Online Etiquette from Dr. Marisol Clark-Ibanez, Associate Professor, CSUSM

Online Netiquette from Dr. Marisol Clark-Ibanez, Associate Professor, CSUSM

Online Etiquette: A Brave New Electronic World [1]

Welcome to the world of online, Web-based courses. If you're like many people, this is your first experience with an online course. You may have taken some courses before, and you may also have had experience with some form of electronic communication, but a Web-based course is a newer area of social interaction, and as such it has its own rules for interacting with others.

Disembodied Discussions

A key distinguishing feature of an online course is that communication occurs solely via the written word. Because of this, the body language, voice tone, and instantaneous listener feedback of the traditional classroom are all absent. These facts need to be taken into account both when contributing messages to a discussion and when reading them. Keep in mind the following points:

Tone Down Your Language: Given the absence of face-to-face clues, written text can easily be misinterpreted. Avoid the use of strong or offensive language and the excessive use of exclamation points. If you feel particularly strongly about a point, it may be best to write it first as a draft and then to review it, before posting it, in order to remove any strong language.

Keep A Straight Face: In general, avoid humor and sarcasm. These frequently depend either on facial or tone of voice cues absent in text communication or on familiarity with the reader.

Be Forgiving: If someone states something that you find offensive, mention this directly to the instructor. Remember that the person contributing to the discussion is also new to this form of communication. What you find offensive may quite possibly have been unintended and is best cleared up by the instructor.

The Recorder Is On: Think carefully about the content of your message before contributing it. Once sent to the group, there is no taking it back. Also, although the grammar and spelling of a message typically are not graded, they do reflect on you, and your audience might not be able to decode misspelled words or poorly constructed sentences. It is a good practice to compose and check your comments in a word-processor before posting them.

Test For Clarity: Messages may often appear perfectly clear to you as you compose them, but turn out to be perfectly obtuse to your reader. One way to test for clarity is to read your message aloud to see if it flows smoothly. If you can read it to another person before posting it, even better.

Netspeak: Although electronic communication is still young, many conventions have already been established. DO NOT TYPE IN ALL CAPS. This is regarded as shouting and is out of place in a classroom. Acronyms and emoticons (arrangements of symbols to express emotions) are popular, but excessive use of them can make your message difficult to read. This class is academic and so refrain from using “texting” language or acronyms in formal forum discussions and your papers.


[1] Retrieved by Dr. Clark-Ibáñez on June 1, 2012. Adapted from the University of Wisconsin, http://online.uwc.edu/technology/onletiquette.asp

Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2015, 7:49 AM