You just got online for the first time. You visited a few web sites. You sent email to a few family members. Now what?

Frequently, the answer is “join a mailing list!” It might be called a Yahoo!Group or a listserv or something else, but I’m going to call it a mailing list because I read the messages by email.

In any case, it’s the often the first time someone new to the internet interacts with total strangers online. Those of us who have been online for a long time take many conventions for granted, and my daughter’s generation learns them along with learning that it’s rude to wipe your nose on your sleeve. We all had to learn them some time, though, and it’s in everyone’s best interests that we communicate them to newcomers as soon and as gently as possible to newcomers.

  1. Using all capital letters is considered shouting. It’s very hard to read, and it’s offensive. Please find your shift key and use it appropriately.
  2. Stop and read over your message before sending it. Your words are all that people have as a first impression of you. Have you stated your message clearly? Correct spelling and grammar errors before you hit “send.”
  3. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it in email.
  4. Make sure the subject line of your email accurately reflects what’s in the body of the message.
  5. Never put anything in an email that you wouldn’t be happy to have your 3-year-old repeat in front of your parents, grandparents and pastor at the dinner table next Sunday.
  6. Ask permission before sending an email from someone to a third party.
  7. Keep personal discussions off-list. If you want to discuss an issue with a particular member of a mailing list, send your message to that person’s email address rather than posting it to the list.
  8. HTML does not belong in email. That means no colors, underlining, italics, bold, special fonts, or backgrounds. Definitely no sound files. Just text.
  9. Do not send attachments to any mailing list. Don’t send them to an individual unless the recipient is expecting them.
  10. Stay on topic. If you want knitting advice, find a knitting group. Don’t post your knitting question to the mailing list for setting up car pools for your child’s school trips, even though you know there are many other knitters there. It’s every bit as rude as blocking the drive at the school because you can’t be bothered to stop knitting.

Originally published January 28, 2001