by Virginia Shea

What is Netiquette? Simply stated, it's network etiquette -- that is, the etiquette of cyberspace. And "etiquette" means "the forms required by good breeding or prescribed by authority to be required in social or official life." In other words, Netiquette is a set of rules for behaving properly online.

When you enter any new culture -- and cyberspace has its own culture -- you're liable to commit a few social blunders. You might offend people without meaning to. Or you might misunderstand what others say and take offense when it's not intended. To make matters worse, something about cyberspace makes it easy to forget that you're interacting with other real people -- not just ASCII characters on a screen, but live human characters.

So, partly as a result of forgetting that people online are still real, and partly because they don't know the conventions, well-meaning cybernauts, especially new ones, make all kinds of mistakes.

The book Netiquette has a dual purpose: to help net newbies minimize their mistakes, and to help experienced cyberspace travelers help the newbies. The premise of the book is that most people would rather make friends than enemies, and that if you follow a few basic rules, you're less likely to make the kind of mistakes that will prevent you from making friends.

The list of core rules below, and the explanations that follow, are excerpted from the book. They are offered here as a set of general guidelines for cyberspace behavior. They won't answer all your Netiquette questions. But they should give you some basic principles to use in solving your own Netiquette dilemmas.

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