Your Netiquette is Showing

The ABC’s of Professionalism

The Internet is the ultimate tool for inexpensive, rapid and optionally anonymous communication.  With unlimited venues for expressing opinions and conducting transactions, the Internet perfectly represents the ideals of democracy and the free market.

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” -– Winston Churchill

The best thing about the Internet is that it makes everyone a publisher. The worst thing about the Internet is that it makes everyone a publisher.” — Unknown

The nature of the Internet puts one’s character to the test.  Without the constraints of accountability (that comes from visibility) and self-control, there is little else standing in the way of verbal anarchy.  If you are a blogger, you’ve certainly seen the sordid underbelly of the Internet.

When human nature and technology team up, the potential for “mischief” is astonishing.

“Bad news travels fast.” — American Proverb

“Bad news is more readily believed than good news.” — Saying

“To err is human. To really foul things up requires a computer.” — Unknown

“Statistics, extrapolations and counting by Radicati Group from August 2008 estimate the number of emails sent per day (in 2008) to be around 210 billion. — <;

Stir all of this together and it is imaginable that anyone could be one click away from causing international havoc.  Okay, maybe I’m being a bit melodramatic.  But, it’s certainly possible to create a lot of trouble with a few words and a couple of clicks.  Just ask the folks at

Solutions to this problem must include a code of acceptable behavior.  Today, that code is called Internet etiquette or “Netiquette.” Although the rules continue to change, they are still a useful baseline for measuring Internet professionalism.  I’d like to introduce five principles that lay a foundation for Internet etiquette.

Principle #1 – Netiquette is for Everyone

Network etiquette, like professionalism, does not come equipped with an on/off switch.  When people strive toward professionalism, their actions (including online behavior) must always be consistent with their principles.

“Don’t reserve your best behavior for special occasions. You can’t have two sets of manners, two social codes – one for those you admire and want to impress, another for those whom you consider unimportant. You must be the same to all people.” — Lillian Eichler Watson

As a professional, people will be watching you and following your lead.  You have the power to influence the culture of the Internet with each email you send and each blog comment you post.

Principle #2 – Accuracy Matters

When comparing a traditional letter with email, it’s reasonable to expect some stylistic differences.  However, grammar and spelling are not matters of style.  Unfortunately, the trend in digital communications seems to be toward compromising quality by bludgeoning our language.  However, let’s not blame the technology.  There is nothing inherent in email that grants permission to ignore good grammar and accurate spelling.  What has actually happened is that the proliferation of email users has simply revealed how woefully unprepared many people are to write in a professional manner.  Before email, some people avoided the issue by not writing — others delegated the responsibility to a secretary.  Today, most people compose and send their own email and they’re sending lots of it.

“We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.” — Robert Wilensky, speech at a 1996 conference

The quality of your writing reflects your professional image.  If you don’t want to look like a monkey, use good grammar and spelling.

Principle #3 – Plagiarism is Always Wrong

Replicating things found on the Internet is so easy that the temptation to steal can be overwhelming.  Plagiarism has always been wrong and digital technology does not change that moral principle. A professional respects the intellectual property of another and acts accordingly.

“I think almost every newspaper in the United States has lost circulation due to the Internet. I also think the Internet will lead to a lot of plagiarism in journalism.” — Will McDonough

Take a few minutes to review the U.S. Copyright Law with special focus on the “Fair Use” provision.  Then, check out the other two resources given below:

Principle #4 – Privacy and Security Are Important

As expected, Congress, Federal regulators and the courts are all over this issue.  John Perry Barlow wrote “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace” presumably in response to overzealous and heavy handed governments.

“Our identities have no bodies, so, unlike you, we cannot obtain order by physical coercion. We believe that from ethics, enlightened self-interest, and the commonwealth, our governance will emerge.” — John Perry Barlow, Excerpt from: “A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace”

While we wait for the legal issues get sorted out, netiquette offers some simple individual actions that can help protect your own privacy and the privacy of others.  Here’s an example.  When sending email to a large list or a list of people who have no relationship with one another use “Bcc.”  Instead of using the “To” and “Cc” spaces where the addresses are visible to all recipients, place the email addresses in the “Bcc” space, as shown in Figure 1 below.


Figure 1. Email Address Privacy Using Bcc

Principle #5 – Practice the Golden Rule

Behavior in the virtual world should reflect the same common courtesies a professional uses in real life.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” — Bible, Matthew 7:12

Specifically, this means to be polite, truthful, kind, even-tempered, thoughtful, accurate and forgiving.  Not much else needs to be said.


There is considerable chaos on the Internet.  Professionals need to step up and be part of the solution.  To learn the specifics of netiquette, visit the following sites once a week until the rules become automatic.

God bless,

— CC

[ M=Mistakes | Index | O=Optimism ]

© Copyright November 2008, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at:

Professional Attitude (Updated)

[ Index | B=Behavior ]

Series: The ABC’s of Professionalism

“Professionalism” is one of those words that’s rather hard to define. Consequently, people have different viewpoints on what characteristics constitute professionalism. Let’s explore.

“Believe passionately in what you do, and never knowingly compromise your standards and values. Act like a true professional, aiming for true excellence, and the money will follow.”
— David Maister (1947- ), business management consultant. The Advice Business: Essential Tools and Models for Management Consulting, Chapter 23.

“…a professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.”
— Alistair Cooke (1945- ), British-born American journalist, broadcaster. Six Men, 1995, p. 136.

At first glance, these quotations might appear somewhat at odds with each other and yet, I think they both define different moments of professionalism. It is not contradictory to have an enduring passion about one’s career and not feel like engaging in that passion at a particular moment.

So, what is professionalism or perhaps, what is it NOT? By my thinking, professionalism has nothing to do with the profession — it’s all about the person …

“Professionalism: It’s NOT the job you DO, It’s HOW you DO the job.”
— Anonymous

“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing as a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy…neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
— John W. Gardner (1912-2002), president of the Carnegie Corporation.

… it’s not about the payment …

“You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That’s the mark of a true professional. Professionalism has nothing to do with getting paid for your services.”
— Attributed to: Joe Paterno (1926- ), Penn State University football coach. Strategic Outsourcing, by Maurice F. Greaver, 1999.

… and it’s not about conforming to arbitrary standards.

“Professionalism is not about adherence to the policies of a bureaucracy. Professionalism is about having the integrity, honesty, and sincere regard for the personhood of the customer, in the context of always doing what is best for the business. Those two things do not need to be in conflict.”
— Eric Lippert, software expert, author.
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Professionalism consists of certain attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors sometimes known collectively as “virtue” or “good character.” Attitudes and behaviors have two things in common. First, both are produced by our beliefs. Second, we have the power to choose our attitudes and behaviors.

“We choose what attitudes we have right now. And it’s a continuing choice.”
— John C. Maxwell (1947- ), American author, speaker, minister. The Maxwell Daily Reader, 2008, p. 58.

Your GPS

As mere humans, we are hindered from peering into the minds and hearts of others to gage their professionalism. Fair or not, character judgments are made from outward signs such as what people say and do (i.e. behaviors). Only God can look inside to know a person’s attitudes.

“…Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
— Bible, 1 Samuel 16:7

“Behavior is a mirror in which every one displays his own image.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), German author, philosopher. Novels and Tales by Goethe, 1868, p. 153.

“We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.”
— Attributed to: Ian Percy, motivational speaker.

“Our names are labels, plainly printed on the bottled essence of our past behaviour.”
— Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946), American essayist, critic. All Trivia: Trivia, More Trivia, Afterthoughts, Last Words, 1934, p. 162.

Knowing we cannot see inside a person’s heart, it is important to remain humble and guarded when judging the character of others with partial information. For ourselves, it is important to understand that judging behavior is the very thing that others will do about us. In fact, there are those who wait in ambush and will pounce unmercifully at the first sign of moral indiscretion.

As we develop understanding of our own professional development needs we must not become fixated on the outward behaviors at the expense of the inner attitudes and beliefs. Consider the most fundamental relationship among beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors: beliefs are the causes of our attitudes, which in turn cause our behaviors.

“… human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
— William James (1842-1910), American psychologist, philosopher.

This fundamental cause and effect principle of humanity states that improvements in our values are required to produce improvements in behaviors. Unfortunately, there is the temptation to go straight to the behavior, bypassing the beliefs and attitudes.

“If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away.”
— Attributed to: William Glasser (1925- ), American psychiatrist.

While it is accurate to recognize that the roles can be reversed as Glasser proposed, the effect is temporary at best. Real change that sticks, good or bad, comes from new attitudes. To be more precise, real change happens only when beliefs change.

Becoming a professional is an attitude adjustment process that begins by understanding what it means to be a professional, creating a personal vision of professionalism, and aligning one’s values in accordance with that image. Another way to say this is “change on the outside begins on the inside.” Suppose you were to understand professionalism, then claim it as your set of personal values, where would you start to begin your professional tune-up? A good place is with the attitude called “respect” and a person must start by respecting himself.

“Self-respect – that cornerstone of all virtue.”
— John Herschel (1792-1871), English mathematician, astronomer, chemist.

“The way to procure insults is to submit to them. A man meets with no more respect than he exacts.”
— William Hazlitt (1778-1830), English writer.

Professionalism also insists on respect toward others, explained best by “The Golden Rule.”

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
— Bible, Galatians 5:14

“Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them.”
— Bible, Luke 6:31

Building professionalism also requires courage, the attitude that conquers fear.

“Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities because, … it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
— Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), British Prime Minister. Maxims and Reflections, 2005, p. 169.

Fear is an emotion manufactured in the imagination. The best proof of this is found by observing the differences in what people are afraid of. If fear was instinctive, genetic, or the product of rational thought, shouldn’t we all fear pretty much the same things?

“Some people are afraid of heights. I’m afraid of widths.”
— Steven Wright (1955- ), American comedian, actor, writer.

Fear can be tamed and it can be conquered. History is full of examples of ordinary people who became heroes merely by confronting their fears. How does one take action while in fear’s shadow?

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
— Dorothy Bernard (1890-1955), American actress of silent movie era.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”
— Attributed to: Ambrose Redmoon (1933-1996), Hippie, writer.

“Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.”
— Susan Jeffers, Inspirational writer, speaker. < >

It’s time for those who care about professionalism to stop being apathetic about timidity, lack of respect, and other unprofessional attitudes in today’s culture. It’s time to do something about it, one person at a time. Who should be the first person on your list? You! If the adage is true, “actions speak louder than words,” doing nothing more than becoming a living example of professionalism may be all that is needed. If enough people make that choice and commitment, our world will be changed for the better. Life is short — it’s time to get busy.

“Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”
— Attributed to: Zig Ziglar (1926- ), American author, salesman, and motivational speaker.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,”
— Bible, Colossians 3:23

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact attitude has on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.
— Attributed to: Charles R. Swindoll (1934- ), evangelical Christian pastor, author, educator, radio preacher.
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God bless,

— CC

[ Index | B=Behavior ]

© Copyright March 2009, Clancy Cross. All rights reserved.
Read more “Clancy’s Quotes” at: