Teaching & Learning Tips

A collection of tips and tools designed to aid in transitioning instruction online.

Netiquette, or Putting Your Best Self Forward

Aug 21, 2020

As a student taking online courses, you'll find yourself in many different situations where you have to interact and communicate with your fellow students and teachers through emails and video conferencing. Although it may seem easy to do, there are a number of considerations that will help you get the most out of you online communications. We’ve compiled this short list of tips to help you put your best self forward in an online world.

  • Treat your instructor and classmates the same way you would in person, with respect, interest, and empathy.
  • Value diverse, and opposing, opinions and voices. Learning is a social practice and we all benefit from hearing and discussing ideas that may differ for our own. Consider the benefit of hearing from others who have different backgrounds and life experiences than your own.
  • Use clear and concise language. Don’t change your grammar or communication style just because you’re online. Be cautious with using humor or sarcasm, as these tones can easily be misinterpreted through an online medium.
  • Build a favorable online persona. Remember, what happens in any online platform can have a long-lasting, undesirable impact. How you present yourself, and your ideas, will determine how people view you, and value your contributions.
  • Use the WRITE WAY* model to communicate effectively online.

Acronyms can be helpful in remembering useful concepts. The WRITE way involves communicating online in a manner that is Warn, Responsive, Inquisitive, Tentative and Empathetic.

Warmth – “Being warm online is a way of reminding others (and you) that it is people who are engaged in communication, not software”

Responsive -- “Try to return personal messages as soon as possible, and set up a regular rhythm of communication for other responses.”

Inquisitiveness – “Defensiveness is reduced if people ask questions rather than make statements.”

Tentativeness – “A question – framed in a tentative manner – reduces defensiveness and can also contribute valuable information (e.g., ‘Don’t you think it’d be better if we . . . ‘).”

Empathy – “. . . put yourself in the shoes of your audience.”

*Source: Lewis, C., (2000). “Taming the Lions and Tigers and Bears: The WRITE WAY to Communicate Online.” In K. Anderson & B. Weight (Eds.),

For more tips you may want to view Video Conference Etiquette on the Zoom blog, Netiquette 101: from the University of Illinois Laboratory High School, and How to Interact with Instructors in Online Classes: from Illinois Online