Forum etiquette

N-etiquette rose NETWORKING is the art of building mutually beneficial long term business relationships.  These relationships thrive on professional courtesy and mutual respect.  Note: this is not the same as friendship.   Many of  those in your network will never be seen outside of the office but may be suppliers or freelance consultants or members of internet forums that your know through correspondence only.  Occasionally, a member of your network will become a friend, as a general rule, however, a network is more stable when each member is respected for the quality, amount and professionalism of their work as well as their knowledge of the field in general.  Simply:  Good Manners Are Good Business.


Internet Forum Etiquette

Keep in mind the six rules of business etiquette as you go through this lesson and you will see that participation in forums is an excellent way to fulfill your primary networking goals:

1)Always acknowledge others
2)Time is money.
3)Practice making it look easy.
4)Lend a helping hand.
5)Develop a "business" sense of humor.
6)Maintain your skill levels 

Read the rules of the forum* that you have joined - and abide by them.  For each forum that you join, know the rules and follow them.    

Forums have a purpose which involves shared knowledge.  For that reason, it is counterproductive and therefore rude to reply privately.  This denies the answer, and perhaps more importantly, the development of the answer to other members.  It can also be rude to link to other forums in your answer or in your signature as it  tends to confuse people as to where they have posted their questions. The information is easily posted to the forum, rather than directing others to a completely different website to read one post.

Most forums have both an HTML option and a range of emoticons or Avatars for the use of their members.  This does make it easier to show stress points in a sentence (using different colors, bold font, underline, etc.) and eliminates the need for capitalization to make a point.  A message that is delivered in capitals is considered "shouting" or "flaming" on the internet and is considered extremely rude.

While your post to the forum is available to the group as a whole, you should generally use the name of the person to whose comment you are responding for two reasons.  

1) It makes a better impression.  You are trying to expand your network as well as perfect your skills.

2) It focuses you on the fact that there is a real person on the other end of your message.  Too often, we feel an anonymity on the internet and respond in ways that we would not respond person to person.  If anything, we need to be kinder on the internet.  It is fast paced.  We tend to forget that once it is written - it is always there. 

Many who belong to forums save or bookmark posts as little tutorials.  Many belong to more than one forum.  Do not clog the forum with repetition, subjects that are not pertinent, long personal anecdotes, or inappropriate language.  

Lend that helping hand.

Many forums call for critiques from members on a particular project.  This is a wonderful learning tool if handled properly.  Remember, this is a learning process and criticism must walk a fine, polite line.  If criticism is too harsh, someone may be dissuaded from presenting their project for criticism.  If criticism is not honest, no one will learn.  Both extremes defeat the purpose of the forum.

If you are being critiqued: Do not take criticism personally.  Evaluate it and decide if you can use it.  If you can't, then put it totally out of your mind.  

If you are critiquing: Unless you can offer an improvement or substitution that you feel would benefit the project, do not comment.  (Others will.)  Never comment on a subject outside of the forum. (example: if the forum deals with website coding, do not comment on the content or the graphics of a website.)

Do not, at any time, post something on a forum that would be embarrassing or personal in nature. 

Practice making it look easy.    

Forums generally have a constant influx of "newbie" participants.  If you have done well in responding to a particular problem - explained the answer clearly and simply - keep the answer for future use.  Better yet, if your Forum has archives - keep a note of the location of your answer and respond with a direction to that archived material.

As it is difficult to know your internet audience in a forum - and in the interest of appearing professional, this is one place where humor is best avoided or 'gentled'. 

Emoticons suitable for forums will be placed on the forum for your use.


Typical Forum Rules and Guidelines

All Rules are open to different interpretations.  The moderators of a Forum should have the final decision as to what constitutes an infringement of the rules as well as the responsibility to remove, edit, move or close those posts that they see as being harmful to a forum.

All members of a forum should have the right to contact the moderators privately if there is a need to further explain a position or a post.


The purpose of a Forum is a free and open exchange of ideas. It is understood that there are times when the idea itself requires that a product be mentioned, critiqued or evaluated.

There are also times when the recommendation of a product is the answer to a posted problem.

Blatant advertising  on a Forum, however, is rude. Such postings should  be removed.

The definition of  'Blatant Advertising' is generally at the discretion of the moderators of a Forum.


Cross-posting  (i.e. post the same message in more than one forum board) is rude.  Choose the forum topic that is closest to your post, and place it there only.  If you should create a post in one forum, and later realize it would be more appropriate in another forum, please delete the original before posting it again.


Please, no messages that harass, insult, belittle, or threaten another member.


Offensive words and / or graphics should not be tolerated. 


Please do not write to moderators or admin with questions by email - a forum is for the benefit of all who may have the same or similar question.  Questions and responses should be posted on the forum for all to benefit from.

Special Notes: 

Sig (signature) lines should be subject to all the rules and guidelines that a post is - including links. 


See Also:

Baby  or Bridal Shower  Etiquette Internet Forum Etiquette
Birthday Party Etiquette Internet List / Group Etiquette
Business Etiquette Other Opinions
Cemetery Etiquette Personal Etiquette
E-mail Etiquette Website Etiquette


Wedding Etiquette
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