Where's Miss Manners When You Need Her?

As you set up your home network and begin to expose your family to the wonders of the Internet, keep in mind some simple rules of etiquette. Getting along in polite society is important, even if your only interaction is with a computer keyboard and a screen. In general, the most intimate contact you have with others over the Internet is through email or postings on Web-based bulletin boards. Here are a few simple guidelines to being a good Netizen:

  1. No yelling. TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS IS CONSIDERED SHOUTING. Use capitalization sparingly—only for emphasis. Reading email in all capital letters is difficult.

  2. Use the spell checker. Poor grammar and spelling are the bane of the Internet. Take a few seconds to read what you wrote and run the spell checker. Someone reading your message will consider what you say based on how you typed it. Even the best argument loses its effectiveness if it contains many typos and grammatical errors.

  3. Don't communicate in an email message something you wouldn't say to the recipient in person. You'd be amazed how many email messages I get that contain random profanity, direct insults about other writers, or even comments about my parentage. Some people feel they can be incredibly rude in an email message because they disagree with something I've written. I trash those messages rather quickly. Don't let the supposed anonymity of the Internet get the better of you. Reasoned arguments are more effective than random vulgarity.

  4. Edit your email message. Don't add a "Me, too" response to a long email message and send it on, especially if you're on an Internet mailing list; it's rude, wastes bandwidth (not everyone has broadband), and can really mess up a message digest (where the recipient receives a collection of message traffic from a mailing list as one message). Many people add a one-line response to a 200-line message and reply to a list. Add five or six of those responses to a message digest, and it becomes an unreadable mess, with thousands of lines of repeated text and little usable information.

  5. Last, but not least, NEVER FORWARD A VIRUS-WARNING MESSAGE, ENEMY-ATTACK WARNING, OR ANYTHING THAT SOUNDS SUSPICIOUS without first checking its validity (capitalized for emphasis). If the message warns about a virus, check the antivirus vendor Web sites for real information. If the message is a report about an enemy threat, an Internet chain letter, or even an uplifting email message attributed to a famous person, check the facts before passing it on. Your first stop should be the Urban Legend Reference Archive at the snopes2.com Web site.(http://www.snopes2.com)

Following these rules of netiquette and passing them along to other family users will make the Internet a more pleasant place for all.

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