For each of the different ways there are to meet people online--chat rooms, blogs, personal "spaces," and forums, as well as e-mail, instant messaging, and text messaging--there are written and unwritten codes of behavior.

Here are some general tips that can help you get started in the online world with a minimum of bumps and misunderstandings.

Chats, forums, and online communities
  1. Read the rules or guidelines of the chat room, forum, or online community before you post.
  2. Protect your privacy: Never use your full name. Don't ask for the full names of others.
  3. Stay on topic.
  4. Don't use offensive language.
  5. Avoid using ALL CAPS to emphasize—this will be understood as "yelling.”
  6. Keep messages short.
  7. Check your spelling.
  8. In forums, before you start a new topic thread, always check that there isn't a previous thread on the same subject. If there is, respond to that one instead.

Regarding E-mail
  • Don't send or forward junk mail.
  • Don't send or forward Internet hoaxes . To find out if a story is true, check a reliable source, such as
  • Don't send or forward virus warnings. These might be hoaxes.
  • If you are replying to an e-mail that was originally sent to many recipients, reply only to the people to whom your answer is relevant.
  • Avoid sending large attachments to multiple recipients.

In general, it is a good idea to remember that nuance is often lost online. To avoid misunderstandings, speak plainly and be even more careful with humor than you would be in person.

The impersonal nature of the online world makes it easy to communicate much more forcefully than you might in person. It is always a good idea to ask yourself if you would make your comments to someone's face -- before you post them. If you would not, it might be worthwhile to reconsider your phrasing.

And finally, keep in mind that things stay on the Web for a long time. It's a good idea to consider your audience, which may even include future prospective employers ten years from now.