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Ten Rules of Etiquette for Blogs and Forums

If you are reading these words, you probably participate in blogs and forums. Based on my experiences (both positive and awkward), I suggest these 10 rules of etiquette for public postings. Please add your guidelines!

Note: As usual, I am thinking of business writing.

  1. Never shame anyone who participates in the blog or forum. No name-calling or sarcasm.
  2. Be extremely cautious about shaming people outside the blog or forum. It's bad karma to go negative on individuals.
  3. If you ask a question on a forum, say thank you for the answers you get from others. And not just "thank you"–dress up the words with some details. Example: "Thanks for sharing your terrific ideas on my marketing postcard! As usual, you thought of something I had never considered."  
  4. If you want to ask questions on a blog or forum, participate actively. Give to others–don't just show up to take.
  5. Remember that your comments are written, and follow the rules of writing. Use standard grammar, punctuation, and usage. It takes only a moment to capitalize your name and the first word in a sentence.
  6. Don't give unsolicited advice to individuals, or you will come across as a parent or know-it-all. If people ask for advice, give it if you can.
  7. Don't comment in anger. You will not be angry tomorrow, yet your comment will display your old anger indefinitely.
  8. Forgive people's off-moments. If they come across oddly or ignorantly, brush it off. Perhaps tonight they will get enough sleep, and tomorrow they will be brilliant and clever again.
  9. If you actively participate in a blog or forum, let people know when you will be away. With that information, they won't worry about you or ask for your comments when you are unavailable.
  10. Be human. Let people get to know you. Don't hide behind a screen name. Assume that you are communicating with human beings who are as wonderful as you, perhaps more so. 

Please add your ideas.

Syntax Training

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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

4 comments on “Ten Rules of Etiquette for Blogs and Forums”

  • Boy, number 1 really hit home. (Never shame anyone who participates in the blog or forum. No name-calling or sarcasm.) There was a blog I enjoyed reading but if I disagreed with anything the author said, I got beat up terribly, as did anyone else that didn’t agree 100%. I had questioned two separate safety issues – carefully being very polite – and you would have thought I read them the riot act. It got very ugly and personal from name calling to personal attacks – “You must be very sad and lonely that all you have to do is criticize (the blog’s author)”, when all I had done was ask a question. I ended up removing the blog from my RSS feed and never going back again.

  • Anne, sorry you had to endure that creepy experience! It reminds me of an 11th rule I had wanted to include, but I thought 11 was too many. That rule is “Be open to new ideas.” If the person who published that blog had been more open, the yucky situation could have been avoided.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for sharing your terrific ideas, Lynn! As usual, you thought of something I had never considered.

    No, seriously, this is a very good post.

Comments are closed.