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Online Chat Etiquette

January 11th, 2008

online-chat-etiquette.jpgAlthough I usually prefer email for general communication, I have had a few occasions where I needed to use online chatting, usually through text messages on Yahoo. I’m probably one of a very small group of people who actually uses standard English in text messaging instead of the ubiquitous shorthand abbreviations. While it is not always necessary to write out every word, there are still some general rules of etiquette that are advisable to follow in chat situations, especially if the person at the other end is someone that you do not know very well. This article by April Aragam explains some of these guidelines that will help you to maintain a professional appearance online.


There are few people who haven’t chatted online at least once. Though it’s still fairly new, most people who have a computer with Internet access have indulged in this activity. Chat is one of the most common forms of communication these days. Unlike the phone, you can have numerous conversations at once. You can chat with friends, business colleagues, and strangers. Though chatting is so easy and carefree, there are still manners and etiquettes that need to be observed:

1. Initiating Conversation

When you initiate a conversation with anyone, a stranger or a long time friend, be sure you have something to talk about. One of the most annoying things in chat is when someone messages you to ask how you are and then has nothing else to say. You don’t need to chat with someone every single time you see them online, so when you do message them, have a question in mind or a piece of news to share. This will make your chats with anyone more interesting and seem less like a burden.

2. Use Manners

Just because you’re online and not talking face to face or voice to voice, doesn’t mean you should throw manners out the window altogether. Say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” when appropriate. When someone does ask how you are, ask the same back. Use the same manners you would if you were in person or on the telephone with anyone.

3. Avoid excessive jargon and word emoticons

There are certain abbreviations that have become commonplace in the chatting world such as “bbl,” which stands for be back later and “brb,” which stands for be right back. But sometimes you will come into contact with people who have an abbreviation for every word. There are people who will say that it makes typing faster, but in many cases the word is exactly the same length, just different letters. Unless you’re a teenager chatting to another teenager, you can type normally. If you have word emoticons (pictures that replace certain words in your chat conversations), cut them down to a minimum as they can make reading very difficult for the other person. If the emote for a word is a picture only (instead of a colorful word), don’t use it at all, as the person will have a hard time figuring out what you are trying to say. These items might look cute, but more than one or two is hard on the eyes. And if you are chatting with business colleagues always type properly. You don’t want to look unprofessional.

4. Caps

In the Internet world caps means yelling. Don’t use them unless you want to emphasize ONE word in a sentence. Otherwise people get the impression that you are angry.

5. Use facial emoticons

Since the other person cannot see you when you type something, it is sometimes important to use a smiling or frowning emoticon to let the other person know that you are just joking or upset by what has been said. If you want to tell a joke and aren’t sure how it might be taken, use the smiley to indicate you are kidding or don’t say it at all. Many miscommunications can occur while chatting.

6. Respect a person’s status

If you want to talk to someone but their status has been set to busy or away, don’t message them. They might be at the computer, but their status indicates they cannot chat at the moment. If you want to tell them something important, e-mail them instead. Do not interrupt what they may be doing. Just wait until the next time they are available. The same rule applies to you, if you are too busy to chat set your status to “busy.” Otherwise people will assume you can chat and message you.

7. Don’t be demanding

When you are having a chat conversation with someone it is slower than a conversation you would have on the telephone. Don’t expect that people can always respond immediately. Also, don’t feel that you have to respond within seconds of receiving a message from someone; just don’t take too long to respond. Another way you can be demanding is to use the buzz or nudge options to “shake” someone back into the conversation. Even if the person has taken far too long to respond, don’t use that option.

8. End conversations properly

You would never think of simply hanging up on someone without saying goodbye and though chatting isn’t as intimate as a real life conversation, disappearing without a word is still as shocking. Even if you’re in a rush to leave, say something. This is where those chat abbreviations come in handy. “G2G” means got to go. So, if you say “G2G bye,” you will be completely understood.

Chat Abbreviations
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TC = take care
BBL = be back later
BRB = be right back
G2G = got to go
AFK = away from keyboard
TTYL = talk to you later
LOL = laughing out loud
ROTFL = rolling on the floor laughing
ROTFLMAO = rolling on the floor laughing my arse off
BTW = by the way
ATM = at the moment
ASAP = as soon as possible
A/S/L? = age, sex, location
A/S/L/M/H? = age, sex, location, music, hobbies
B2B = business to business
B2C = business to consumer
B4 = before
B4N = bye for now
BF = boyfriend
GF = girlfriend
CUZ = because
CU = see you
CYA = see ya
CYL = see you later
DIY = do it yourself
DKDC = don’t know don’t care
DL = dead link
EMA = what is your E-mail address?
EOM = end of message
EOT = end of thread
EZ = easy
FAQ = frequently asked questions
FUBAR = fucked up beyond all recognition
FWIW = for what it’s worth
FYI = for your information
GL = good luck
GTRM = going to read mail
IC = I see
IDK = I don’t know
IM = instant message
IMO = in my opinion
IMHO = in my humble opinion
IMing = chatting with someone online
IMNSHO = in my not so humble opinion
JK or J/K = just kidding
JIC = just in case
K = OK or okay
KEWL = cool
L8R = later
LSV = language, sex, violence
M/F = male or female
M8 = mate or mates
MA = mature audience
MSG = message
MTF = more to follow
NE = any
NE1 = anyone
NG = new game
NIMBY = not in my back yard
NM = never mind
NOYB = not of your business
NT = no thanks
NUFF = enough said
OIC = oh I see
OMG = oh my gosh
OT = off topic
OTOH = on the other hand
P2P = peer to peer
PLZ = please
PM = private message
PPL = people
POV = point of view
R&R = rest and relaxation
RL = real life
RPG = role playing game
RTFM = read the fucking manual
RU = are you?
SFX = sound effects
SH = same here
SMEM = send me an email
SO = significant other
STR8 = straight
SU = shut up
TCB = taking care of business
THX = thanks
TY = thank you
TYVM = thank you very much
YW = you’re welcome
W/E = whatever
WTG = way to go
WTH = what the heck
WTF = what the fuck?!
YW = you’re welcome



3 Responses to “Online Chat Etiquette”

  1. comment number 1 by: mathan

    I think this article will really helpful to me, because I am a professional chatter and I will follow the above mentioned etiquette.

  2. comment number 2 by: reda

    luut

  3. comment number 3 by: Sameer

    It is really a good to know information. I really learned a lot. Hope this information would we usefull for me during my future chats with my friends.

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