15 – Correspondence

Netiquette

Annemarie Hamlin; Chris Rubio; Michele DeSilva; and Matt McKinney

Netiquette refers to etiquette, or protocols and norms for communication, on the Internet. We create personal pages, post messages, and interact via online technologies as a normal part of our careers, but how we conduct ourselves can leave a lasting image, literally. The photograph you posted on your Facebook page or Twitter feed may have been seen by your potential employer, or that unprofessional remark in a post may come back to haunt you later.

Following several guidelines for online postings, as detailed below, can help you avoid embarrassment later.

  1. Know Your Context
    • Introduce yourself.
    • Avoid assumptions about your readers. Remember that culture influences communication style and practices.
    • Familiarize yourself with policies on Acceptable Use of IT Resources at your organization. One example of a college’s acceptable use policy can be found in the Aggie Honor Code and Netiquette.[1]
  1. Remember the Human
    • Remember there is a person behind the words. Ask for clarification before making judgement.
    • Check your tone before you publish.
    • Respond to people using their names.
    • Remember that culture and even gender can play a part in how people communicate.
    • Remain authentic and expect the same of others.
    • Remember that people may not reply immediately. People participate in different ways, some just by reading the communication rather than jumping into it.
    • Avoid jokes and sarcasm; they often don’t translate well to the online environment.
  1. Recognize that Text is Permanent
    • Be judicious. What you say online is difficult to retract later.
    • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the working environment.
    • Agree on ground rules for text communication (formal or informal; seek clarification whenever needed, etc.) if you are working collaboratively.
  1. Avoid Flaming: Research Before You React
    • Accept and forgive mistakes.
    • Consider your responsibility to the group and to the working environment.
    • Seek clarification before reacting.
    • Ask someone with more experience (e.g. supervisor, coworker) for guidance.
    • Sometimes, online behavior can appear so disrespectful and even hostile that it requires attention and follow up. In this case, let your supervisor know right away so that the right resources can be called upon to help.
  1. Respect Privacy and Original Ideas
    • Quote the original author if you are responding to a specific point made by someone else.
    • Ask the author of an email for permission before forwarding the communication.

Ultimately, it is important to remember that engaging in correspondence professionally, personably, and ethically is essential to mastering technical and professional communication. You already have, or likely will have, written countless emails, letters, memos, texts, and social media posts throughout your daily life. Together, these pieces of correspondence form a body of work that will help you craft your ethos as a professional, form and maintain beneficial working relationships, and transmit information efficiently and persuasively. These skills will also help you avoid and navigate potential conflicts that may arise in the workplace and other professional contexts. Treat each correspondence as an opportunity to practice them.

This text was derived from

Gross, Allison, Annemarie Hamlin, Billy Merck, Chris Rubio, Jodi Naas, Megan Savage, and Michele DeSilva. Technical Writing. Open Oregon Educational Materials, n.d. https://openoregon.pressbooks.pub/technicalwriting/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

The above authors derived their text from:

UBC Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology “Communicating Online: Netiquette.” Historic site as of March 26, 2016 via the Internet Archive Wayback Machine was https://web.archive.org/web/20160326021044/https://ctlt.ubc.ca/distance-learning/learner-support/communicating-online-netiquette/ The page at that time indicated that its content was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The website as of July 16, 2020 is https://distancelearning.ubc.ca/learner-support/communicating-online-netiquette/


  1. “Aggie Honor Code and Netiquette,” Texas A&M University Distance Education, accessed August 12, 2020, https://distance.tamu.edu/Student-Rules-and-Policies/Aggie-Honor-Code-and-Netiquette.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Howdy or Hello? Technical and Professional Communication by Annemarie Hamlin; Chris Rubio; Michele DeSilva; and Matt McKinney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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