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What is netiquette?

Internet technology has made it possible for people all around the world to communicate with each other in meaningful ways, whether for research, education, business or enjoyment through email. We have all experienced dramatic changes in the ways we work and live that could not have been predicted a decade ago.

Now with concerns ranging from privacy, security and freedom of speech, to honesty and confidentiality it is more important than ever to understand and observe general guidelines of netiquette. Netiquette, or network etiquette, is the contemporary term for the proper way we communicate and interact with each other using email over the Internet.

Even with the best of intentions, misunderstandings are likely to occur in almost any type of communication. Nevertheless, it is possible to repair glitches in a face-to-face dialog or even a telephone conversation before any lasting damage occurs.

In a face-to-face situation or telephone conversation you are able to change your tone of voice, to rephrase comments and to present body language that welcomes further communication and thus promotes understanding. Email messages do not offer you the benefit of these signals.

The following guidelines for email etiquette will help staff members:

  • to convey a professional image within and outside the Library
  • to communicate what is intended and avoid misunderstanding

General Etiquette

Communicate professionally

If you were on the receiving end of your message, what would your reaction be? Follow these general tips to communicate professionally with others:

  • Become familiar with the Hivemind Acceptable Use Policy
  • Common courtesy is always welcomed in written communication and helps to promote 2-way communication.
  • Do not copy or forward a message or attachments without the author's permission. Asking for permission to forward a message or attachment demonstrates your integrity in personal and business communications
  • Use request delivery and read receipt sparingly. Why not ask for a response from your reader within your email message?
  • Avoid offensive language of any kind. Using email to harass others in a sexual, racial or other manner violates our Nation's Constitution.
  • Take the time to proof your message. Use the spell check.
  • Use anti-virus software and update your virus definitions regularly

Words to the Wise

  • Never divulge your user name or password to others.
  • Immediately delete email with attachments from senders you do not recognize. It is most likely "spam". Do not click open web links in messages from unknown sources.
  • Never run an executable file (e.g., .exe) from an email, especially an unknown or untrusted source.
  • Do not forward personal email without the author's knowledge and permission
  • Do not forward chain letters. Delete them.
  • Keep acronyms to a minimum. They can be confusing to your readers.
  • Never answer "spam". Your response will confirm your email address. Delete the message instead or upload it to the spam account on the new server.
  • Please do not forward virus hoaxes.

Send the right message

Target your audiences carefully when you broadcast information. Your intended audience will often influence your choice of language and style.

  • Use clear and meaningful subject lines that your reader will understand.
  • Write single subject email messages whenever possible. Stick to the subject of your message.
  • Watch the send button. Remember that any message you send is permanent.
  • Separate opinion from facts or other content in the message. Keeping the focus

on facts and substance and away from opinion promotes clear understanding.

  • Identify yourself and your affiliates clearly. However pseudonyms are accepted.
  • Create separate signature files for business and personal use if necessary.
  • Avoid sending messages to multiple administrative levels when communication on

a single level is appropriate.

  • For mass e-mailings try using the Bcc: field or do a mail merge. To keep a

personal touch, using a mail merge feature might be a better way to go.

  • Limit the list of recipients and Cc:'s only to the people who are directly involved

with the subject.

Key steps for writing effective email messages

You represent one of the most privilaged online communities in the world. Be sure your written communications reflect this in a positive and beneficial manner for the network.·

  • Start with a strong subject line. Think of your subject line as the headline

of an important news article. Make sure the subject line relates to the message content.

  • Use the inverted pyramid form of writing. Your most important statements should

appear in the first paragraph. Follow up with supporting details. Keep paragraphs short for easy reading. Put forth your recommendations or state the measures you will take in resolving a problem, for instance.

  • Use sub-topic headings within your email message, especially if the message is lengthy.

Refer to the subtopics in your first paragraph. This will provide a helpful guide for your reader.

  • Ask for an action. For example, let your recipient know what you need in order to

complete a task.

  • When in doubt, check it out. Use the spell check or consult grammar and style manuals.
  • Re-read your message one last time before you send it.

Email is not always the best method of communication

Sometimes communication may be of a sensitive or confidential nature and using email may be inappropriate or cause unnecessary hard feelings. Keep the following in mind when determining the best method of communication.

  • Do not use email to broadcast confidential matters or discussions with third parties.
  • Communicate complaints or dissatisfaction directly to the individual. Refrain from

sending complaints about individuals to third parties via email. Give an individual the courtesy of a phone or face-to-face conversation. This opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding is very important in promoting 2-way communication.

  • Communicate highly complex information through other means. A telephone call, or

face-to-face conversation may reduce any misunderstandings.

  • Negotiations usually need back and forth communication. If you find yourself

responding more than three times on the same topic, choose an alternate form of communication.

Best impressions are lasting impressions

Always use correct grammar, spelling, punctuation, and paragraph structure. Careless spelling, grammar or punctuation conveys a poor impression of you.

  • Use good structure & layout. Reading from a computer screen is different than

reading from paper. Keep your paragraphs short and place blank lines between each paragraph. This allows your reader to scan your message quickly.

  • Do not capitalize whole words that are not titles. Capitalizing is generally

interpreted as SHOUTING to your reader.

  • Avoid overuse of the "highest priority" option.
  • Place a table of contents at the top of your message if you have several

detailed pieces of information to convey. Documents should be placed in an attachment.

  • Use an *asterisk* around a word to emphasize a point.
  • Get your most important points across quickly! Place your most important information

in the first paragraph. Put supporting details in subsequent paragraphs. Readers will often scan the first paragraph and make a judgment about the entire message based upon those first few lines.

  • Descriptive subject lines get attention. A strong subject line that identifies the

message content enables your reader to file and retrieve your message later. Good descriptive subject lines allow easy scanning for message content in mailboxes.

  • Create single subject messages whenever possible.
  • Limit sentence length to 20 words or two lines.
  • Use bullets or numbers and short paragraphs whenever possible. The more succinct your

message is, the more likely your email will be read, understood and acted upon.

  • Use "active" rather than "passive" voice when possible.
  • Use emoticons sparingly. Emoticons are combinations of keyboard characters that

convey emotion when viewed sideways...smiley face = :-) = pleasant emotion. They may work with recipients who are familiar with their use but not necessarily with those who are new to the electronic medium. Emoticons are no substitute for clear and concise writing. They are not appropriate for formal business communications.

  • Avoid misinterpretation of dates by spelling out the month.

Example: 24 Jun 01 or Jun 24 01

Your electronic business card

A signature file can provide useful information such as a mailing and email address, phone/fax number, web site address or other contact information.

Four or five lines are about the maximum. The signature file usually appears at the end of your email message. Think of the signature file as your electronic business card

Be responsive not reactive

If you have a strong emotion when composing or responding to an email, pause.

Consider another medium of communication. Plan a face-to-face conversation, pick up the phone or have another person pre-read your response before you hit the send button.

  • Assume the good intentions and competence of the sender.
  • Think three times: before you write, after you write and before you send your message. Carefully compose all responses.
  • If you receive a message intended for another person, forward it with a brief explanation. Don't just ignore it.
  • Avoid flaming or the expression of extreme emotion or opinion in an email message. You will alienate your reader, possibly generate ill feelings and negatively impact work productivity.
  • Separate opinion from facts while reading a message, so you can respond appropriately.
  • Be concise in all your messages.
  • Create templates for frequently used responses. If you receive the same question repeatedly, create a template or stationary (in Eudora) to use. This saves time and provides consistency of response.
  • Avoid attaching unnecessary files.

Quote only the text that conveys the context of your reply

This technique is especially useful when responding to a single point in a message.

  • To improve clarity, you may insert a "<snip>" or <delitia> note where you have cut material from the original author's message.
  • A short description of what you have cut out, such as "<snipped description>" may be helpful to others (especially on a mailing list) who did not see the original posting.
  • Avoid posting messages containing the entire text of a preceding article. Nobody likes reading a long message for the third or forth time, only to be followed by a one line response: "Yeah, me too".

The Phenomenon of Flaming

According to the Rand Corporation, a non-profit institution that helps improve policy and decision making, one attribute of email that most distinguishes it from other forms of communication is its ability to evoke emotion in the recipient (Anderson and Shapiro, 1985).

Misinterpretation of the content or form of the email message plus the likelihood that the recipient will then fire off a hasty response often exacerbates the situation. This expression of extreme emotion or opinion in an email message is referred to as flaming.

Unlike telephone and personal conversations that fade with time, impulsive email responses can sit around in mailboxes, be printed out, circulated and acquire a level of importance that was never intended.

This is a real barrier to effective and 2-way communication and can have a negative impact on work relationships and work productivity. Keep the following in mind to avoid creating flaming email:

  • It is frighteningly easy to create an immediate and not necessarily thoughtful response to an email message.
  • Interpersonal cues that aid the face-to-face communication process, such as immediate feedback and the ability to judge body language are completely absent from this communication medium.
  • Without face-to-face communication, attempts at humor, irony, sarcasm, and wit are often misinterpreted. Some may view your joke as criticism.

Reduce Flaming: Email responses are permanent

In written and telephone communications, time can soften the edge of an ill-conceived response. However, a hasty email response can remain permanently in sharp focus.

To reduce email communication problems:

  • Resist the temptation to fire off a response.
  • Read the original message again. You might be misinterpreting the

message by the sender.

  • Draft a response and let it cool off for a time before sending it.

Reconsider your response again after a walk to the coffee or ice cream shop.

  • Break the cycle of message and response. A telephone call or

personal conversation can do wonders in resolving difficulties.

  • Respond to opinion with evidence or facts that are relevant.

Recomendations from the Postmaster's Office

The Hivemind Network has no obligation to forward email or to support external services for persons who stop using the service for any period of time. Departing individuals should therefore make their own arrangements in establishing a new Internet Service Provider (ISP) and new email account.

However, making the transition to a new provider can be made smoothly if the following general guidelines are kept in mind:

  • Plan for the disposition of your email account with the

Hivemind Administrators beforehand.

  • Notify your major correspondents of your new email address and the date it will be active.
  • Discontinue subscriptions to mailing lists.

Sources: Keep writing effective email messages

Copy/Paste/Edited for the Hivemind Network and adapted accordingly.

Originally from: http://www.library.yale.edu/training/netiquette/index.html

Which sites the following sources:

  1. Anderson, Robert H. and Shapiro, Norman Z. "Toward an Ethics and Etiquette

for Electronic Mail". RAND Corporation. On-line. July 1985. http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/R3283

  1. Angell, David, and Heslop, Brent. The Elements of Email Style: Communicate

Effectively via Electronic Email. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994.

  1. Hannon, Michael J. "E-mail in the Workplace: Balancing Efficiency and Liability

Concerns". Trends in Law Library Management and Technology. Vol.9, No. 4. August 1998.

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