Don't Shout!

Ten rules of etiquette for the digital age

1. Practice the art of rapid response.

The tools that allow people to instantly communicate raise the expectation of a breakneck answer in return. “This very moment” isn’t always possible, but 24 hours in a time of online communication is almost interminable. Get into the habit of treating digital messages like the people behind them—with respect and a prompt answer.

2. Be yourself.

Even in the virtual world, share the real you. Try not to impress with your piety, achievements or the persona others prefer you to be. Who are the most natural and unpretentious people you know? Let them inspire you to drop the mask and jargon. Speak in your own voice and never hide behind the name “Anonymous.”

3. Stamp out phubbing.

When someone disengages from face-to-face conversation so they can search online, answer a call or read a text, they’ve committed the social faux pas known as phubbing (phone snubbing). Are you guilty of this breach of etiquette? Turn off the phone or discipline yourself to ignore it when you’re at dinner, social events, concerts, movies and in conversation. (If you don’t mind being phubbed, get help!)

4. Check your facts.

Online communication creates possibilities for the exponential spread of gossip and downright misinformation. Before you pass along any information, make sure to check the source as well as a fact-checking site such as or

5. Thou shalt not spam.

Do some soul searching before sending a sales pitch or political rant to a group list unless you first give people the chance to “opt in.”


Unless written in fun, capitals in online correspondence are considered rude. Can anyone have a reasoned conversation with someone who is yelling? Lower your voice.

7. Sleep on it.

Give yourself time to cool down before sending that irate email or making that controversial Facebook comment.

8. Think (and write) positive.

A negative diatribe, however well-reasoned, won’t convince anybody of your point of view. Flip that thought on its back and express it in useful terms. Arguing is bad manners.

9. If you can google it yourself, don’t ask.

Do you ask others for information that you could easily find on your favorite search engine? Empower yourself. It’s easy.

10. Try grace.

Everyone makes mistakes. Forgive others for missteps and learn from your own.