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Rules of Engagement: Netiquette for the Cyber World

03.18.13   |   Job Search & Career   |   Sean Cashman, Senior Consultant at Treeline Incorporated

Rules to follow when engaging with others onlineDespite popular belief, manners DO exist online. Whether you are posting something on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter - or even sending an email to someone there are appropriate rules of engagement.

I don't claim to have all the answers, and I will certainly not deny committing some sort of past crime against the rules of online etiquette, or 'netiquette' as it is sometimes called. But I try to adhere to some sort of rules of engagement online. I have become more and more stringent over the years because, quite honestly, I have been the victim of people who have no netiquette.

I have taken it upon myself to list some examples of common violations against standard netiquette - I will stick to just email netiquette for sake of length. If you find yourself doing any of these, cut it out.

Email:
  • When you are communicating via email with someone you have never spoken with, please take a few lines to introduce yourself. Make some effort to put some context around who you are and why you are emailing me, before you ask me for something.

  • During any email correspondence, make an effort to spell the recipient's name correctly - there is no excuse for this. My name, 'Sean' shows up in my email address - I have received countless emails addressed to 'Shawn' or 'Shaun' - I don't know them...I am Sean. If you forgot how to spell it - simply refer to the email address you are sending this note to.

  • We are quickly becoming a generation of 'texters' which I am fine with. I love texting. But a problem occurs when someone does not understand the difference between texting and email. Email is a written correspondence - grammar, spelling, punctuation all count in an email where in a text there is more leniency. The quickest way to get any professional to STOP reading your email is write a sentence in text short hand. Don't do it.

  • Along the same lines as the last bullet, do not use email to have a fragmented conversation. If you are trading off emails with someone, avoid the one sentence response - especially if there are multiple questions to answer.

  • Here is one that is often overlooked - if you are in a back and forth email conversation with someone, be sure to have a sense of awareness to access the situation and ask, "Would the conversation be better served if I just picked up the phone and called this person?" The answer is probably yes. Email is very convenient and incredibly useful but it will never fully replace live social conversation. We fall into this email trap when the conversation is going to be tough - so we'll cop out and just send an email to let ourselves off the hook. Don't be chicken - pick up the phone.

  • Lastly, with the huge push of the omnipotent and omniscient SmartPhone, we have more access to email and social media than ever. There is no reason not to respond to an email in a timely manner. Even if you cannot reply fully do to schedule or travel, at least a quick reply to the sender to set expectations that you received the email and will get back to them shortly.
I am sure there are more but these are the ones that I see the most often. The only other one I encounter frequently is the "Online Tough Guy." This is someone who, for one reason or another, is annoyed and wants to convey that over email - sometimes with vulgarity. In the near future, I will dedicate a whole blog to this person, but definitely worth an honorable mention here.

If any of the above look familiar to you - please stop it and make the cyber world a better place. Remember, if you would not say it in the real world, don't say it the cyber world. 'Til next time...

 

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