University of Minnesota

Internet Learning Alternatives Netiquette Primer
Over the past several years a few guidelines regarding the polite, constructive conduct of online communication have become widely accepted; these guidelines are commonly referred to as "netiquette." Netiquette is also designed to make electronic messages easier to understand by setting some ground-rules for how messages should be structured and suggesting some conventions for language and usage.

While each discussion section should set its own rules of netiquette, some suggested guidelines are:

  • Be polite. While there will inevitably be some things said in your online discussions that you will disagree with, always keep your responses constructive and, where possible, support your views with evidence from the readings or your own experiences. Never resort to "flaming"--insults and/or unsupported attacks on an individual.

  • Keep your responses on-topic. If an individual mentions something that interests you in his or her post that seems completely tangential to the class discussion, respond to him or her by private email.

  • Post messages to the appropriate audience. Be sure to post your questions/responses to the appropriate forum--administrative concerns (due dates for papers, questions about the grading of your papers or tests, etc.) should probably be posted via private email to your TA or professor rather than to a class discussion list.

  • Quote responsibly and reply substantially. When quoting others' email messages, always include their name and, if possible, their email address. However, don't quote the entire body of their message unless it is pertinent to your response--include only those portions of the message that you are using to set the context for your response. Always weigh whether your comments are contributing substantially to the discussion before you post them to the discussion list--saying "I agree" after quoting a 25-line message can frustrate your peers and doesn't really add much to the discussion.

  • Keep your responses jargon-free. Always be sure to define terms and acronyms fully before using them. This rule applies particularly to the use of Internet abbreviations like BTW (by the way), AFAIK (as far as I know), IMHO (in my humble opinion); such abbreviations are almost invariably confusing to new users, so please be polite and define these terms in advance.

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Copyright: 1997 by the Regents of the University of Minnesota.
Digital Media Center. All rights reserved.

Comments to: Chris Scruton at

Last updated: 23 April 1997

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