As in any public forum or culture, a collection of rules have developed over the years that govern how discussions are carried out on the net. Sticking by them assures a trouble-free time every time you connect to the Internet. Below are the main things to watch out for.
This page was last updated on 2012-08-21
Netiquette is the fusing of the words Network and Etiquette. These rules, while never carved in stone, are pretty much known by anyone who's used the Internet for a while and should always be abided by. They apply to all aspects of your wheeling and dealing on the Internet, whether it be the content of your website, an email, or chat room banter. Much of it is common sense, but there are some elements of it that are borne out of the medium we're communicating through (that would be text).
The main rule to stick by is just treat people like you would want to be treated. Very biblical, I know, but it's true. You have to be polite and considerate to anyone you meet. There's a tendency on the Internet to abuse your anonymity and go all-out insulting people, but that's just sad. Always consider whether your comment may be appropriate, and whether it could cause hurt feelings. Be careful about how your words come across — misunderstandings can be common. Without a tone of voice, unless you're a great writer, a sarcastic or otherwise harmless comment can often come off the wrong way. Use emoticons to show your tone.
Remember that even though you can't see them, there are people on the other end of the line. If you wouldn't say it to someone's face, chances are you shouldn't say it here either. A nasty comment or critical email can ruin someone's day.
Surroundings and Audience
If you're entering a chat room or message board for the first time, take a while to familiarise yourself with the rules that may apply. If younger children are present you'll notice that swearing will probably result in you being kicked or banned by the moderators (the people chosen to keep order by dealing with trouble-makers). The variation in what's acceptable can range broadly between similar sites. This process of learning something about the atmosphere of an arena is called lurking. Once you think you know what you can and can't say, go ahead and join in.
When writing for a web site the concept of 'audience' becomes even more important. If you're going for a broad range of visitors then you pretty much have to keep all the swearing, blasphemy and secret hatreds to yourself. If, however, you decide to aim for a more focused group of people like teenagers, then you can relax on some of this (well, the swearing at any rate) and give people — and yourself — a little more freedom.
The Internet was founded on the basis of information sharing and discussion. If you have experience or skills in an area then write about it and answer questions from others. By setting up valuable resources for others, you can make the web a more useful service.
No matter who you're writing to, you should always strive to sound intelligent, and don't take everything too seriously. A laugh here and there is absolutely necessary to give your writing some energy. And people just like good writing, so do your best to write some.
It's nice how us elite have coined a whole new word for those despicable new Internet users, isn't it? Newbies are the poor little guys who are just being broken in to the world of the Internet. Become a little experienced and you can spot them a mile off, mainly because you can remember what it was like to be one. If you come into contact with a newbie, try to help them out a bit. You would've been grateful for their help had it been the other way around. Newbie-haters are most rampant in the treacherous world of online gaming, so if you could be a samaritan in that area, you'd be a good person.
The first rule of typing that everybody should be aware of is that writing IN CAPITALS MAKES IT LOOK LIKE YOU'RE SHOUTING. You'll often hear people asking others to "lay off the caps", and for good reason. Shouting makes you look like an idiot. Don't type more than a few consecutive words in capitals. If you want to emphasise something, use the wealth of HTML options available to you. If those aren't available, stick some *stars* around your text. There's always an alternative.
Typos and grammatical errors are largely unavoidable. When writing for your website, these should always be eradicated using a spell-checker and, if possible, a manual check to find anything that your spell-checker didn't. There's no excuse for sending out a poorly-written page, as it wastes people's often valuable online time. In the cut-and-thrust world of the chat room where retorts have to be flung out as fast as possible you're not always able to catch mistakes before they happen. But you should give your message a quick once-over before clicking send; if only because once you say it there's no going back.
If someone else makes a spelling mistake, while it's undeniably annoying, you should refrain from pointing out their mistakes. That's never funny. Help someone out if they're in dire need of some intelligence (through private email if possible), but try not to go at someone for every example of idiocy. You'd wear yourself out.
Final rule? Just don't be an ass.