There are so many ways to communicate online. E-Mail, twitter, Facebook, Forums, Blog comment threads and instant messaging all with their own set of accepted standards and unspoken rules for etiquette. It would be easy for the uneducated to commit a dreadful faux pas and embarrass themselves or offend the other party. So behold my 5 golden rules for good Internet communication. You can apply these to pretty much all of the above.
5. Give it the once-over.
Emails, blog comments and IMs that exhibit multiple typos, grammar mistakes and bad punctuation will not only make the message harder to decipher, they can make you look like a total div. So before you hit enter/send/post just read through what you’ve typed. Don’t be mega anal about it but try to make sure it makes sense.
Of course there are people with spelling and grammar problems such as dyslexia. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. If your recipient is worth a damn they’ll be able to spot that and won’t hold it against you. That said, if you know your spelling isn’t great, run your emails through a spell checker. Hell, even if it only corrects it to American English it’s better than speelong thingds totaly qwring…
Another thing to consider here is URLs. For the love of Pete, before you send someone a URL, make sure it works. Every time you send a dead link, God kills 10 kittens.
4. Don’t be a flamer.
No, that’s not a homophobic statement. I’m referring to lambasting people in your communications, particularly public ones like Tweets or blog comments. Sometimes people will say or do things online that will annoy you. Sometimes they may even attack you. The best policy though is to rise above it. If someone posts something you don’t like, just say that. Let them know why you don’t like it without getting angry or belligerent yourself.
I’ve been guilty of letting people have it online before and I’ve found that all it accomplishes is making you out to be childish numpty. If you can’t organise your disagreement or retort into a civil, adult statement, don’t send it at all. You will always come off as looking like the bigger person. I promise.
If you want to see a great big stinking example of this, go check out the comment threads on some popular YouTube videos.
3. Hey, keep it down over there.
This one has been around since the year dot yet it’s unbelievable how many people are still guilty of it. I’m talking about “shouting” – that is, the practice of putting everything in caps or following it with about 30 exclamation marks. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it can can completely obliterate the tone of a message.
Best way to avoid disaster is to imagine how your message would sound in person. An email message asking for help written in caps is tantamount to yelling your symptoms in your doctor’s ear. It’s abrasive and comes off as very rude.
Sure, caps have their place. Headlines or titles can benefit from the look of all caps but in person to person communication it remains a big no-no.
2. We’re not in Hawaii, so don’t Spam!
Apologies to those in Hawaii, but the rule about this type of Spam still applies to you. The actual definition of spam is unsolicited electronic communication such as junk email etc. What I’m talking about here though is the practice of bombarding the recipient with a barrage of messages as opposed to just one or two.
If I look away from my IM window and come back to a list of messages so long I have to scroll to see the first one, chances are I’m not going to read it. Same with emails. Imagine it like someone calling you on the phone 10 or 15 times to say little things that they could have just got out the way with one phone call. It’s annoying. In email it can quickly swamp an inbox, it can flood your twitter feed and it will just plain piss off blog owners.
This kind of ties in to point number 5 of this list. While you’re reading over your message give some thought to weather or not you’ve said everything you needed to say because multiple follow-up messages are just not cool.
1. Do not use “text speak”…EVER!
I flat out delete people from my social network friends lists who do this, and I’m not the only one. “Text speak” or “txt spk” is bloody infuriating. On 99% of online communication there is no character limit, or the limit is plenty high enough to accommodate the entire message. Therefore, most of the time any practical need for text speak is removed. However, don’t let that fool you into thinking that the presence of a strict character limit (i.e Twitter) makes it okay. It doesn’t.
If a message is too long to tweet and you need to shorten it, use a thesaurus in conjunction with your brain, don’t bastardise your tweet by making “for” = “4” or “tonight” = “2nt”. If you still can’t fit it in, don’t tweet it.
Removing vowels from words or shortening words to one letter or number looks stupid. Moreover, it makes the author look stupid. It devalues the message and most probably annoys the hell out of the recipient. Take a look here to see what I mean.
All in all, it’s about using your common sense. Think about how you like to be communicated with and make a conscious effort to communicate that way to others.