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Netiquette is a social code that outlines a set of rules that define respectful, polite behavior online. Since most of the communication in online courses takes place online and in writing, these rules are especially important for online students. Netiquette rules help ensure you communicate effectively, and are perceived as a knowledgeable and respectful student who is positioned to excel. These rules tend to change and evolve over time due to the ever-changing online environment, however, here are a few netiquette rules for online courses that you should try and follow.


Mind your Grammar

It may be tempting to use text-speak when composing messages online, however, you should always try to avoid text abbreviations, and use correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Using proper grammar makes you and your messages appear more professional. On the flip side, no one likes the grammar police, so avoid the temptation to correct others when they use "there" instead of "their." Additionally, writing in all caps is typically understood as yelling and can be interpreted as rude or impolite.


Strike a Professional Tone

When not interacting with instructors or classmates in person, it can be easy to allow your communication to take on a casual tone. When communicating with your online professors it is important to maintain a level of formality. It is inappropriate to treat correspondence with faculty as an ongoing chat among friends. Be sure to include salutations, respectful signatures, and use the same manners you would use in person. Although using the proper title for your professor should be understood, students can tend to forget it once classes are online. Unless, your instructor states otherwise, you should always refer to them professionally. Continue your professional tone when communicating with classmates.


Be Kind

A key to good netiquette is following the golden rule - always treat others as you would want to be treated. A good guide is to only type something that you would be comfortable saying to someone's face. This may seem like common sense, however, due to of the level of anonymity and the distance between screens online, it can be easy to forget, especially if disagreements arise. The online classroom is still a classroom. Be sure to conduct yourself with the same politeness as you would in a traditional classroom. Make a point to be kind and respectful even if you disagree with someone.


Celebrate Diversity

Your peers cultural background, linguistic terminology, or the ability to express oneself in writing may vary significantly in an online course. The prospect of a diverse, multicultural learning community is one of the exciting things about online courses. It is important to value diversity in the online classroom and respect the opinions of classmates. It is ok to disagree, but being open to other points of view is a sign of intelligence and is a great way to learn. Written interactions should always show respect and sensitivity to peers' gender, cultural and linguistic background, sexual orientation, and political or religious beliefs.


Avoid Sarcasm

When communicating in person we have the help of facial expressions and hand gestures to convey meaning. Light-hearted jokes can be regarded differently in written communication. This is especially true when it comes to sarcastic humor that relies heavily on tone of voice. Sarcasm can cause misunderstandings in online classrooms since it is difficult to interpret meaning without tone of voice. To avoid mix-ups, it is usually best to avoid sarcasm altogether. Instead, lean toward polite, straight forward language that won't be lost in translation.


Look Before you Ask

Your first impulse may be to ask your instructor if you are stuck on an assignment, confused, or have a question. However, it is better to search for the answer before you ask. If you encounter a question it is best to review the syllabus, other course documents, and communication from your instructor for the answer before you ask. Of course, if after spending some time and a bit of effort searching you still can't find the answer, you should ask your professor or classmates for help. Some online courses have discussion boards set up for students to pose questions. Utilizing these Q and A forums allows your peers to also benefit from your question and the answer. Chances are someone else has the same question.


Use the Correct Format

Faculty typically have a preferred format for assignment submissions and email communications. Things like naming conventions and descriptive subject lines help keep things organized. Failing to submit files in the correct format may result in your instructor not being able to open your assignment. And not including a descriptive subject line can cause your message to be buried in a pile of emails. Not only can this cause a headache for you and your instructor, it can be seen as not paying attention. Follow good rules of netiquette and read the instructions carefully before submitting assignments or sending messages.


In short, be sure to re-read, re-think, and edit your messages before you click send/post/submit. Following these rules will not only help ensure you communicate effectively, they will confirm you are perceived as a professional and respectful student who is poised for success.