Netiquette: Communication online

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Netiquette: Communication online

The term "netiquette" comes from the words, "Network" and "etiquette."  
It refers to codes of practice when communicating online. Respect for diversity is a core value of North Seattle College.  Our college community fosters an engaging and supportive learning environment of mutual respect. Therefore, we are responsible for the content and tone of our communications.  North Seattle Community College does not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, color, age, national origin, religion, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, status as a veteran or disabled veteran, political affiliation or belief, immigrant status, or presence of any physical, sensory, or mental disability. It is very important that we avoid such discrimination within our communication so that everyone can feel welcomed and supported. It is important for online communication to maintain 
a respectful online voice at all times.

In the online environment, Your writing is your Voice.

In order to prevent misunderstandings and promote engaging, meaningful collaboration and learning care must be taken into how you communicate online. Classes will be composed of native and non-native English speakers and different cultures which bring a different point of cultural reference, understanding of humor and expectations of learning. This diversity enriches our courses and asks that we recognize our part in communicating responsibly.

General Tips for Online Communication

  • Always maintain a cordial and respectful tone in written messages.
  • When in doubt, ask yourself, ‘Would I feel comfortable saying this to the person standing in front of me?
  • Never use BLOCK capitals, which is shouting online.
  • Treat any online discussions, chats or email contributions confidentially. Remember, however, that email messages in general are not secure. Don’t reveal more than you would on a postcard, for example!
  • Reread your written text before posting or emailing.
  • Wait 24 hours before responding to a seemingly inflammatory message or post. Online conflicts unnecessarily tend to get blown out of proportion. A good rule of thumb is to give the author the benefit of the doubt and to end your response with a positive statement.
  • Assume good intentions and ask questions for clarity. Sometimes a tone can be misunderstood.  

Communication management:  Good online communication practice is also about being mindful of online communicators’ ownership, time and bandwidth. The following tips will help keep online communication manageable and enjoyable for all involved.

  • Be aware of the copyright on the material you are posting or sending. Acknowledge the owner of any material that is not your own.
  • Never forward a written text without the author’s consent.
  • Avoid replying directly to emails containing file attachments – this unnecessarily fills up the original sender’s mailbox.
  • Be careful when using the reply features in email. Ask yourself if your message is really relevant to all recipients.
  • Check for the validity of email. Realize that hoaxes, spam mail, forgery and viruses are easily sent via email. When in doubt the mail is best left unopened and then deleted.

Because North Seattle College values respect and diversity, we have provided tips and guidelines for communicating and engaging in the online environment. 

Communicating Online

In order to avoid misunderstandings and to promote an encouraging environment for all communicators always take the following guidelines into consideration before posting, sending your message in any online communication

  • Be professional at all times.
    • You are preparing yourself to be a career professional. Remember this as you communicate online.
  • Be considerate.
    • The sending of spam mail to fellow classmates or instructors in not allowed. 
  • Be respectful of other people.
    • Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
  • Be calm.
    • If you are upset or frustrated, keep this out of your communications with your fellow students or instructors. An angry or sarcastic comment does little to win respect or cooperation. Think about what you are going to say in an unemotional, professional manner. Provide adequate information when asking for help or assistance from your instructors or classmates.
  • Humor and sarcasm.
    • Because there are no visual cues in distance education, humor and sarcasm are impossible to discern. Be very careful when interjecting humor and refrain from using any remarks that are sarcastic in nature.
  • Harassment and other offensive behavior.
    • The online learning environment is no place to harass, threaten, or embarrass others. Comments that can be viewed, as offensive, sexist, or racially motivated will not be tolerated. It is never appropriate to put anyone down because of their age, race, religion, color, sex, or sexual preference or gender.
  • Offensive material.
    • Students may not post, transmit, promote, or distribute content that is racially, religiously, or ethnically offensive or is harmful, abusive, vulgar, sexually explicit, otherwise potentially offensive.
  • Copyrights and intellectual property.
    • Students may not post, transmit, promote, or distribute content that know or could reasonably be expected to know is illegal, or content that violates copyright or other protected intellectual property rights.
  • Capital letters and bolding.

In written communication, the use of capital letters and/or bolding is used for emphasis. In much of the corporate world, writing in all caps is considered yelling. Yelling is not tolerated in a residential classroom and, therefore, is not acceptable in any online communications with students.

Discussion Board Communication

  • "Lurk" on a new discussion group for a while so you can get a feel for the kind of messages and responses that are posted.
  •  Keep messages relevant to the group.
  •  Use meaningful subject headers. Or make the first line of your comment a subject line. Make life easier for the recipient: always address the person being written to by name,
  • clearly indicate who the message or post is coming from and add a descriptive subject heading.
  • Reply to an existing post only if your thoughts are directly related to it. Otherwise create a new message. This eases threading for all later on.
  •  Share what you know. It is what makes online discussions exciting!
  •  Include a notation in your subject line (e.g. [long message]) if you are posting something that is particularly lengthy.
  • Assume good intentions and ask questions for clarity. Sometimes a tone can be misunderstood.  

Remember that newcomers may make mistakes. Be patient.

Cultural Considerations

Keep in mind that different cultures bring different points of reference, different understandings of humor and different expectations of online communication. Every culture has rules that its members take for granted. “Few of us are aware of our own biases because cultural imprinting is begun at a very early age. And while some of culture’s knowledge, rules, beliefs, values, phobias and anxieties are taught explicitly, most is absorbed subconsciously.” Forbes magazine Carol Kinsey Goman 

An effective communication strategy begins with the understanding that the sender of the message and the receiver of the message might be from different cultures and backgrounds, communicating differently than you do.  Consider the following suggestions before posting or sending your message:

  • Avoid using complicated language, terminology, slang, idioms or local acronyms.
  • Be aware of differences in date formats and measurements.
  • Be careful with sarcasm and humor, avoid ridicule.
  • Allow extra time for responses, especially in chats.
  • Remember that language fluency does not reflect intelligence.
  • Assume good intentions and ask questions for clarity.
  • Admit mistakes and apologize