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