Software Reference

Helping you make the most of your computer

Author: Matthew Strawbridge
ISBN: 978 0 9554614 0 8
Pages: 168

Summary: "This up-to-date book covers all aspects of Internet etiquette, including email, discussion forums, online auctions, instant messaging and much more. It explains modern topics such as blogs and wikis, and how netiquette applies to them.

Although this book is suitable for beginners, even experts should find plenty to make them think. At once prescriptive and pragmatic, this book tells you in plain language how everyone would behave in a perfect world, giving you the knowledge to decide how you wish to present yourself online."

Extremely clearly written. You end up wishing that a copy of Netiquette could be given away free with every new computer purchased. I would highly recommend this book to all Internet users.

Netiquette covers the vast range of Internet activities, from emails and forum postings through browsing the Web to avoiding many of the dangers that lurk in the wilds of the Internet.

Extremely clearly written, it has simple explanations of technical jargon and many pages full of common sense rules and useful information. In fact, the guidance for Internet newbies is so good that you end up wishing that a copy of Netiquette could be given away free with every new computer purchased. It would certainly help reduce the number of spam emails, chain e-mails, flame wars and badly designed websites out there.

The book is well laid out and contains useful appendices, a rules summary, glossary and index. Although at 160 pages it seems rather short, each page contains clear nuggets of information with no filler. Perhaps the only complaint is that there are almost no examples or screen shots to break up the text, although the rules themselves are written in such a way as to rarely require such aids.

I would highly recommend this book to all Internet users and especially those new to the scene. The rules that Matthew Strawbridge lays down are clear and helpful and the Internet would certainly be a better place if everyone followed them. For an invaluable guide as to the best way to behave on the net, look no further.

David Lloyd
Reviewed for the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

BCS rating: 10/10

This is a first class little book and I thoroughly recommend it to beginners and experts alike. However, I feel that the title perhaps undersells its appeal. Although it is true that it covers all aspects of best practice when using the internet from simple email to online auctions the detail goes far beyond just etiquette. It is really a very handy reference guide to all aspects of getting online. It describes and explains what all the online services are and looks into their origins. Where does 'spam' come from, what is a blog or a wiki, how do forums work?

Running through the book are 157 'rules', each cross referenced and summarised for easy look up, and grouped under headings such as: email; forums; advertising; on-line services; security; etc. A bibliography and glossary complete the material.

Everyone can learn something. For example, did you know what 'address munging' was? I didn't. (It's anonymising your address.) Do you know how a 'troll' uses 'flamebait' on forums? Buy the book and find out. It will be £12.95 well spent, I can promise. Author Matthew Strawbridge, software engineer, copy editor and technical author knows his stuff and how to put it across. You'll even learn what a colophon is.

Alan Pollard FBCS CITP VP Member Services
Reviewed on the British Computer Society's website

A great book, with universal appeal

Amazon rating: *****

To successfully write a book so that a completely new internet user and an advanced IT veteran will both learn new skills about how the internet works and how to 'work' the internet requires not only an advanced knowledge base, but also a clear and explanatory writing style; where many books of this kind fail. Often similar books are information-heavy and dry; boring the academics and bewildering the amateurs.

But fortunately, this book makes none of these mistakes. The author injects an individual (but very well informed) writing style, that is humorous without being irreverent, informative without being dull, and perhaps most importantly, explanatory without being patronising. Explanations and real-life examples are used throughout to illustrate points clearly, which I personally found very useful. After a guideline is stated the reasoning behind the 'rule' is then fully explained, which if, like me, you have a naturally questioning mind, will help considerably. Often these guiding principles are based on common sense, politeness and practicality, transferred from everyday life to internet usage. I thought this idea worked consistently well throughout the book, and set it apart from other internet books. Indeed, this is not so much a 'how to' internet book, but a 'how to', 'why', and 'oh I see, it's obvious now' internet book, with some suggested principles to improve your internet credentials thrown in on top.

The book is well organised into easy to use chapters covering different aspects of the web (e-mail etiquette, blogs, forums etc), and the writing style and layout means, for me at least, that it was very easy and fun to just pick up and browse when I had a spare minute. I think that the book has definitely had a lasting impact on the way I view and use the internet; one example amongst many being that I now feel much more comfortable in writing formal and informal e-mails.

I would definitely recommend this book for practically any level of internet competence, from absolute beginner to professional; there is something to benefit everyone.

P. A. McEntee
Reviewed on

Learn netiquette – from a book!

Sometimes, somebody does something courageous. Dave and I could have started a magazine about anything, targeting a much wider audience. Creating a magazine about free software, and calling it Free Software Magazine, had an element of courage in it – and an element of madness as well!

After receiving a few emails with the publisher, I recently received a book from the U.K.: "Netiquette: Internet etiquette in the age of the blog" by Matthew Strawbridge (published by Software References[sic]. The book is not specifically about free software so, this is not a "proper" FSM book review. However, after receiving it, and through a series of coincidences (I'm not normally able to get books nor read them since I travel quite a bit), I managed to read it and I couldn't stop thinking: the internet has created a whole subculture.

The book has a very scientific approach to netiquette: it offers a list of "rules". The third one is in the section of the book that covers email and says:

"Avoid non-standard forms of English, such as txt or l33t."

In the privacy section, there is this rule:

"Do not read other people's private emails."

In the forum section:

"Keep your postings on-topic if possible"


"If you post a message that gives away the ending of a film, book, etc. then clearly mark it as a spoiler in the subject line"

The list goes on and on. What amazes me is that these are all things I learned in the last 19 years of my life while using BBSs, Fidonet, and then the internet. (I wonder what percentage of our readers would actually know what BBSs and Fidonet are!)

So, why is this book courageous? Well, because it's not yet another "cool tutorial" about how to tweak your computer. It's more a stern book which tells you how to behave while on the internet, and above all why you should behave. It entertained me because it formalised the loose guidelines I had taken for granted for years – but that many others obviously hadn't taken for granted at all. It's courageous because it's definitely going to be read in the future – let's say 30, 40 years – and will give our future generations a glimpse of what was considered "fine" back then, in 2007. It's courageous because it's a fantastic piece of work, which will definitely have a limited audience.

So, who is this book for? I frankly think that this book should be a must-have for any company or government body who has employees which deal with the general public and the internet audience in their everyday working life. In fact, companies should have 10 copies of this book, and make sure that employees follow the instructions – or at least are aware of what is acceptable and what is not. It should also be a compulsory read for all those people who seem to be keen on breaking every single rule listed in this book, although I realise that's definitely too much to ask for.

Now, that's a pity.

The book is available on Amazon (it has a well-deserved 5-star review from a top reviewer). I can only cross my fingers, and hope that it will sell well!

Thanks Matthew.

Tony Mobily
Reviewed in Tony Mobily's blog for Free Software Magazine.

How to behave on the Internet

Amazon rating: ****

I'm a long-time computer geek, and I'm well aware of what is generally acceptable behavior on the 'net. But when asked to list the "rules", it's tough to come up with a comprehensive source that you can point the newbie to. Matthew Strawbridge has taken a shot at that goal in his book Netiquette: Internet etiquette in the age of the blog, and it's a commendable effort.

Part 1 – Forms of Online Communication: Email; Forums; Real-time Messaging; World Wide Web; Blogs and Wikis
Part 2 – Online Services: Transferring Files; Online Auctions; Other Online Services
Part 3 – Other Issues: Advertising and Spam; Security; Miscellany; Conclusion
Appendix A – Instant-messaging abbreviations; Appendix B – Netiquette for Internet Service Providers; Appendix C – Summary of Rules; Glossary; Bibliography; Index; About the Author

I know some people will take exception to these "rules" and assert their right to do whatever they please. Conversely, Matthew has gathered together the conventional wisdom that has evolved over time about how people expect others to behave when they're online. Making an attempt to generally follow these guidelines tends to make everyone's experience much more pleasant. For instance, the forum rule "lurk before you leap" means that you should observe the flow of an online group and get a feel for how things are done before diving in. Breaking the established norms of a discussion group gets you started off on the wrong foot and can ruin what might be otherwise be a beneficial exchange of views. Or another "for instance"... for bloggers, "check the spelling and grammar of your blog posts." Instead of just blasting out something on the keyboard and hitting submit, take a second and read your entry back to yourself. Make it easy for your reader to follow what you have to say. And yes, I've been guilty of this one far more than I'd like to admit.

I would expect some readers to quibble with particular entries, such as "don't use VoIP unless you need an immediate response." Depending on who you're calling and what the situation is, VoIP might be perfectly acceptable. Or the one that states "only create a blog if you really need one." Yes, there are far too many abandoned blogs out there, as well as too many that discuss things that no one cares about. But how would you know if you need one unless you give it a try? But in my opinion, these "judgement calls" are few and far between, and the vast majority of the rules are ones that you should disregard at your own risk...

Good book, and one that you'll probably want to gift-wrap for your favorite troll or SHOUTER...

Thomas "Duffbert" Duff (Amazon top-100 reviewer)
Reviewed on Duffbert's Random Musings and

One-stop source for proper online behavior...

Amazon rating: *****

It's inevitable that how to behave in a civilized manner on the Internet should be dubbed "netiquette." And no doubt all of us good citizens want very much to know exactly which fork to use with the salad and whether we should extend our pinkie finger when drinking tea – or perhaps be told that such an extension is a vulgar genteelism. Furthermore is it okay to now drop the hyphen in "e-mail" and close it up, thereby saving a keystroke from the top row of the keyboard? All up-standing burghers want to know.

Matthew Strawbridge, who has the kind of proper English name from feudal times that inspires confidence and is obviously a right proper English gentleman, is here to tell us what Emily Post is no longer around to tell us.

First, yes it is okay to write "email." Although Strawbridge doesn't say so in so many words, "email" is the form he uses throughout and that's good enough for me.

Second, no forks and no pinkies are mentioned. (I was just J/K—See "Appendix A – Instant-messaging abbreviations.") Wait a minute! "J/K" is almost as hard to write as "just kidding" and I don't like it nearly as much as what I sometimes use, "JJ" for "just joking." Perhaps we have a Brit-Yankee usage problem here.

And if I see one more smiley face I am going to scream. (But nobody can hear you when you scream on the Net.) ;-)

Strawbridge divides the book into three parts, "Forms of Online Communication" – email, forums, real-time messaging, browsing, blogs and wikis; Online Services – file transferring, auctions, domain names and such; and Other Issues – advertising and spam, security, spelling and grammar, emoticons, and when and if it's okay to write all caps or all down style. (All caps is still SHOUTING and uncultured while all down style is okay in instant messaging, but otherwise lazy. Well, he doesn't say "lazy" exactly. He merely points out that all lower case writing is not easy to read.)

In a sense Strawbridge's book is an introduction to the Internet as much as it is a primer on Internet etiquette. It's crisp, concrete and easy-to-read. He packs a lot of information into 160 pages. For example, do you know what a CAPTCHA is? It's "a picture of a word or number that has been stretched and skewed in such a way that it is still readable by people but difficult for software to extract." CAPTCHA stands for "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"!

You know about Wikipedia of course, but did you know that a "wiki" in general is a website with pages that anyone can edit online. The term comes from Ward Cunningham who named his software after the very quick Wiki Wiki bus service at the Honolulu Airport.

Strawbridge is a reasonable man whose advice, if followed by all, would make the World Wide Web a better place. Of course it would be nice if we could get the spammers to disappear. Not so curiously, Strawbridge is mum on what we can do about those rascals except to note that if people stopped patronizing the spammers they would go out of business. If. Only.

However despite Strawbridge's eminent good sense I do have a quibble or two. In the section on "flame wars" Strawbridge notes that a "disproportionate number of arguments take place online" and blames the lack of visual and tonal expression in text messages and the fact that there are so many different opinions expressed online for the arguments. But he doesn't mention the fact that people are emboldened because they can hide behind relatively anonymous screen names to say things they would never say in person. Also he recommends not directly challenging self-styled "experts" as a way to avoid arguments. That will work but I think it's better to brave the flame than to let an erroneous or cockeyed opinion go unchallenged.

One final thing. In the abbreviations appendix Strawbridge writes that he prefers "LOL" to "HAHA" which he finds "deeply annoying." Isn't it interesting that HAHAHA is annoying but ROTFLMAO is not. I wonder why. Maybe because it seems that the HAHAHA is aimed at the reader.

Dennis Littrell (Amazon top-50 reviewer)
Reviewed on and

What a joy to find succinctly formulated within one book all those things that a forum moderator struggles to say without sounding either anal or aggressive or just plain silly. If for no other reason, I am grateful to Matthew Strawbridge for writing this book, because I can now crib bits of his text whenever I feel moved to wag an e-finger or call for online order. But in addition to its usefulness to those of us who have to try to enforce the niceties of netiquette because of our roles in forums or other online communities, this book would make useful reading for anyone taking part in such a group.

Matthew's suggestions for confortable and courteous list life include 'if you need to discuss two or more separate topics, post a separate message for each', 'when replying to a digest, change the subject line to match the specific message you are responding to' and 'read the whole thread (so far) before posting a reply' (we know, we know, but how often do we forget?). He also recommends that new subscribers lurk before they leap (when joining a new group, spend a little time gaining an appreciation of the tone and content of messages that are posted) but, after that, don't be afraid to join in (you will find groups like SfEPLine friendly and supportive, so do think of signing up if you are not already a member!).

As well as containing the section on forums that immediately caught my attention, this book contains much useful information and advice for anyone engaging in electronic intercourse of any kind, on everything from email signatures (keep yours to fewer than 70 characters, preferably in four lines and certainly no more than six, and think very carefully before including a short witty quotation or joke) and real-time messaging (if you have to leave the keyboard unexpectedly and you are in a conversation, do let the other person know) to blogs (only create a blog if you really need one) and wikis (do not participate in an edit war).

Even if you don't want to partake in any computer-based interaction beyond sending and receiving emails, you will still benefit from reading the final section of the book, which discusses advertising, sp*m and security. The chapter headed 'Miscellany' gives advice on, among other things, protecting your online children and – for those who belong to forums and discussion groups – avoiding flamebait (messages posted with the sole intention of causing trouble) and trolls (individuals who deliberately post flamebait).

Finally, the book contains three extremely useful appendices, covering internet-messaging abbreviations, netiquette for ISPs and a summary of etiquette rules, and a glossary. No one in possession of this book need ever again mistake a Trojan horse for a virus, or wonder whether to be gratified or offended when someone signs off to them 'GMTA'.

Wendy Toole
Reviewed in Editing Matters: The magazine for editors and proofreaders, the magazine of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders

Rating: Recommended

Anybody who can remember the net before it was called the Internet will be at home with Matthew Strawbridge's (MS) book: it contains known advice from the days of net yore, updated and expanded for the many new communication channels available on today's Internet. The book, however, will be useful to veterans and neophytes alike.

Netiquette, should you not be familiar with the term, is the informal framework of rules and conventions governing how people should behave online. The origin of the word, we learn, can be traced back to 1982: the issue of how to behave online is almost as old as the net itself.

Online communication must do without the many visual and audio cues that help people understand one another when they speak face to face. Add to that the fact that often members of online communities come from different countries and do not always master the language that is used, and you have all the ingredients that may lead to your misunderstanding others or being misunderstood. Proceed with care, think twice before you click on the send button, give your interlocutors the benefit of the doubt, and resist the temptation to immediately fire off a reply: these guidelines, implicit or explicit throughout this book, will serve you well when online.

The book comprises three parts. The first part covers the various forms of online communication. Electronic mail receives, and in my opinion deserves, the most attention: it must be true that everybody who is active online has an email account, and understanding how to communicate via email is the foundation of any other online communication form. Forums (newsgroups and mailing lists), real-time messaging, web sites, blogs, and wikis are also covered. MS draws from available guides and books, and his own experience, to list a number of rules that should be followed when communicating online through any of these means.

I must confess to being mostly an email-based person, and I was happy here to find some of my convictions (obsessions?) spelt out in writing: make a distinction between people in 'To' and 'CC' fields; four-line signatures; limit the use of attachments; use plain text instead of HTML. But there is plenty of sensible advice for each of the online channels, and if you are going to make use of any of them for the first time you'd be well advised to have a look at what this book has to say.

But the Internet is no longer a place where we only interact with other people by writing. More and more we make use of servers to download or share files, watch videos, listen to radio stations, or buy and sell stuff. Often we have only a vague notion that other people may be using the same service, and that our actions might affect them. Present day netiquette rules must address also these aspects, and this is what MS does in the second part of his book. The underlying principle here is: do not hog the service, and be honest and fair when operating online.

Finally, the third part of the book deals with some of the plagues of the present day Internet: spam, and the various security risks (viruses, identity theft, fraud in general). Of course, spammers and fraudsters will not be reading this book and stop their activities, but we ourselves can do something against them by behaving in certain ways. For instance, be sure you understand the economics of spam, and never reward spammers by buying any of the products they advertize. Here MS does a good job of explaining the dangers and what simple countermeasures we can take, in a manner accessible also to the less technically minded user.

In summary, the book presents in a clear and concide manner the rules of engagement for online communication, from email to blogs and peer-to-peer networks. Some of the dangers of online communication are also discussed. Novices and seasoned users considering making use of one of the new online communication channels will find the book useful, and so will administrators of online communities and services who want to draft a code of conduct for their users. Finally, parents of cyber-teenagers might consider passing this book onto their offspring to help them learn the ethics of the net.

Giuseppe Vacanti
Reviewed for the ACCU, printed in CVu magazine, Vol. 19 Issue 5 October 2007

1. Introduction

  • Who should read this book?
  • What is netiquette?
  • History
  • About this book


2. Email

  • Structure and style
  • Tone and content
  • Subject lines
  • Recipients
  • Replying to emails
  • Forwarding emails
  • Distribution lists
  • Attachments
  • Privacy
  • Related topics

3. Forums

  • Introduction
  • Mailing lists
  • Newsgroups
  • Asking for help

4. Real-time messaging

  • Instant messaging
  • Internet Relay Chat (IRC)

5. World Wide Web

  • Web browsing
  • Creating websites
  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Web message boards

6. Blogs and wikis

  • Blogs
  • Wikis


7. Transferring files

  • General recommendations
  • FTP
  • Peer-to-peer networks

8. Online auctions

  • General auction netiquette
  • Sniping

9. Other online services

  • Streaming media
  • VoIP
  • Domain names
  • Excessive use of free online services


10. Advertising and spam

  • Introduction to spam
  • Email spam
  • Newsgroup spam
  • Advertising on the Web
  • Legitimate advertising

11. Security

  • Viruses
  • Trojans and spyware
  • Phishing and other fraud

12. Miscellany

  • Spelling and grammar
  • URL shortening
  • Optional payments
  • Fanning the flames
  • Legal considerations
  • Hardware
  • The environment
  • Protecting your children online
  • Emoticons
  • Standard administrator email addresses

13. Conclusion

Appendix A - Instant-messaging abbreviations

Appendix B - Netiquette for Internet service providers

Appendix C - Summary of rules




About the author