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The social Web has introduced a whole new set of conduct that is considered, well...considerate.

There are no formal guidelines for high speed social networking. But for newbies who aren't familiar with the rules of the road it becomes apparent very quickly that they do, in fact, exist.

For example, WRITE A MESSAGE ALL IN CAPS -- or barge into a community forum to introduced your unique Etsy collection -- and see how fast the politeness police come at you.

But, no worries. The simple rules for getting along online are mostly obvious.

  • The Internet is populated by real people, just like you. Be nice.

  • Don't go off topic or get nasty or hurl personal insults in a public space. If you want to have a heated argument, take it outside to a private chat. No one wants to sit through two opinionated people calling each other stupid - even if the name calling is creative. (For extreme examples, also see Troll.)

  • Writing in CAPS is considered shouting whether it's in email, social meda posting, or chatting. Keep your cases mixed - don't use all lower or all upper case. It's rude to shout and difficult to read text that doesn't have any caps or punctuation.

  • Try to spell words correctly. There are spell checkers that you can use on email, messaging, and forum posts before you hit send that will save others from having to decipher what you're trying to say.

  • If you're trying to be funny, by all means say so. Without the facial expressions and other nonverbal cues that we use to soften our words, e-communication is easy to take the wrong way. Even if you're comments are only slightly sarcastic follow up with a humorous emoticon or a simple "lol".

  • (See above) and avoid knee-jerk responses. Sure, at times someone may say something that gets you annoyed. Take a few minutes and remember that what you read may not be what the writer meant. You may want to point out that the message was not appropriate, but shooting off a belligerent response just makes the situation worse. It's usually easier and just as effective to just hit the delete key on the offending message and the cancel key on your response.

  • Don't send junk. Don't spread rumors. Warning others of a nasty virus that will hit their computer may be thoughtful and kind - but check the facts first to prevent spreading a hoax. Snopes is a good place to check for general hoaxes while McAfee has a section devoted to computer virus hoaxes.

  • Before joining a community forum, "lurk" around for discussions and people with possible like-minded interests. Read the FAQ to find out the community rules and, after becoming a member, include in your first post the reason why you joined as a way of introduction to the group.

  • Finally, don't join a community forum simply in order to promote your business. It's rude, it's nasty, and forum moderators will probably spot what you're doing a mile away. Quick as you can say "Hey, check out my website..." and you'll be banned.

More about netiquette around the Web:

The Guide to Social Media Etiquette - How to be nice on the Internet with tips on Facebook posts, Twitter feeds, and other common sense advice on behaving properly online, with related resources.

Internet Etiquette - The right way to send e-mails, especially in a business setting, plus more tips on how to behave in community forums.

25 Forum Posting Etiquette Tips - Obvious and not-so-obvious ways to become a valued member of a community forum.



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