Netiquette refers to etiquette rules concerning the proper, professional, and polite way to communicate with people online. Here are a few:

  • Follow the same rules of behavior you always have followed in social and professional situations. Just as you would identify yourself on the telephone or in person, you should begin your electronic messages with a greeting and end with your name. You can use a signature line that can post automatically to every outgoing message and contain your contact information.
  • Always consider your audience. Your messages to a friend likely will be much different from those you send to a colleague or client.
  • Respect people’s time. Resist the temptation to share or forward every message that comes across your phone or computer. While social media posts are designed to be brief, they can pile up. Carefully consider whether the content is meaningful before you hit send or reply all. Always respond promptly, even if it merely is to acknowledge the message and to say you will write fully later. Don’t attach unnecessary files or graphics.
  • You can’t control what a recipient will do with your notes, and they can be forwarded without your knowledge or permission. Thus, use caution when forwarding all personal, confidential, or sensitive information. If this is something you would not want to see published in a newspaper or read before a judge, don’t send it. Along those same lines, refrain from using vulgar language you would not want your grandmother to read!
  • Be frugal with the use of humor. Your body language in person or your voice on the telephone can successfully convey that you are joking. However, when you overuse humor in writing, your reader may dismiss you as silly or shallow or may think you are sarcastic or mocking. These can stand in the way of effective business communication.
  • Consider that your reader may want to keep and refer to something you’ve written. For that reason, always strive for high standards of quality every time. Don’t ignore spelling, grammar, or punctuation rules. Make sure the substance of your writing is meaningful.
  • Your business writing does not have to be stuffy or cold. There are ways to inject emotion or personality into your online messages. You can use emoticons — or emotion icons — to express feelings. These include a specific arrangement of typed symbols that resemble a face, along with computer-generated faces. In business writing, you generally should limit your emoticons to smiling faces to show humor or joy. If you are truly sad about a message you send to a client, you probably should use your words rather than a frowning or crying emoticon. Other devices you can employ to indicate emphasis or emotion include asterisks before and after the emphasized terms, spacing between each letter, and color for certain passages. Additionally, use abbreviations or acronyms (e.g., LOL for laugh out loud, BTW for by the way, etc.) if they are obvious or you are sure the reader understands them. All these devices should be used judiciously because too many can detract from your message at best or be negatively construed at worst. For example, typing your message in all uppercase letters is interpreted as shouting.
  • Control your emotions before you craft your message. Flaming — sending inflammatory remarks — should be used rarely, if at all. If you are not careful, the reaction you get from that rude or insulting response can backfire spectacularly.
  • Finally, reread everything before you send it. It is difficult, if not impossible, to retrieve an errant electronic communication.

This week’s Hot Tip Tuesday was taken from the Business Writing Skills module in The Travel Institute’s Certified Travel Associate program. For a more in-depth look at all the skills in this step, we encourage you to enroll in the CTA program.