The Core Rules of Netiquette

"Netiquette", or network etiquette, is the set of ground rules in Cyberspace. Kind of the electronic equivalent of "keep off the grass" and "don't spit", netiquette is a loose set of rules for how folks should behave online. The following list is taken (with permission) from an excellent book, aptly titled "Netiquette", by Virginia Shea. This slim book does an excellent job of helping those new to Cyberspace learn the basic tenants of netiquette. Chapters cover the netiquette of e-mail and of discussion groups as well as providing excellent netiquette guidelines for business, home and school use. Particularly useful sections cover Electronic Style (looking good online, tone of voice and signature files) and the "core rules" of the online world. One chapter covers copyright issues and another the etiquette of e-mail privacy. There's even a chapter on "Love & Sex in Cyberspace". (Published by Albion Books, ISBN 0-9637025-1-3. For more informa tion, send e-mail to
  1. Remember the human.
    Never forget that the person reading your mail or posting is, indeed, a person, with feelings that can be hurt.
    Corollary 1 to Rule #1: It's not nice to hurt other people's feelings.
    Corollary 2: Never mail or post anything you wouldn't say to your reader's face.
    Corollary 3: Notify your readers when flaming.
  2. Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life.
    Corollary 1: Be ethical.
    Corollary 2: Breaking the law is bad Netiquette.
  3. Know where you are in cyberspace.
    Corollary 1: Netiquette varies from domain to domain.
    Corollary 2: Lurk before you leap.
  4. Respect other people's time and bandwidth.
    Corollary 1: It's OK to think that what you're doing at the moment is the most important thing in the universe, but don't expect anyone else to agree with you.
    Corollary 2: Post messages to the appropriate discussion group.
    Corollary 3: Try not to ask stupid questions on discussion groups.
    Corollary 4: Read the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) document.
    Corollary 5: When appropriate, use private email instead of posting to the group.
    Corollary 6: Don't post subscribe, unsubscribe, or FAQ requests.
    Corollary 7: Don't waste expert readers' time by posting basic information.
    Corollary 8: If you disagree with the premise of a particular discussion group, don't waste the time and bandwidth of the members by telling them how stupid they are. Just stay away.
    Corollary 9: Conserve bandwidth when you retrieve information from a host or server.
  5. Make yourself look good online.
    Corollary 1: Check grammar and spelling before you post.
    Corollary 2: Know what you're talking about and make sense.
    Corollary 3: Don't post flame-bait.
  6. Share expert knowledge.
    Corollary 1: Offer answers and help to people who ask questions on discussion groups.
    Corollary 2: If you've received email answers to a posted question, summarize them and post the summary to the discussion group.
  7. Help keep flame wars under control.
    Corollary 1: Don't respond to flame-bait.
    Corollary 2: Don't post spelling or grammar flames.
    Corollary 3: If you've posted flame-bait or perpetuated a flame war, apologize.
  8. Respect other people's privacy.
    Don't read other people's private email.
  9. Don't abuse your power.
    The more power you have, the more important it is that you use it well.
  10. Be forgiving of other people's mistakes.
    You were a network newbie once too!

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Copyright © 1994, 1995, 2004 by Kevin Savetz. The information in this book was collected in 1994-1995 and has not been updated since.