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About Netiquette

Let's say you just logged in to your course for the first time. You open the course discussion board and see a note from your instructor welcoming you to the course. She invites each of you to post a response to her note and, in your response, to introduce yourself to the class. This sounds pretty painless, so you eagerly reply to the note and tell your peers a little about yourself.

The next day you log in to the course and see that your instructor has replied to your note. She thanks you for your introduction, but tells you not to shout next time. She explains that you typed your note in all capital letters (looks like you forgot to turn off your "cap" key on your keyboard). In online communications, she says, things written in all capital letters are interpreted as shouting. Who knew?

If you're going to take part in online communications, you should familiarize yourself first with the rules of Netiquette. Here's a few ground rules to get you started, and if you'd like to know more about Netiquette see Viriginia Shea's website here.

  • In general, messages should be short and to the point.
  • Be mindful of grammar. This is an academic forum, so remember to check your spelling, punctuation, and usage.
  • Use a meaningful subject line, so that your readers will have a clear idea of what the posting contains.
  • Use all caps sparingly. You might use *asterisks* around a word to make a stronger point.
  • Be professional and careful in what you say about others.
  • When reacting to someone else's message, address the ideas, not the person. Antagonistic messages are called "flames" and flaming someone is bad Netiquette.
  • Be careful when using sarcasm and humor. Without face-to-face communications your joke may be viewed as criticism.
  • Don't overuse acronyms. Acronyms can be used to abbreviate when possible; however, messages that are filled with acronyms can be confusing and annoying to the reader. Examples: IMHO= in my humble/honest opinion; FYI = for your information; BTW = by the way.
  • Be careful not to get too personal too fast. Electronic communications environments can seem surprisingly intimate. In just a few exchanges, you might be tempted to share your life's story with someone you actually don't know very well!
  • Be respectful of other, diverse opinions. Remember that the Internet (and RUOnline) brings people together from around the world. Don't assume that everyone shares the same views or background.
  • Don't include obscenities in your messages. To get a certain point across, you might use a mixture of ASCII characters like "@#%$" instead.
  • Don't forward messages without asking first. It is considered extremely rude to forward someone else's e-mail or bulletin board postings without permission.
  • Don't send commercial "advertisements" to your classmates.
  • Be aware of potential compatibility problems when sharing electronic files.

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