Netiquette – it is not life and death but it still matters


netiquette the finer points

Netiquette is a colloquial portmanteau of the words network and the internet; it is an informal word implying the rules of correct, acceptable and polite behaviour online. Netiquette is the manual exercise and regulation of our online society.Email, social media and communicating online has been around long enough that one would think that most people would be adept at this form of communication.  I am personally aware of stress caused by rudeness, and unfortunately, more stress creates more rudeness. Netiquette is often ridiculed as another form of political correctness.  However, I find myself often discussing with friends and families lamenting the increasing rudeness that seems to follow us everywhere.

The Tyranny of Netiquette

It requires a thick skin and character to avoid the mortifying feeling of embarrassment when one breaches on-line netiquette out of ignorance rather than malice.  Yet nothing seems more arbitrary than netiquette.  It varies from one culture to another and it is not unreasonable to ask how is it to be learned?  To a certain extent, it would seem easier to remain a Luddite than to be seen as a social media philistine.

Based on Simple Courtesy

Netiquette is not a list of arbitrary rules but should spring from the kind regard for the feelings of others. Online manners are not a  matter of birth or privilege.  It is not inherited.  It costs nothing to use.  It is based on simple courtesy.

“It is not the most important thing is the world, it is not a matter of life and death, but it really matters to people.”

Without the receiver of your message ability to read the inflexion of your voice, facial expressions or body language messages have a greater chance of being questioned and over analysed.  The following are some guidelines (not rules) that may be useful for your online communication.

Some Basic Guidelines

  • Keep your communication short and clear, you won’t get nitpicked to death. Give people what they need to know, not everything that you have on a subject.
  • Do not feed the Trolls.  Ignore the trolls those that deliberately bait you into an argument.  If you do not respond you cut off their oxygen supply.
  • Remember the human. If you cannot say it to someone in person, then it probably should not be said at all.
  • Do not post in all capital letters or using three exclamation marks.  It is the equivalent of shouting at a person face to face.  Use asterisks to emphasise word (*Finally*) or just use italics (Finally)
  • Adhere to the same standards of behaviour online as you would in a real-life situation. Good manners on-line are about respecting your online brand unless you are Donald Trump.
  • Don’t abuse your power. Some people have a more influential presence online than others.  With great power comes responsibility.
  • Use appropriate emoticons to help convey meaning. Use “smiley’s” or punctuation such as 🙂 to convey emotions.
  • Respect others privacy.  Do not quote or forward someone’s else’s information without their permission.
  • Do not pass along off-colour jokes or offensive language.  You will never be completely sure of your audience’s sensibilities.
  • Do not use social media to highlight personal or interpersonal issues.  Doing this will not be useful in helping you resolve these issues in the future.


Finally, take personal responsibility, sometimes your words may get you into trouble.  Watch your words because when they are online and they have been written by you they belong to you.  Another social media ‘friend’ or connection may need to take care, however that is their business, your words are your business.

“They can bless or they can curse, they can poison or heal, they can pierce hearts or blight hopes, they can sow discord or seperate chief friends.”


Further Reading

Grace Bonney on The Art of Thoughtful Emails

“It’s important to own your content in the sense that you take responsibility for it. I’m proud of most of what we produce at Design*Sponge, but I’ve made a lot of publishing mistakes over the years.




teamSimon is a Sydney based digital designer. He is the Director of a boutique digital design studio, Bailey Street Design located in the vibrant inner west suburb of Newtown. Simon studied graphic design at Shillington College and specialises in web design for small and medium-size businesses. Simon and his team (Toby the studio dog) are passionate about visual communication in the digital environment.


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