Just like any form of communication, the Internet is a community that has its own form of etiquette. Internet etiquette is also known as "netiquette." Netiquette should be used during email, social networking sites, and even instant messaging or chat rooms. Like any other form of communication, the Internet has rules and guidelines for what is considered acceptable behavior.
Knowing proper netiquette is extremely important during the information age, especially during business communications. Nonverbal communication is limited on the internet, with web chats being one of the few ways to express nonverbal communication which accounts for 80% of how communication is interpreted. Because the internet lacks body language or facial expressions, the feeling of a statement can often be misconstrued.
Netiquette involves careful word placement and expression, as well as the "nonverbal" language of the net. Emoticons are often used to express nonverbal communication where it does not exist. Emoticons usually follow a sentence to express emotion. Examples of emoticons:
:-) These three characters represent a smiling face when rotated by 90 degrees. ;-) This winking smile means the remark was flirtatious or even sarcastic :-( The frowning character suggests sadness :-I This character expresses apathy :-P This can either be considered playful or disgusted <g> This usually means "grin" ROTFL This means "rolling on the floor laughing" LOL This is famously used as "laugh out loud" BTW This is a short version of "by the way" IMHO This means "in my humble opinion"
Netiquette is not only for the purpose of adding a "human" element to the Internet, it is also used to make communication more efficient. One must say what they mean and say it with care. Proofread your messages. Spelling is the most apparent reflection of one's intelligence on the Internet. Intelligence and education is judged by spelling, grammar, punctuation, and message clarity. Along with spelling, consecutive capitalization should be used sparingly. Using all caps is usually interpreted as a person shouting.
Netiquette helps users develop and maintain relationships, whether business or personal. It also helps keep group conversations constructive and friendly. Everything online that can be traced to you through a search engine is part of what's known as your "online footprint." Using netiquette helps you make sure your online footprint reflects well on you.
The effects of netiquette depend on where you use it. If you are using netiquette at work, you are safely maintaining your business relationships. If you are applying netiquette when talking to friends or acquaintances, you are being courteous enough to proofread your words and not forward spam. If you are using netiquette to increase your web presence, you are building a positive reputation for yourself.
Kat Consador is a freelance writer and professional competitive Latin dancer. Her work has appeared in eHow and various online publications. She also writes for clients in small businesses, primarily specializing in SEO. She earned a Bachelor's of Arts in Psychology from Arizona State University.