A Netiquette Overview for 2016

You may want to brush up on your netiquette, or the rules of the road for our digital world, as these rules change rapidly.

In this post, I’ve tried to list what may be most applicable generally, because netiquette does vary depending on where you live or even the app you’re using.

The Obvious

  • Follow spelling and grammar rules.
  • Be kind and considerate.
  • Stay on topic. Start a different topic in a different thread or email.
  • Keep private photos off of public places, such as potty-training photos or suggestive images.
  • If you’re given administrative capability in a social network, don’t snoop. If you see behind the scenes in order to help an individual or ministry, pretend you are opening a drawer in their desk. Just go where you need to go to get your job done.


This may seem like a strange category, but you may have heard in the news occasionally about emails going out to huge lists. In one case, two million “reply all” messages brought a company’s servers down.  So consider these tips:

  • Don’t flood someone’s inbox. Very large photos or multiple “reply all” responders to a group email are a discourtesy to others.
  • Determine what is the best method for what you’re intending. In other words, a meeting or phone call will be better than a rash of emails in some cases; a quick text can alert someone you are running late.
  • It might seem efficient to use abbreviations, but I would limit these to just a few and only in text messages or tweets. Your reader will skip over a message that they need to spend too much effort de-coding to understand.

No trolling 750x380Cues

Obviously, written communication does not include facial cues and body language, so what can you do to help ensure your message is understood?

  • The old tried-and-true method for an important message is to have someone else read it out loud for you and give you their impressions before you send it out.
  • A message written entirely in capitals or in bold looks like shouting. You probably aren’t, so please use normal fonts.
  • Using emoticons (think smiley faces) may help clarify the meaning behind your words. I don’t recommend them for formal email and for blog posts. Again, use sparingly.
  • If you’re joining a lengthy discussion online, read previous comments first. Someone may have already posted what you are considering. Also, you might sense the tone of the discussion. I found myself in a situation once where I actually started a comment thread with broad advice and found I’d landed in a pack of avid fans. I had to back myself out and it took 15 minutes!


  • Give credit to the originator of a photo or conversation.
  • Acknowledge retweets and follows.
  • If you’re sharing, I’d recommend making it positive. The whole world doesn’t need to see your photo emphasizing your backside or a shared video that has disrespectful or off-color elements. What you share reflects on you.
  • Be knowledgeable. Share topics people are interested in.
  • Share things that encourage and uplift.

Anti-social Behavior

  • Phubbing is snubbing people around you, preferring to talk or text on your phone. Be courteous to those around you, even if you’re in a room of people you don’t know.
  • Stop yourself from posting if you would not say something to a person’s face.
  • Consider what needs to be private. For instance, most times, don’t correct someone in public; most corrections should be personal and private. In some cases, ignored. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

Overseas Friends

You may need to know about stricter rules that your overseas friends must deal with. For instance:

  • Digital photos might have geotagging turned on which will pinpoint the location of the photo.
  • Certain topics could possibly endanger your friend.
  • Consider whether your friend has slow or limited Internet access before sending videos and large files.
  • You may not put a member of the European Union on your mailing list on a server outside of the European Union without their permission.

Those in Trouble

If you notice behavior in friends that concerns you, then be a friend and privately help them if they show addictions, porn use, gambling, cyberstalking, and more.

Downloading and using copyrighted material is illegal. Just because something is on the Internet does not mean it’s free for you to use.

I hope these are helpful reminders for you and your friends.


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