Ah, I still remember when Mrs. Pepper shared with a group of young 6th graders the proper way to treat members of the other sex. It included things like opening the door for girls, letting them go first in line and such. We also learned table manners; how to use our utensils properly, where they are placed when setting the table, how to ask to be excused, & where to put our napkins and where not to put our elbows. There are many social norms that we keep in order to make things run more smoothly. Imagine if everyone drove on whatever side of the road they wanted. Having a set side gives me some comfort as you share mutual expectations with other drivers. Similarly, when you spend time on the internet interacting with other it is good to have social norms to make your experiences safe and enjoyable. Here are a few etiquette basics for online education.

All Caps. I know that some people are much more sensitive about this than I am. But it just boils down to making it as simple as possible for people to understand your message. Reading even a sentence in all caps is not what people are used to and thus it is harder for them to follow along. Some even interpret this as shouting. The same rule can also be applied to special cursive or fancy fonts.

Don’t forget to say please. Just because you’re behind a computer doesn’t mean that you should forget what your mother taught you about saying please and thank you. It’s important as ever and received well because many forget to do it. In general use kind language and you’ll have a much better go online.

Remember to address those to whom you are speaking and to sign your name. This is a pretty formal way of communicating and most emails should still maintain this convention. If you are in a chat then you don’t need to sign your name each time, but if you’re in a group chat be sure to address to whom you are speaking.

I learned the hard way that what you THINK you type and what you ACTUALLY type may not be the same thing. Often when you are typing fast you can have mistakes appear quite by accident, leaving out words that you thought, misspelling words and such. Most of the time others will know what you mean, but one time I left a not out of a text message and it changed the whole meaning of what I intended. If people lash out, maybe you should reread what you had sent them to see if it was what you meant to send.

Cut people a little slack. There is always room for giving people a break. When someone joins in on a group discussion after a hard day’s work the last thing they want to hear is how you think they’re a lazy bum. Keep the object of getting along in mind and remember often how you like to be treated. It’s not just some old saying, but seriously, the Golden Rule is still relevant for a very good reason, when we think of ourselves too much it goes to our heads.

Remember to check emails to make sure you’re sending them to the right “John”, that you included a descriptive subject line and that you’ve attached any documents that you refer to in the email. If you use Google’s Gmail you may try some of their “Lab” functionality. One will ask you if you meant to attach something if you mention an attachment in your email while another let’s you know you’re sending an email without a subject line. A recent one I tried let me double check the email address when I have more than one person with the same name in my address book. Handy!

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