Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on July 14th, 2010

Four "Inter-Netiquette" Faux Pas to Avoid in a Professional Environment

While the etiquette for the Internet, or inter-netiquette, seems to evolve daily, the ground rules have been in place for over a decade now. Don’t use curse words in public forums, zip up large files before sending them, and “never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line!” Today, as we spend nearly all of our work day online, there are more chances than ever before to come across unprofessional in our communications. Awkward emails, unintentional insults, misinterpreted criticism, inappropriate candor, and unprofessional “word-smithing” can have an instant affect on your professional life. Have you upset a co-worker, client, or superior with inappropriate inter-netiquette? Then, by all means, please read on to find the four inter-netiquette rules to live by in your professional life.

1. NEVER USE ALL CAPS! AVOID WRITING IN CAPS. IT IS VERY RUDE TO CYBERSHOUT! As more and more professionals blur the line between social media and professional communications, this tip should be implemented in every aspect of your everyday online communications. Whether you are posting an update on Facebook, emailing your boss a TPS report, or sending out the company e-newsletter, it is critical that you abide by the traditional rules of capitalization. I know it was cool to write in all caps back in high school, but this isn’t a note to your geometry class crush. CAPITALIZING EVERY WORD IN A SENTENCE IS NOT ONLY HARD TO READ, BUT MAKES IT SEEM LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING AT THE RECIPIENT. NO ONE LIKES BEING SHOUTED AT! SO STOP USING ALL CAPS! Agreed?! Great. Now unlock your Caps Lock button... and sorry for shouting. 2. Do Not Use Smiley Faces or Winking Faces :-) This is a slightly controversial tip, as many feel this is a personal taste issue. There is a certain argument for smiley or winking faces in emails or professional correspondence - they convey tone, sarcasm, or humor. ;-) My argument is that it is still unprofessional to include ;-) or :-) or even ;-P in professional emails because they are, well, unprofessional, distracting, silly, and unnecessary. You may wink at a client in a meeting, share a smile or a laugh with your boss in person, or tell a funny joke at the water cooler, but when you are writing professional correspondence, simple punctuation – i.e. exclamation point – gets the job done! Save your smiley faces and winking icons to your personal chatting, texting, and emails. If you cannot break this habit, try using this rule of thumb: Don’t use smiley faces in a message to a client or customer until the person uses one in a message to you. But please, by all means, keep on smiling in person! 3. RFUSMSS (Refrain from using SMS-Speak) OMG, I just LMAO! What a great tip! LOL! ICBINB! (I can’t believe it’s not butter!) With more than 83 million people texting on a regular basis, a new lingo of shorthand (SMS speak) has emerged in our Internet culture. You may already know that ‘LOL’ means “laugh out loud”, and OMG means 'oh my gosh', but it has now gotten a bit more complicated. How about BTDTGTS (Been there, done that, got the shirt)? Or BYOW (build your own website or bring your own wine)? Do you want to waste twenty minutes? Check out this list of Chat Acronyms and SMS Shorthand by Netlingo. Millennials use these terms all the time and are now bringing them into the work environment. If you use these terms with clients or co-workers that are not ‘hip’ to your lingo, you appear extremely unprofessional and a bit amateurish. Even further, it appears to others that if you use these acronyms with them, you are probably going to use them with customers. Not good for your career or the perspectives of your co-workers. If you are an enthusiastic advocate for SMS-speak, more power to you. I’m in no way telling you to stop using it, but please refrain from using cultural acronyms in your job. Save them for your friends, Facebook, and personal emails. 4. Spelling and "Grammer" Errors There is always one person in every work environment that isn’t the sharpest speller and tends to send out business emails with an embarrassing number of spelling and grammar errors. Unlike the close-talker with garlic breath, this person probably knows they aren’t winning any office spelling bees. (This is why you should always take gum when offered!) Word processing programs – such as Microsoft Word or iWork’s Pages – have spell-check features but still miss word mis-use, like when you use “accept” instead of “except”. This can be a false safety net. Never rely solely on your spell-check features. Clients and customers can be turned off very quickly by a chronic bad speller. Heck, so can bosses and co-workers. If your co-worker or boss has this problem, try this: Vaguely blame it on a client (“hey, so-and-so just called and were confused by an email you wrote them that had a small typo”) and try and offer a solution – collaborative emails with the team – i.e. you write or skim the important ones for errors. Then you look like the good guy instead of the jerk that keeps pointing out how bad of a speller someone is. Thanks, jerk. ;) lol Making Inter-netiquette faux pas can be extremely embarrassing, make you look a fool, and, in extreme situations, could cost you a job. For my and your own sake, try and avoid these four Inter-netiquette faux pas in your professional life. Did I leave out any major inter-netiquette faux pas? Do you see any new rules that need to be established? Please let me know! Share the News! Do you want to share the news? Please use any of our many buttons to share this post, and please subscribe to our RSS feed to receive daily fodder. For every RSS subscription Volacci gets, an AT-AT Imperial Walker gets taken out by the Allies.