Manners on the Internet: People Still Don’t Get It

I recently received a request to share my thoughts and opinions on the sad state of affairs regarding professionalism in communication.

Before I begin to regale you with my opinion, you’ll note that this blog post is littered with links. We’re not giving ourselves Google love. We’re demonstrating how often we’ve written on this subject and how much of a problem it can be.

Each of these blog posts has strong value and something to teach you about professionalism, communication and manners on the web. They’re here for a reason: Being polite and respectful is still something we all have to work on.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: People can be (and are) extremely rude when communicating in the virtual world, whether it be via an email or a blog comment.

This is a big problem, people. Your text-based reputation is all that many people have to go on when web working. Making sure that you’ve done everything to maintain a glowing image counts a great deal.

Are you thinking that most emails are pleasant? That you’ve never had a problem? Think again. Over half of the contact we receive is brief, blunt and often quite rude.

In light of the need for constant reminder to mind your manners when working on the web, I thought I’d share my communication with all of you:

Why do you think that freelance writers feel it acceptable to be rude on blogs and in emails, especially in comments directed to employers?

I don’t believe anyone feels that it’s acceptable to be rude in the virtual world. Anonymity has a way of reducing inhibitions, so the situation occurs more often than people realize.

Text is also very subjective, and without the body language, visual cues and inflection of tone of voice, there’s really no way to discern people’s moods or intentions when they write. Many people send off emails and are frankly surprised when their comments are not well received.

Cultural differences also come into play. What is rude to an American is not to a Canadian, and what is offensive to someone from India may be well received in Great Britain.

A phenomenon that I’ve noticed crop up often is that people believe strongly in the right to free speech. Using that belief, they splatter their emotions, anger, thoughts and opinions freely, feeling that it is their right to speak up and that the other person should accept those views.

Also, people tend to often believe their values and beliefs to be upheld by all. It can be extremely uncomfortable to feel that our values are challenged, when in fact the simple truth is that another person simply has a different set of values.

The lack of consequences can also be a factor. It’s very easy to write an email or blog comment that hurts, and then walk away from the response. There is no great effect on the life of the person and he or she can simply take vengeance without repercussions.

How do you feel this could jeopardize a writer’s career?

Negative perception, a lack of marketability, a bad reputation… the smallest slight, intended or not, can cause a person to lose a potential job.

Repeat business is often earned through word-of-mouth referrals and glowing testimonials by others, so writers should do everything they can to enhance their reputation.

What tips do you have for remaining professional in the world of web writing, where we will likely never see our clients face to face?

Lastly, if you do need to end a business relationship, always do so on a positive tone and leave the door open.

Your turn, folks. Any experiences to share? Tips that you’d like to tell others?

We want to hear them, so lay out some unpleasant situations you’ve dealt with, how you could have dealt with them differently and what you do today to make sure you present the best image possible.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.