How Etiquette Has Changed For Online Interactions

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photo credit: JPott

Can you remember the first time you got an e-mail with an emoticon in it?

All of a sudden, instead of writing coherent sentences and signing off with a ‘Yours sincerely’, people writing e-mails seemed to forget everything that they had ever learned in school about grammar and politeness, and instead seized on a new language that got rid of punctuation completely, and abbreviated everything as if we were too busy to even type out a word in full.

Changing the face of modern communications

I might sound a bit old-fashioned, here, but technology has really changed our approach to communications.

These days, we can set our signature strip on our outgoing mail software to do the polite part for us, and we can ping off messages in seconds without checking the spelling or bothering with a quick read through to catch any errors before we send it out.

While I’m all in favour of progress and technological development, I do sometimes regret the fact that the way we communicate has changed to the point that we don’t bother with any of the traditional etiquette that we used to use in letter writing, for example.

Text speak is probably one of the biggest areas that language has evolved over the past decade.

Because of the need to keep things brief in mobile messages or on Twitter, we’re increasingly using abbreviations that would have seemed like a different language just a few years ago.

Colons, commas and parentheses are now saved to make smileys with, and it’s perfectly acceptable to pop a number in to a word to get the meaning across on a text.

The growing need for netiquette

So, given all of this evolution, is there any point left in online etiquette? (Or, Netiquette as it is now known)?

I think there is a place for it.

No matter how far we progress down the route of text speak and instant messaging, sometimes it’s still very important to take a bit of time to observe some fundamental rules when we deal with our customers.

For example, while I might message a friend of colleague in a rush and don’t bother with a hello or goodbye, I wouldn’t consider doing this in an e-mail to a customer.

If we’re losing our shops in favour of online stores, and we don’t write letters anymore, I think it’s important that we develop a set of standards for our online communications.

Beyond the obvious, such as not swearing in your blog articles and checking your site for spelling mistakes, it’s also important to consider some more subtle aspects of netiquette too.

Every time we send a mail, we ought to be reading it through to catch errors, making sure it’s not written all in upper case (shouting), that it isn’t being forwarded on with huge needless attachments, and that we’ve been courteous and respectful in the way we’ve phrased it.

What would your mother say?

These days, e-mails are becoming increasingly used as legal documents in courts, shared online to demonstrate communications to the wider world, and distributed around user groups and mailing lists.

With the ‘forward’ function being such a key part of online communications, it’s important that we remember just how wide an audience any mail we send could potentially reach, and make sure that we aren’t committing crimes against etiquette when we dash off a hasty mail to a customer.

It’s a good rule of thumb for online etiquette to imagine that every single thing you type off to people, whether on Skype, e-mail or instant messaging, is being read by your best customer, a business competitor and your mother.

With this in mind, we’ll all be much more likely to pay closer attention to grammar, (for our mothers), keep away from divulging personal information (for our competitors), and be polite and courteous for our customers! …LOL.

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15 Responses to How Etiquette Has Changed For Online Interactions

  1. Cheryl Ragsdale
    September 29, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    Hello Andrew,
    I’ll be double-checking this comment to make sure everything is polite and spelled properly. Lol!

    The message I’m receiving from your observation on the trend in online communication is that we’ve gotten casual in our approach.

    If we allow words that aren’t spelled correctly (auto correct) or the wrong tone (shouting) or being informal when a more formal tone is called for, I say that there is a lack of respect for the person receiving our message.

    I remember learning the rules to English grammar. We were taught to leave two spaces between the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. Not anymore! We need those precious spaces to squeeze a cogent thought into 140 characters.
    Cheryl Ragsdale recently posted..Tate to Rousey: Did You Smile At My Girl’s Pain? TUF 18 Gets EmotionalMy Profile

  2. Palla Ramarao September 29, 2013 at 9:11 am #

    SMS kind of messages have made English really very silly. Whatever may be the communication, the main concept has not changed much. Videos, Text-messages, Email are the key ingredients of any new theory.. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn all present data in a new way use these old hat techniques. So its only old wine in a new bottle always….!!!!

  3. Rama October 2, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    Old timers always complain about etiquette, remember your mother’s mother saying how different it was in her time. Change is the only constant in our life, so lets accept it and move on.

  4. Jane October 3, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Very true indeed Andrew! Emails and especially texting has changed a whole lot of communication rules, and grammar. And we don’t even have to bother about having to remember a spelling because (I actually was about to write it as coz :)) most text editors have in-built spell checkers. I can see red underlines even while I type this comment. So that’s no more a pain and hence we have all the comfort.

    And in today’s new internet language, many of us make up new words (like, for instance, Netiquette :)) – so spelling has really become much less of an issue.

    Even though we appreciate the comfort, yes indeed a lot of standard is lowered and we start to see crappy pages online – yes the information could be awesome but if it is written in a poor language it is bothering.

    And I guess people (and we all) will start to get used to the texting language and the low standard type of writing 🙂

  5. Susan October 9, 2013 at 3:21 am #

    While I love emails and text messages for their convenience and instantaneous delivery, because we tend to shorten these and dash them off quickly, a problem can occur in that the recipient can’t hear our tone as they would with a conversation. This can sometimes lead to the meaning being misconstrued. This didn’t happen so much in the old days with regular letters as we tended to take our time and write more.

    All the best,


  6. Sagar Nandwani October 12, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    This article is so helpful, Grace! I think it is so easy to forget the common rules of courtesy when using email because it seems very informal, so it’s great to have a checklist of reminders for using email for business.

  7. Phillip Dews October 13, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    What an awesome post Andrew.

    Etiquette is something of an obsession of mine and this has inspired me

    to write a post as well! I hope you don’t mind I have just got the Urge to

    type into my battered old laptop about this (I do promise to give credit back

    to this post once done) . You are right it seems text speak is here to stay.

    I even have my dear old father using it now when he messages me inviting

    me for a pint.

    Well all I would like to say is thank you for inspiring me and that I hope you

    don’t mind me writing on a similar subject but with my twist on the subject!

    I hope you visit it once it’s written and published!

    Keep up the great work buddy.

    – Phillip

  8. Naomi
    January 1, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    I’ve recently realized how much my grammar and spelling have slipped. I proof read a piece I wrote weeks ago and cringed at how uneducated I sound! Coming across uneducated is bad for business and looks unprofessional.

    Whenever it’s someone else’s work or my son pronounces a word incorrectly I can spot mistakes instantly!

    I find it’s best having your work proof read by someone else.


    Naomi recently posted..Boosting Your Confidence – Grow Faith in Yourself and your BusinessMy Profile

  9. Corinne Edwards
    April 3, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    Dear Andrew –

    You can stare at a typo all day and not see it.

    Someone else can spot it in a second.
    Corinne Edwards recently posted..YOUR BOOK NEEDS PUBLICITY – How To Get ItMy Profile

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