Skip to Main Content

Digital Literacy: Netiquette and Internet Safety

Tips and resources for practicing online etiquette and safety.

What is Netiquette?

Etiquette refers to one's ability to follow social conventions of politeness and professionalism.

Netiquette refers to one's ability to do the same in the digital environment.

If you'd like to read more about netiquette, we recommend the following Research Starter:

Email Etiquette

Keep these tips in mind when communicating in a text-based format, whether via email or text:

  • Proofread carefully. Use the standard conventions of grammar, including proper capitalization and punctuation

You can use a resource like Grammarly to proofread your emails. Install the Grammarly plug-in for your browser or system, and you don't even have to go to the Grammarly website. Avoid overuse of exclamation points and words in all capital letters, which can be interpreted as yelling at the recipient.

  • Use a clear and concise subject line

Generic subject lines (or no subject at all) can cause an email to be flagged as spam and sent to a separate folder which the recipient may not check frequently. Make sure your subject line is specific to what you're asking: "Meeting on Monday," "Research Essay Questions," "Excused Absence."

  • Use a formal and professional salutation

Avoid informal greetings like Hey or Yo. Use Hi, Hello, Good Morning/Afternoon for a more professional tone. For something even more formal, use "Dear" prior to the recipient's title: "Dear Dr. Smith," "Dear Mr. Davis," "Dear Professor Jones."

Address the recipient formally by title unless otherwise instructed: Dr., Mr., Mrs., Ms., Professor. 

  • Sign off with your name and/or email signature

This is extremely important, especially if you are using an email account or phone number that is not directly tied to your name in the recipient's address book.

  • Avoid use of humor and/or sarcasm

Text-based communication removes the visual cues we often have to tell us that someone is joking. Consider this when you're communicating via text to ensure that your tone remains clear and professional. Emojis, which are sometimes used to convey humor, may not transfer between email platforms.

  • Give it time

Avoid sending quick, flippant responses or angry messages. Use the drafts folder and save the message for a while. Read it carefully, and think it over before you "send."

  • Be aware of your audience

Maintain your level of professionalism with professors, other students, and work colleagues. The tone you use with them is likely different than the tone you use with your close friends and family. Keep that in mind when you're communicating, especially when doing so in writing.

Social Media Etiquette

Before posting or commenting on social media, ask yourself the following:

  • Is it kind?
  • Is it true?
  • Is it necessary?

Carefully scrutinize material before you share it so that you don't fall victim to Fake News.

Your words can have a huge impact on the world around you. Consider that:

  • Nothing posted online is ever truly private

Most social media platforms have privacy settings which allow you to control how your content is viewed by others. Familiarize yourself with the security settings in your chosen platform and use them accordingly, but don't count on full privacy or anonymity online.

  • Not everyone embraces social media

You may have colleagues, fellow students, or professors who are uncomfortable being on social media or sharing their social media presence with you. Ask before you invite, and respect their decisions. It's a good idea to also have your own social media policy in place. You are not obligated to add anyone to your social media presence. Adding those you don't know well can dramatically change the dynamic of your social media influence.

  • When interacting with others online, you publicly represent everyone connected to you.

This includes friends, family, co-workers, and the company for which you work. When you post something online, it can have far-reaching impacts not only for you but for those around you. Think before you post.

  • Be aware of legal ramifications

There are numerous ways to face legal trouble for something you've innocently said or shared online. Some examples might include:

  • Moral turpitude violations stated within an employment contract. 
  • Distribution of company secrets (or confirmation of rumors).
  • Distribution of private or protected information.
  • Sharing of false, defamatory, or otherwise protected materials (such as those protected by copyright law)
  • Posting and/or sharing anything deemed threatening or discriminating to a specific person or group of people.

Some of these violations can result in termination of employment, loss of scholarships, removal from educational institutions, or other financial penalties. Some of these violations are also covered under federal and/or state law and could carry even heavier financial penalties or jail time.