Monday, September 25, 2017

7 Ways We Can Mind Our Manners on Social Media

by Bethany Jett @BetJett

Don't miss these valuable online etiquette tips!
It’s important to be polite but it’s easier to be bolder with your words when you’re typing them into your computer instead of saying them to someone’s face. The Golden Rule of doing unto others what you would have them do unto you applies virtually, so let’s look at a few ways to mind our manners online.

1. Give credit where credit is due.
While it’s common sense to give credit for a quote, it’s especially important to use proper credit for photos. They are searchable via Google, so if someone’s looking for misuse of their pictures, they can find it. Sharing photos and images on social media makes it easy for us to accidentally infringe on someone’s ownership rights, so when in doubt, create your own image or get permission from the artist, owner, or author.

In my graduate studies, proper citation is a critical element in our papers and discussion posts, so always be sure that even if you’re paraphrasing someone’s work, acknowledge it. Additionally, provide a link to the other person’s online work to help push traffic their way.

2. Know when to not share someone else’s work.
It’s also important to know how much of someone’s work you’re allowed to use without branching into copyright issues. Music lyrics are almost always a no-no, since even one line can make up a large percentage of the entire work. You can find a great explanation of “Fair Use” here.

3. Be specific, not vague.
It’s hard to read the tone of someone’s writing online, especially if their comment is full of “this, it, they, he, she, that,” etc. I’ve seen numerous threads where users are bickering with each other over a simple miscommunication. Online communication has the disadvantage of hearing someone’s voice and seeing their facial expressions as they speak, both of which are vital to comprehending someone’s meaning. Did you know that you can “hear” a smile? Because all we have is twenty-six letters to work with, we have to work extra hard to bring clarity to our written expressions.

4. Use exclamation marks and emoji’s when appropriate.
I might get some heat for this one but I firmly believe that unless you’re writing professionally, i.e., working with clients, novel-writing, business work, etc., be a little freer with your punctuation. By definition, a period at the end of the sentence makes it declarative. Do we really need to be declaring at everyone on social media all the time?

I know I unapologetically overuse exclamation marks, and I know many people hate them, but I see an exclamation mark as the equivalent of a smile. Which would you rather see from someone? Ok. or Ok!  Yes. or Yes!  I love you. or I love you!

5. Use emojis.
An emoji is a pictograph that depicts expressions, pictures, or ideas, and the same rules apply. You don’t want to throw in smileys to your business correspondence or serious freelance work, but on social media, emoji’s reign. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary “Word of the Year” for 2015 wasn’t a word at all.

It was this: 😂 which happens to be my fave emoji ever.  Adding a laughy-cry face (my personal term for that emoji) let the recipient know you’re in a good mood, and that your tone is playful. An emoji is how you can say something slightly negative, then “bless someone’s heart” and get away with it. #JustSayin

6. GIFs are here to stay.
While there is debate on the proper pronunciation of this word. I say it like “Jif” because according to the New York Times, that’s what the creator calls it. A gif is a few seconds of a video clip. You may have noticed their popularity popping up on Facebook and Twitter. says that “over 400 million GIFs sent just on New Year’s Day 2017.”

A fun way to connect with your audience is to ask them a question in your status or tweet, but have them reply only with GIFs. It’s a fantastic way to engage, but since we’re talking about etiquette in this post, always preview the gif to ensure that nothing offensive is hidden in it.

7. When in doubt, don’t.
Our last tip is probably the most important. Shakespeare says “Discretion is the better part of valor,” and he’s right. Remember the old adage about topics to avoid at the dinner table? That same philosophy applies to social media. Three subjects that are sure to start a debate, off-topic thread, or gasp! un-friending are religion, politics, and money.

I’m not saying to avoid these topics altogether, especially if they fit your brand. If that’s that case, go for it. A good rule of thumb before posting anything, whether it’s true or not, is how it will affect your audience and how far you’re willing to go (aka how much time you’re willing to spend referee-ing the comments) to defend it. If I have a topic that’s a bit more controversial, a blog post is often a much better option since you have more space to adequately defend your point of view and link to further reading resources.

Some social media platforms allow you to close comments, so if you feel like you need to speak truth or something that will cause disruption, you always have that option. It’s your right to free speech, but because social media is mostly digital expression, it is my opinion that we should be extra careful with our words online  and always remember to edify and encourage rather than tear apart.Business News Daily: Pinterest for Business: Everything You Need to Know


Military wife and all-boys-mama Bethany Jett is the award-winning author of The Cinderella Rule, speaker, ghostwriter, Co-Owner of Serious Writer, Inc., Vice President of Platinum Literary Services, and a marketing grad student who unapologetically overuses exclamation marks.

Bethany is addicted to suspense novels and all things girly, and writes on how to #LiveBrilliant at and micro-blogs on Instagram.


  1. Great post! Really appreciated the reference to "Fair Use". As an author, I often struggle to make sure my "take" on anothers work product does not take away or add unnecessarily to that original work. As a novice to the world of social media, I appreciate the kind counsel.

  2. I was taught by one of my editors to hate exclamation marks in formal writing, but they're a favorite of mine on Facebook. So are emojis. Thanks for the permission to use them freely and for the other tips. These are good ones! :)

    1. I am always deleting exclamation marks for my papers, but for informal writing, the more the merrier, haha! :) Thanks!!!

  3. Thanks for your excellent post, Bethany! In regard to photo usage, I'd like to recommend a Christian photo website that offers free photos under the Creative Commons (CO) license, which means works in the public domain. The site is



  4. Great advice! I especially like #4. And #7 is my "go to" for staying out of trouble.

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