Everyone needs to understand proper and improper communications with others using the Internet. In her book Netiquette, Virginia Shea's first rule of Netiquette is "Remember the Human," and that's an important point. When communicating electronically, it's easy to forget that you are still communicating with other human beings, with real human feelings, and that's something that we all need to remember. Remember that written words may be taken quite differently than the spoken word. There is no tone of voice in typed text, so if you think someone might misunderstand what point your are making, take a little time and be careful with the wording and maybe even use the little smiley face to show you are not being sarcastic or mean. :-) The little smiling or frowning faces :-( formed from symbols on the keyboard are the only non-verbal elements we have in the virtual classroom, and icons are a poor substitute for the complexities of verbal communication. :-(

Studies have shown that people tend to be less inhibited when communicating electronically than when communicating in person, and sometimes the lack of inhibition can lead to rudeness and a disregard for the feelings of others. Therefore, a good general rule of netiquette is never to say anything to anyone via electronic communication that you would not say in person. We can express our views with care and do it politely, even when we disagree with the ideas of others.

There is another important reason to be polite when communicating on the Internet. We all have probably said something to others that we later regretted. Perhaps we were angry and blurted out how we felt at the time, only to realize later that we may have over-reacted, misunderstood or behaved inappropriately. It's usually easy to learn from such incidents and then to put them behind us. Unlike words spoken in anger, though, angry words sent electronically have a way of hanging around. Even if you delete a nasty message you sent to someone else, maybe as a way to make yourself feel a little better, whomever received your angry message will still have a copy of it, and it's hard to forget the angry words of others when we can reread them anytime. Another general rule of electronic communication is never to send a message to someone else if you are angry at the recipient of the message. Give yourself some time to cool down, and you'll probably end up finding that you don't need to send the nasty message after all.

Keep in mind the kind of communication you want to receive from others and compose your message with this in mind.