Netiquette for Email Lists

There are informal rules of Internet communication which are termed netiquette to help people use proper etiquette within forums and email groups. Some examples of poor netiquette are not signing messages, sending unsubscribe messages to the posting address (instead of the administrative address), or TYPING IN ALL CAPS (which is the equivalent of yelling).

I can’t say it much better than this:

“…my goal here is to educate people who participate in mailing lists, since only by improving our list manners will mailing lists continue to become increasingly pleasant and useful.” (Adam C. Engst, TidBITS #480.)

The Internet is a dynamic environment and netiquette evolves over time.

Some rules for the Low End Mac family of mail lists:

Remember that replies automatically go to the list, not the just the person who posted the message. You need to change the To: address to respond to an individual. (Some other lists, such as Mac-Mgrs and the Low End Mac Swap list, work just the opposite way. On those lists, a reply goes to the original sender by default, not to the list.)

Never post private (off-list) correspondence to the list without the permission of the sender.

Please quote only the relevant portion of messages you respond to – and please quote some of the original message so others know what you’re responding to.

“You shouldn’t have to wade through gobs of extraneous stuff to get to the meat of the message. You should include just enough to provide a context for the message and no more. (Peter Kimble, my high school CS teacher, now gives his students the rule of thumb that at least half of the lines in an email message should be their own.)” (A Beginner’s Guide to Effective Email by Kaitlin Duck Sherwood)

“Quoting sparingly does require manual work, since most email programs automatically quote the [whole] original message in replies. But failing to edit the original wastes everyone’s time and bandwidth.” (Adam C. Engst, TidBITS #480.)

Mom and the nannies are watching. The list managers (the List Owner or “mom” and List Managers or “nannies”) have the right to remove posting privileges or ban anyone from the list for vulgarity, trolling, flaming, name calling, threats, or other behavior detrimental to this online community. They also have the right to switch you to moderated mode* for continued violations of the list rules and netiquette; this could escalate to blocking or banning if the infractions continue.

* In moderated mode, one of the list managers must review of your postings before they will be approved for posting to the list – or sent back or deleted due to excessive quoting, offensive or overly long signatures, etc. The length of moderation depends on the offense, how often it has been repeated, and whether the list member learns to abide by the rules of the list.

Never send attachments to the list. An attachment may contain a virus, may be in a format others cannot use, may not make it through some mail gateways, makes the message bigger, and could bog down both the list server and the mail server.

  • Many of today’s email programs send styled text attachments by default. Please turn HTML and other styled text off when posting to our lists (see #3). (Note that PGP.sig files and v-cards are attachments.)
  • Instead of sending an attachment to the list, offer to email it directly to those who request it.
  • Low End Mac lists used to be explicitly set to reject any and all attachments. We can’t do that with Google Groups.

Don’t send styled text or HTML files; only send plain text. Styled text may or may not come through as an attachment, but it is very difficult to read with a plain text email client. Google Groups will accept styled text and attachments, and this can result in garbled digests.

Helpful Links on Email Efficiency

By Deborah Shadovitz of

Style your posting – ASCII style.

  • Put a blank line between paragraphs.
  • Put a blank line between what you are quoting and what you are writing.
  • Clearly mark quoted sections. Most email programs do this by putting “>” or “> ” in front of each line of quoted material.

Please keep “me too” messages off the list; these are best sent privately, if at all.

Never send test messages to the list. Test when you have something to say to the list by saying it, not by sending a test message.

Please avoid cross posting – sending the same message to several lists at the same time. Pick the list most likely to help, post there, and if you don’t find what you need in that forum within a day or so, try another list.

Let sleeping threads lie. If it’s been over a week since the last posting in a thread, consider it dead and buried.

When asking a question, please list relevant information regarding hardware, software, and version of the Mac OS involved.

Change the subject line when the subject of the thread changes. If you don’t do that, Google Groups will thread it with the old subject.

When responding to a digest post, be sure to change the subject to match that of the original message.

You can wander into other Mac-related topics, but try to limit discussion to Mac-related topics (politics, religion, and a lot of other things are off topic as far as Mac lists are concerned). Always treat others courteously.

Signature lines

  • Signature blocks (sigs) are considered personal expression as long as the poster’s name comes between the body of the message and the sig.
  • Please keep your signature concise. Six lines or less is best. Ten or more is excessive.
  • Many email clients wrap text at 80 characters or less (sometimes as little as 72); check that your signature doesn’t wrap badly because of this.
  • Taglines should be clearly separated from the body of the email and should come after your name.
  • Avoid vulgar and offensive taglines.

Don’t use PGP encryption on your messages. A lot of people (probably most) can’t even use it.

Disclaimers and authentication. Please don’t include corporate disclaimers or PGP authentication when posting to the list.

Treat your list neighbor as you wish to be treated. Address breaches of netiquette privately, not on the list. Assume the best, not the worst. And please notify if things seem to be getting out of hand.

Although subscribers may offer specific equipment and services to the list or share an exceptional bargain they have discovered, explicitly commercial postings are prohibited on our lists. Any address or domain posting such will be blocked.

Items for sale should generally be posted to the LEM Swap List. Exceptions are made for regional lists (Canada, UK, Australia) and non-Mac lists (Apple II, Lisa, Newton). You many mention a specific item you are auctioning on the appropriate list – however, auction postings are prohibited on the Swap list.

Do not send subscribe, unsubscribe, or mode change messages to the list posting address. Follow the instructions in each message or digest to unsubscribe or change mode. You can also manage your subscription online.

Vacation mode – switch to “no email” mode. Do not send vacation messages to the list. Most mail servers and email clients that support vacation messages also include a “don’t respond to lists” option. Please use it if you set your email client or server to vacation mode.

Never post with a fraudulent email address. This is grounds for immediate banning.

Please follow established standards when posting acronyms, abbreviations, and the like:

  • RAM is an acronym for Random Access Memory. ROM is an acronym for Read Only memory. Acronyms should always be capitalized. SIMM and DIMM are also acronyms.
  • Mac is short for Macintosh; MAC is an acronym for Media Access Control, the hardware ID of ethernet circuitry.
  • Please capitalize these Apple trademarks as follows: iMac, iBook, PowerBook, MacBook, Mac mini, LaserWriter. There is a space in Power Mac, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro.
  • Capital B means bytes; lower case b means bits. Hard drives and RAM are invariably measured in GB and MB, while USB, ethernet, and FireWire speeds are usually specified in Mb per second.
  • Hertz are named for a person, so the H should always be capitalized. The z is lower-case, as in kHz, MHz, and GHz.
  • for more on this topic, see our Mac Web Style Guide

For more information on the role of the list mom, the nannies, terms we use, and discipline policies, see our Rules of List Management.

Dan Knight, list mom