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Email Netiquette

There's a handful of important e-mail conventions that would make everyone's life a little easier if we could all try and follow.

  • Use Meaningful Subject Lines
    This easy practice will help keep you on good terms with even your most e-mail-swamped friends. A subject line can say so much, and many of us really like knowing if it's a joke, recipe, or some other non-urgent item that can be opened at our leisure.
  • Don't Type With ALL CAPS
    Its been said too many times, but almost everyone finds reading text in all caps annoying, hence the reputation as online screaming. If you're not trying to yell in your online communications but you're typing in all caps, most people will think you are.
  • Quote Select Parts Of A Previous E-Mail
    One of the most common breaches of netiquette is the repeating of entire e-mails or postings when replying only to a small portion. When replying to a long e-mail it is best to highlight just the minimum needed of the previous comments to preface your response with. This avoids multiple-reply e-mail discussions where the messages get so long to be unwieldy and impossible to read.
  • Be Mindful of Attachments
    The ability to attach files to e-mail messages is a powerful thing. It can be of great utility, or a grand nuisance. A couple rules of thumb: be sure and send virus-free files, and make sure your recipient knows and is OK with the size and type of file you're sending before you send it. On the receiving end, don't open any e-mail attachments you're not expecting and don't know the origin of, even if it says, "I LOVE YOU."
  • Don't Spam
    We said it before, but it's worth repeating. The worst online offense in most people's eyes is the dreaded unsolicited commercial e-mail. Don't let some marketing type talk you into the "power of online mass-advertising," you'll live to regret it.
  • Don't Pass Around E-Hoaxes
    There is a tradition as old as the Internet of passing around bogus virus alerts, unbelievable stories, and fake news items. Try not to get suckered in if it sounds too strange to be true, it probably is.

    If you get an e-hoax, check it out first before passing it on. Take a look at ZDNet's E-Hoax Central, or your favorite Internet News site, to learn the truth about the latest e-hoaxes, urban myths, chain e-mail and pervasive riff-raff circulating on the Net. Nothing feels worse than sending your everyone you know a fake virus warning. The standard rule of thumb on whether it is a Hoax is to ask yourself; Are they providing a URL that you can go to and confirm the information? If not, check the hoax sites before you send.
  • Don't Pass Around Chain Letters
    Another thing the Internet would be better off without is e-mail chain letters. They're not cute. Don't send them to your friends. Don't even send them to your enemies.
  • Following the previous guidelines will go a long way towards establishing yourself as a good Netizen.

    Here are a couple of other practices that should keep your online dealings happy and safe.

    You should always be aware of basic privacy issues in all your online dealings. To protect yourself, be very cautious of revealing personal information to people you don't really know. Be wary of people you meet in chatrooms who start asking you too many personal details, especially any details that relate to your personal finances.

    Be aware that people are not always who they say they are online. That *23 year old single female*, may not be 23 or female. If you are going to physically meet someone you've only known online, set up the meeting for a safe public place, and bring along a friend just in case the situation turns out to be not what you expected.

    If you have children who are online, you need to be extra cautious about their privacy. Make sure your kids understand not to give out personal information to strangers, and younger children should be supervised in chatroom situations.

    If you're doing business online with your credit cards always make sure the Web site is using a secure server to encrypt the transaction. This is an important level of security that will scramble your personal info as it travels around the Net, making it much harder for eavesdropping hackers to pilfer your credit card number. You can tell you are on a secure Web page if the url begins " https " instead of " http " , and you will have a closed padlock icon in the bottom of your browser window.

    One last important rule of netiquette for surfing the Web is not to steal other people's work. You have probably by now realized the ease by which any image or content can be copied from existing Web sites. While the line can sometimes get a little blurry for novice Web designers between taking inspiration from and stealing, it is definitely considered bad form (and may be illegal) to copy someone else's work directly. In many cases, artists will be happy to give you permission to reuse a graphic they have created, but please do ask for permission.

    Most of these "Netiquette Rules" are really just common sense. Try and give people you meet online the same respect you would give someone in-person, and most of us will get along just fine.

    Written by: Cheryl Gonzalez

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