You may be a model of decorum in person, but a bonehead online. Check out how much you know about internet manners.
Step 1: Be clear Be clear in your e-mails and text messages. Don't include acronyms unless you're sure the recipient will understand them. Use sarcasm sparingly, if it all, since it's easily misunderstood in print. And never write in all caps – unless you actually intend to be shouting.
Step 2: Attach with care If you're sending an attachment, make sure it's compatible with the recipient's software. If it's larger than 5 megabytes, compress it before sending. Otherwise, it could lock up the recipient's inbox.
TIP: Share photos by posting them online rather than sending them as individual attachments.
Step 3: Respect people's privacy When you send group e-mails, respect people's privacy by typing the addresses into the BCC – or blind carbon copy – field; this prevents recipients from seeing that anyone else was copied on the email. Never forward someone's e-mail address or message to a third party unless you have the sender's permission.
Step 4: Fill them in Fill in the subject line. It only takes a second, and it provides your recipient with useful information that can help them track the e-mail in the future. If you're forwarding a message, include a brief explanation as to why you're doing so.
Step 5: Be sensitive Don't tag pictures of other people on social-networking sites if they've previously asked you not to, and don't discuss anyone's private business – no matter how harmless you think it is – on people's walls or anywhere on their profiles where others can view it.
Step 6: Think before you IM Think before you send an instant message to someone. It's meant for brief, swift exchanges. Don't begin an IM correspondence with someone if you think you're going to be interrupted or if the subject necessitates a long discussion.
Step 7: "Lurk" before you leap Don't contribute to boards until you've "lurked" – that is, read what's already been written, so you can get a sense of what's appropriate before you join in. Lurking will also prevent you from annoying people with questions that have already been answered and insights that have already been shared.
TIP: If a site has a Frequently Asked Questions section, read it before posting a query.
Step 8: Refrain from "flaming" On discussion boards, refrain from "flaming" people – disagreeing with them in a gratuitously nasty manner. Also, resist the urge to respond to someone else's flame in kind. And don't be a troll – someone who purposely tries to incite others. Bottom line? Treat others the way you'd like to be treated, online and off.
FACT: In 1982, a Carnegie Mellon professor invented the smiley-face emoticon – a colon, hyphen, and closed parenthesis – after humorous postings on electronic bulletin boards were mistakenly being taken seriously.