wire! Generally, the more isolated we are from someone, the easier it is to treat them badly. For example, people tend to be more rude to someone on the phone than they would if they were dealing with the same person face to face. Similarly, people will be more likely to act badly when in their car than they would if walking down the street. This can be doubly true on the Internet, where you are interacting with a machine. If you have a hard time remembering the human on the other end, just remember the traditional golden rule, and do unto others on-line as you would have them do unto you.

Don’t make assumptions

When you read an email or other type of message, just read the text. Don’t “read into” the text. Because there are no physical cues or voice inflection in written communication, your mind may want to fill the void by adding emotion that may not be there, especially if the message is from someone you do not know well.

Watch your mood. In fact, how you respond to written communication may depend on your mood at the time. A perfectly innocent comment can be perceived as emotionally charged if you read emotion into the text. For example, almost any statement can be made to sound sarcastic if it is read in a sarcastic tone. When you read a message, do not add any emotion or tone that is not explicitly there.

Use emoticons sparingly

Use emoticon’s, but use them sparingly. The most commonly used emoticon is the smile 🙂 which is basically a smiley face on its side (cock your head to the left to see it). This is a useful symbol to put after you write something that you think is funny. Otherwise, the other person may not realize you are joking, and take what you said seriously. This can be bad—especially if you are joking about them.

In fact, if you are making a playful comment, it is probably best to use a wink. 😉 You can also use a word in brackets to indicate the same thing if you can’t remember how to make a smile [grin]. Here are some common emoticons that you can use, and a few fun ones that are less common. Just don’t over do it, or the Internet police will write you a ticket. 😉

🙂 Happy or Smile

😀 Laugh or big grin

😉 Wink, just kidding

🙁 Sad or Frown

:’-( Really sad (crying)

:-< Angry
😮 Surprise

:-[ Pouting

:-p Sticking out your tongue

8^) Fake nose & glasses

*<|:o) Clowning Around

~(_8(|) Homer Simpson (dohhht!)

Use proper grammar

Use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. This is similar to using proper case in your message. You never know who will be reading your message once it is sent. What you write and how you write reflects on you. You should always spell check your messages and use proper grammar and punctuation. In addition, use of proper punctuation makes your messages easier to read, and less likely to be misunderstood.

Here is a humorous example of how punctuation can completely change the meaning of a “Dear John” letter.

Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy. Will you let me be yours?
Dear John:
I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be?

Email netiquette
Even though email can be an informal means of communication, there are still some important guidelines to keep in mind.

Don’t shout all the time.
Use the proper case when typing your messages, capitalizing the first letter of each sentence. In an attempt to save time or effort, some folks may leave their Caps Lock on, typing in all caps all the time, while others never use the shift key, typing with no capital letters. Messages written without proper case are hard to read, and you may be perceived as lazy by the reader. In addition, typing in all caps indicates shouting in the on-line world. For this reason, using all caps SELECTIVELY to emphasize a point or indicate anger can be an effective way to get emotion across to the reader. For example, if you compare the following two statements, you will probably feel as if there is more emotion tied to the first statement, even though the words are identical.


Please do not type in all caps all the time.

 Never expect privacy.

Email is not private. Never say anything in an email that you would be mortified to see on the 6:00 news. You never know where your message will be forwarded, or in what public forum it might be posted at a later time.

Respect the privacy of others. Since email is not private, do not add to the problem. Never post an email that you receive from someone else on a Newsgroup or Message Board without their permission. Even when forwarding messages, if you have any reason to think that the person who sent you the message might not want it forwarded to others, check with them first.

Edit out unnecessary text.

When you reply to or forward an email, the email program will usually include the complete text and headers of the previous messages. After a message is forwarded more than a few times, the amount of excess text can be overwhelming. When replying or forwarding messages, it is a good idea to edit out portions of the old messages, only keeping what is necessary for the reader to have an understanding of the context.

Minimize or compress large files.

While you may have a fast connection to the Internet, not everyone does. If you must send a large file, compress the file using a utility like Winzip, so that the message will download faster. If you send out a lot of pictures, save the file as a JPEG if possible. Scanners and photo editing software give you the choice of saving a photo as a JPEG or Bitmap file, and Bitmaps are much larger than JPEGs. Also, if you have the ability to reduce the displayed size of the photo, keep it to a size that will easily fit on the screen. No one likes to scroll around the screen in order to see a complete picture.

Be selective with jokes.

It is not necessary to forward every joke that you get to everyone in your address book. If you find something particularly funny or relevant, by all means, send it. But be selective, and remember that not everyone may find funny what you think is funny, and some may even find certain types of humor offensive.

Use the BCC field for large groups.

If you are sending a message like a joke to a large group of friends, it is a good idea to put only yourself in the TO field, and put the recipients in the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field. This keeps private the names and addresses of the people to whom you send the message. It is important to remember that one or more of those recipients may send the message to another group of people, some of whom may forward again to another group, and so on, and so on. Placing your friends in the BCC field will protect their privacy, as well as make your message easier to read by eliminating the long list of recipients before the message body.

Do not perpetuate Email Hoaxes.

Email hoaxes are messages that contain information that is mostly-if not completely-untrue. They are passed around the Internet by well meaning people, but are an annoyance to most.

Never Spam.

Spamming is sending out unsolicited bulk email. It is a violation of our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), as it is with all reputable ISPs.