Skip to Main Content

Ethics & Professional Responsibility: Managing Your Online Footprint

What Is Netiquette?

Netiquette is defined as:

"a set of unofficial rules for good behavior and politeness that have been developed by users of Usenet, the Internet, email, chatrooms, and other modes of online communication."

Netiquette is the practice of exercising polite and considerate behaviour in online contexts, such as Internet discussion boards and personal email.

Follow these links to learn more:

An online hyperlinked version of Virginia Shea's book covering the basics of netiquette and its application in different contexts, such as business and school

Bow Valley College Library. (2013, July 30). Digital literacy, netiquette and internet safety. Retrieved from

Social Media Links and Articles

Use these links to read about how using social media can help your career:

Berkeley College. (2013). Social media and your digital footprint. Retrieved from 

Etiquette Videos

TED Talks. (2009, December). Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media [Video file]. Retrieved from

TEDxTalks. (2011, April 25). Building a personal brand: Jacob Cass at TEDxCMU 2011 [Video file]. Retrieved from

Howcast. (2009, May 26). How to follow proper netiquette rules [Video file]. Retrieved from

Email Do's and Don'ts

Email is an important form of communication that is used in multiple contexts, from professional to personal. Read below to understand how to apply proper email etiquette.

DO follow these rules and guidelines regarding: Composing email, sending and responding to email, and the general "don't make these mistakes". 

Composing Email

  • Include a subject line that is meaningful and accurately reflects the content and purpose of the email
  • Use a proper opening and closing line with courteous language such as "please" and "thank you"
    • If appropriate, use a signature that contains your full name, position, and contact information
  • Know your audience!
    • For formal emails to colleagues or prospective employers, use polite and professional language
  • Be concise
    • Keep the email as short as possible
    • Stay on topic
    • Divide the text into shorter paragraphs
    • Use paragraph breaks to break up and make the text more visually appealing
  • Proofread the text to make sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes

Sending and Responding to Email

  • Address all of the sender's questions or concerns
  • Confirm that the email of the recipient is correct
    • Be careful using the "Reply to All" button
    • If necessary, protect the privacy of recipients by using the "blind carbon copy" (bcc) field
  • Avoid sending sensitive or confidential information by email

DON'T make these mistakes:

  • Writing in capital letters that MAKE IT SEEM LIKE YOU ARE SHOUTING
  • Opening emails or attachments from unknown or suspicious senders
  • Overusing the priority, high importance or receipt settings
  • Sending or forwarding personal or private information without the original sender's consent
  • Including unnecessary information or diverging from the purpose of the email
  • Using emoticons or abbreviations i.e. :) or "lol" unless the email is an informal message to friends or family
  • Subscribing to unknown distribution lists

Bow Valley College Library. (2013, July 30). Email etiquette: Do's and don'ts. Retrieved from