Netiquette: Home

What is Netiquette?

Netiquette is defined as: A set of unofficial rules for good behavior and politeness that have been developed by users of the Internet, email, chatrooms, and other modes of online communication.

Netiquette is the practice of exercising polite and considerate behavior in online contexts, such as Internet discussion boards and personal email.

Follow these links to learn more:

Bow Valley College Library. (2013, July 30). Digital literacy, netiquette and internet safety. Retrieved from

The Core Rules Of Netiquette" By Virginia Shea

The following 10 rules and reminders for online communication and behaviour have been summarized from Virginia Shea's book, Netiquette.

Rule 1: Remember the human

Remember that behind every screen is a human being with independent thoughts and feelings. It is easy to misunderstand or be rude to others when you are not interacting with them in person. Before clicking send or post, ask yourself: Would you say it to the person's face?

Rule 2: Adhere to the same standards of behavior that you follow in "real life"

This rule is a reminder that the ethical standards and laws that govern our society extend to cyberspace as well. This includes harrassment and bullying, copyright regulations, and privacy.

Rule 3: Know where you are in cyberspace

Different environments require different behaviour. The way we interact with our friends, for example, may not be acceptable in a school or work situation. This principle extends to online environments as well. Comments that are acceptable on Facebook, for instance, may be considered inappropriate on a professional networking site such as LinkedIn.

Rule 4: Respect other people's time and bandwidth

In this rule, "bandwidth" is synonymous with "time." When you send and email or post on a discussion board, keep your comments brief and relevant to the environment or situation.

Rule 5: Make yourself look good online

There are many positive aspects about the Internet, including the ability to remain anonymous. This rule is a reminder not to allow this aspect of the Internet influence how you communicate. Pay attention to your grammar, spelling and word choices as well as the overall content and truthfulness of your writing, as this is what others are using to judge you.

Rule 6: Share expert knowledge

The Internet is a great platform for sharing good information. However, it can also be used to spread misinformation and distortions. If you hold a lot of knowledge about a certain topic or subject, don't be afraid to share it online in a manner that is helpful and accurate.

Rule 7: Help keep flame wars under control

"Flaming" refers to verbal disagreements that occur between users in contexts such as message boards. They are often a result of strongly held opinions and emotions. As in rule 4, do not monopolize online discussion with long or offensive commentary.

Rule 8: Respect other people's privacy

The Internet is an open forum. Remember not to share information about others that could get them -- or yourself -- into trouble, both personally and professionally.

Rule 9: Don't abuse your power

This rule is intended for those who carry more power on the Internet as experts, designers, system administrators or even hackers. Power should always be used responsibly and not to harm or take advantage of those who are less powerful or knowledgeable.

Rule 10: Be forgiving of other people's mistakes

Give other users the benefit of the doubt and consider that they may come from a different background or have less experience on the Internet. Do not be rude when you encounter someone's mistake -- always respond with courteousy and respect.

Shea, V. (2011). The Core Rules of Netiquette. Retrieved from

Email is an important form of communication that is used in multiple contexts, from professional to personal. 

DO follow these rules and guidelines for proper email netiquette:

Composing Email

  • Include a subject line, a proper opening and a closing line
  • Know your audience - for formal emails to colleagues or prospective employers, use polite and professional language
  • Be concise and proofread the text to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistake

Sending and Responding to Email

  • Address all of the sender's questions or concerns
  • Confirm that the email of the recipient is correct
  • Be careful using the Reply to All button
  • If necessary, protect privacy of recipients by using the blind carbon copy (bcc) field

DON'T make these mistakes:

  • Writing in capital letters that MAKE IT SEEM LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING
  • Opening emails or attachments from unknown or suspicious senders
  • Overusing the priority, high importance or receipt settings
  • Sending or forwarding personal or private information without the original sender's consent
  • Including unnecessary information or diverging from the purpose of the email
  • Using emoticons or abbreviations i.e. :) or "lol" unless writing informally to friends or family
  • Subscribing to unknown distribution lists

Bow Valley College Library. (2013, July 30). Digital literacy, netiquette and internet safety. Retrieved from

Nothing is private on the Internet and many sites have the ability to archive or store your information

Your digital footprint is the data that you leave behind after interacting in online environments such as social media websites or discussion boards. 

Be cautious of personal material and information that is posted online by yourself or others. This is important as employers are increasingly using social media to evaluate and find potential employees.

When using social media websites, you should:

  • Check the privacy settings on websites such as Facebook
  • Confirm that your profile information is accessible only to the extent you choose
  • Do not accept people you do not know as "friends" on social media websites
  • Be careful when interacting or sharing information with other Internet users

A few special things to consider:

Now that many people have an instant messenger, a blog and email, people are sometimes unsure about good rules of conduct for academic discussion groups as compared to other forums. To help these students, and those who have never used a discussion group, we've brought together some suggestions,

For good results with your messages, keep the following in mind:

  • Read prompts carefully. A prompt is the assignment to which you are responding. For example, in Blackboard discussion boards, your instructor will ask you to respond to a particular question for discussion. Make sure that you understand everything that it requires before you start to respond. If you have questions, ask for a clarification from your instructor, or at least let others know what you are unsure about in your posting.
  • Post something that shows thought. One of the great things about discussion forum communication is that you can think before you respond. Discussion forum prompts are almost always open-ended questions, so even if it seems that the assignment only needs a short answer, assume that you should provide some explanation or narrative about that answer. The challenge is to do this without getting too long-winded!
  • Include examples and supportive arguments, not just opinions. Discussion forums are not just a place to put opinions and feelings. You should also include specific examples, statistics, quotes, and other support materials. On the other hand, you are encouraged to include your opinions too. These will make all of the details more interesting!
  • Cite your sources. It's OK if you borrow ideas from your readings or conversations, but you should attribute these ideas to their source. You can give the official citation of reading material (online or in print) or simply attribute ideas from your classmates. For instance, "In her posting, Shelly said ... That made me wonder about ..."
  • Post your response early in the assignment period. If you wait until the assignment due date, others will not have a chance to respond to what you have said. Your instructor will not have as much time to notice or think about your posting, and a lower score may result. Post your first message early in the assignment period, then return later and respond to others. You'll get more out of the experience and get a better grade.

Responding to Posts

It's called a discussion forum because people are actually supposed to discuss ideas! Clever, huh? That means it will only be useful if you respond to others, not just post your own messages. You will not get the best results or grades from this kind of communication if you don't react to your classmates.

  • Don't agree with everything. "Good idea!," "I agree," or "I think the same thing" are not worthwhile responses. They don't add to the conversation. If you do agree with the poster, then try to add another example or clarify the point more. It's OK to have a different opinion. On the other hand...
  • Don't disagree with everything. You won't impress anyone by being critical of every posting that is made. Try to be generous in interpreting others. Ask clarifying questions if you are not sure you understand.
  • Search for balanced replies. When you respond to others, try to include both positives and negatives about what they have said. Tell them what you like about their ideas or compliment their intentions. Then let them know what part of their response they should consider giving more thought or looking at again.
  • Replies should be useful. A good reply will give everyone following along more to think about. If it is critical, the critique will be specific, clear, and point toward possible improvements. Often, asking more questions is the best sort of reply. A good reply will encourage the poster to respond again. Hopefully, they will look forward to more interactions with you in the future.
  • Attack arguments, but don't attack people. Don't get personal in a discussion forum. At the worst, be generous and assume that it is the person's idea that you don't like, not the person. Ad hominem attacks (against the person) will lose friends and participation points for you. So will  racist, sexist, ageist, and other bigoted comments. So will profanity and obscenity. Stay civil!
  • If you encounter difficulties or the argument gets too hot, let your instructor know. Your instructor will be checking the forum regularly, but may miss a critical posting. If someone posts something that upsets you, talk to your instructor about it. In some cases, your instructor might help clear up misunderstandings, or if necessary, delete an offensive message from the discourse.

Inappropriate Behavior

Some behaviors are inappropriate in a discussion group. This is especially true for academic groups. Remember that your professor is reading this discussion and act accordingly. Examples of inappropriate conducts are:

  • Using abusive, disrespectful or foul language
  • Using sexually suggestive language (either explicit or implicit) that could be perceived as offensive or harassing.
  • Threatening others
  • Insulting others or denigrating the opinions of others. It is quite normal to disagree, but do so respectfully and without personal attacks.
  • Making personal attacks
  • Posting in all capital letters, it looks like you are screaming
  • Responding in anger – if you are angry take a ten minute break before responding
  • Posting racist or hateful comments about ethnicity, gender, intelligence or income level
  • Be very careful if you decide to use sarcasm – it can easily be misunderstood

Adapted from: American University Library. (n.d.)  Guideline for Students Using Discussion Board. Retrieved from 

Photo of clip from streaming video Digital Communication Skills: Dos and Don'ts

From texting to email to video calls, digital technology has transformed how we communicate with each other. But in formal situations like at work or in school, which forms of communications are appropriate, and when? Viewers of this video, especially digital natives, may be surprised to discover that communicating isn't just about sharing information-it's creating it-and that the ways in which emails, texts or voice messages are composed and conveyed may make the difference in impressing or disappointing an employer or co-worker. Even for late adopters of digital technology, this video has important points on what you should do-and what you don't want to do-when it comes to email, texting, video-conferencing and using the phone for business calls or voice mail.