Graeme −> Language −> Rants −> Netiquette −> Commandments 

From an email "mailing list", the 8 commandments of Netiquette:

1. Thou Shalt Remember the Human.

The first commandment is the most important and determines all of the others. While electronic communication is a wonderful tool, the most important part of the equation is always the people. Every message that you type should recognize the importance of the other members of your community. If you are replying to another person's thoughts you should first validate that the person and their words are an important part of the community, before putting forth your own ideas.

2. Thou Shalt Not Type Anything That You Would Not Say in Person.

Following directly from point 1, above, it is all too easy to hide behind your keyboard and send messages that are inflammatory or derogatory, when you would not have spoken such harsh words to the recipient in person.

The tone of electronic messages is an easily overlooked factor. Your message may sound harmless when you type it, since you know what the tone and inflection is. Remember that your audience's only view of your message is a series of words on a screen; careful selection of wording and the addition of appropriate emoticons and emphasis are essential to making sure that your audience will hear the message that you intend.

Emoticons are small symbols which add indications of facial expressions to your messages. Common emoticons are:

the smiley face to indicate humor or good news :-)
the frowning face to indicate sad news :-(
the winking smiley which indicates a joke or a pun ;-)

In addition to emoticons, asterisks can be used to indicate which words are *important* in a sentence. You can type a word in all capital letters, as a means of emphasis, but if used for more than one or two words, it is called 'Shouting' which is considered to be VERY RUDE.

With any form of style and tone, a little goes a long way. More than one or two emoticons in a message may be excessive. Do use them wherever you feel someone may misinterpret your intention. :-)

Of course, swearing and making comments, which will incite anger (being 'flamebait') are with a few exceptions, always bad form.

There are electronic discussion groups where people purposely gather to exchange personal insults with other people on the Internet. Go Figure!

3. Thou Shalt Compose Messages That People Want to Read.

A little speel cheking and using your goodest grammar go a long way in electronic communication. Remember that your message represents your ideas and to a larger extent yourself to the audience; sloppy messages reflect on the author.

Always ask yourself if you are using the most appropriate forum for your message. If you want to communicate with one of your classmates on a topic that concerns only the two of you, consider sending a private email to that person only.

Speaking of sending messages that people want to read, sending bulk email to a wide audience or posting to inappropriate groups in the hopes of reaching a small number of interested parties is considered very poor netiquette. Always remember that your message is using computer resources and the time and effort of the people you've sent it to.

4. Thou Shalt Act by the Same Rules Which Govern the Rest of Your Life.

Lying, cheating and stealing are probably not part of your everyday life. The anonymity of electronic communication can encourage people to put away their personal sense of ethics. Reading other people's email, pretending to be something or someone that you are not and using your work or school Internet account for personal economic gain are common places where Internet users are known to put away their personal ethics. 

5. Thou Shalt Lurk Before You Leap.

Although these commandments will get you a long way in communicating in an appropriate manner, each electronic group will have subtle nuances. You should lurk for a week or two before participating in an established electronic conversation or else risk standing out as a 'newbie' and inciting the wrath of the group. Remember that an electronic group can easily have tens of thousands of people in it. That's a lot of wrath! Another important aspect of lurking is locating and reading the 'FAQ' for any given group. This will ensure that you understand the common issues and group dynamics before participating.

6. Thou Shalt Build Learning Communities.

All too often, Internet users become focused on what they can 'get' from the Internet rather than what they can give. Sharing information, breaking up a flame war and encouraging participation from new members are all ways of helping to build and maintain learning communities.

7. Thou Shalt Consider All Messages to be Part of Your Portfolio.

An extension of not saying anything that you wouldn't say in person, is not saying anything that you wouldn't want a potential employer to know, five years from now. When you send a message off into cyberspace, you no longer control it. It may be forwarded to people other than the intended recipient or even archived in a database. If you are feeling the need to leap into a flame war, stop and think if you would want a potential employer to use your comments as a representation of yourself five years from now. If the answer is no, the message probably isn't worth sending.

8. Thou Shalt Forgive Transgressions.

As an effective, proactive, well adjusted member of an electronic learning community, you should encourage Netiquette among other members by setting a good example and pointing out errors in a private and friendly manner for the goal of helping the other person to avoid the wrath of less generous group members. As you become a seasoned 'Net user, you should remember that we have all been the 'newbie' in the group at some point. Fostering appropriate participation from all of your electronic community can add richness to our learning community.