Netiquette Of Sending

The following rules of netiquette apply to the sending of messages, and generally apply to email, the newsgroups, and mailing lists.

Be Brief

Be brief. It takes considerable time and effort to read long messages. If you get a lot of email, and a lot of them are long, then it is likely that you won’t be able to read them all. You can do your part to reduce this workload by using brevity to maximize clarity.

This rule is less absolute on mailing lists, and much less so again for newsgroup postings, since the obligation to read these messages is correspondingly less. If you have a good five page essay, you should feel free to post it to a newsgroup. Potential readers will open your message voluntarily by clicking on your subject line, and if they don’t like the first sentence of your message they are completely free to close it and proceed to another.

Use White Space

Use white space to enhance readability. Put a blank line at the beginning of messages, so that when they are read by someone the message will have some blank space between it and the header. You can send an email to yourself, or post a message to a test newsgroup, to see the effect.

A blank line between paragraphs greatly helps readability.

Put a URL on a separate line, and indented a couple of spaces.

Use Descriptive Subject Lines

What with work, friends, mailing lists, and spam, many people get more email than they can easily read. You can greatly help potential readers remember what your message is about, and decide whether or not to read it, with a descriptive subject line.

The subject line is one of the only fields displayed in an email Inbox or Usenet newsgroup listing. A short, meaningful subject is the most useful element of information when one wants to identify an email’s purpose at a glance. Some examples of ambiguous and meaningful subjects are provided below.

Bad Subjects

Good Subjects


Cirque du Soleil tickets


Request for part number


Meeting 9:00 Tues — room 6

Stay On-Topic

Never post off-topic messages, not related to the subject of the mailing list or newsgroup. This takes judgment, and you should ask yourself a basic question: is this posting likely to be of interest to this newsgroup or mailing list, or is there another forum that is more appropriate? You might get a better response by searching for a newsgroup or mailing list more directly applicable to your message.

Trolling is the act of posting a message highly off-topic or otherwise calculated to arouse controversy and hopefully cause a flame war. The best response to a troll’s posting is no response, to recognize the purpose and ignore the bait. Additional resources on troll control are found below:

Be Careful Sending Attachments

Be careful sending email attachments. Unlike an email message, which is usually about 1 kb in size, an attachment can be many kilobytes or megabytes. Besides the fact that most email systems have an attachment limit, you shouldn’t send large attachments by email to people with slow Internet connections, since you could tie their machine up for minutes or hours.

Don’t send attachments to mailing lists or non-binary newsgroups. Instead, send a message inviting people to email you directly if they want a copy.

Copy The Minimum Number of People

You can send a message to more than one person or newsgroup very easily, greatly multiplying the bandwidth your message will require, but with proportionately lessor relevancy. You should only copy more than one mailing list or newsgroup if the message is genuinely useful and on-topic, and do your part to reduce everybody’s email load.

When you get a message at work with several CC addresses, it is usually considered polite to reply to all addresses. However, there are occasions when it may be appropriate to delete some addresses, such as when you are discussing routine matters and senior personnel don’t need to be distracted.

If you mean to reply to just the sender of a message, always double-check the addresses on your reply message before sending. It is very easy to reply to an email sent by a friend to several of his friends, and then find that your email program has replied to all of the addresses in the original message, and sending your personal reply to everyone by mistake. Some applications let you change the default behavior of the standard reply function, usually <ctrl>-r, between the options of “reply just to sender” and “reply to all”.

Include Your Email Address

Always include your email address in your email or newsgroup messages.

Sometimes people keep a copy of a message or newsgroup posting, but don’t have a copy of the header with the addresses, and so they won’t know how to contact you later. This can happen if your email or newsgroup posting has been forwarded or copied without the headers.

A common preventive solution to this problem is to put your email address in the body of the message itself, so that it won’t get lost if the headers get lost. Many people do this automatically, by putting their name and address in their signature.

Respect Non-Commercial Spaces

There are many places on the Internet that accept and welcome commercial messages. Therefore, you should never:

  • Post commercial messages to non-commercial newsgroups.
  • Post commercial email to non-commercial mailing lists.
  • Send commercial email unsolicited to private organizations or people.

Avoid Flaming

There is a problem with this brave new world in that a lot of people don’t appreciate there’s another human being at the other keyboard. Flaming is a real problem — especially in comp.misc. This is all a new facet of the technology as well. People rarely trade insults in real life like they do on Internet. There’s a tendency to stereotype your opponent into categories. I think this is because you’re not around to witness the results.

I find this more on Internet newsgroups than on Compuserve. I think this is down to maturity — a lot of folk on the Internet are students who aren’t paying for their time on the system. Those on Compuserve are normally slightly older, not so hot-headed and are paying for their time. Damn. Now I’m at stereotyping now. It just goes to show.

– Scott Hatton, “The Net and Netizens: The Impact the Net has on People’s Lives”, Fall/Winter 1994/1995.

Flaming is the act of sending someone an outrageously insulting message, whether by private email or in a public Usenet posting, usually because you disagree with something they have said. A good flame mixes a razor sharp wit with a devastating put-down so that the other person will only make themself look silly if they dare disagree — “The absurdity of your ideas is exceeded only by the incoherence of your remarks, beginning with…”

Some people support the use of flaming to enforce good netiquette on mailing lists and the Usenet. A flame can sometimes be funny, and may feel good to the sender, but should be resisted whenever possible. A flame can give the impression that you are unable to respond with more reasonable language, and can genuinely hurt the other person. In general, you should take a disagreement with another user off of a mailing list or news group, and into a civil and personal exchange by email between the two of you, letting others carry on with the discussion. Also, keep in mind the considerable limitations on accurate communication of emotion in a text medium.