How’s Your Online Etiquette? 5 Tips on Being More Professional

Whether you’re texting or on social media, talking online is built into everyday life, so it’s unsurprising that it can take a minute to flip the switch from casual mode to professional at work.


Is it even necessary to differentiate between social and professional online voice? 


Etiquette experts, career coaches, and communications experts say yes — it’s important to follow a few basic guidelines to keep your professional online communications in check, whether you’re writing emails, messaging, posting on social media, or in a virtual meeting. 


Much of what makes communications effective is the ability to tailor your style and tone according to your audience — and that concept underpins much of the advice given for proper etiquette in any venue or channel, whether in person or online.  


Here are five things to remember when you’re talking online with customers, employees, vendors, or whatever community you’re participating in as an entrepreneur and business owner.


Check your humor

Adding a dash of humor in an email or post may seem fun, but think it through before doing so — it could be lost in translation.


Before including a joke, consider the individual (remember, audience consideration is the most effective path to respectful communications) and to this specific situation, i.e., first-time communications with a potential customer or a fellow entrepreneur you’re acquainted with. 


Bottom line, before you go for a laugh, the recipient may not get it or appreciate your attempt at being funny, for whatever reason, and take it in a way that was not intended.


Avoid sarcasm

Again, like humor, you should proceed cautiously before showing your sarcastic side.


“Think carefully about your word choices in an email and how others may interpret your intention,” says Jennifer Herrity, career coach and senior content marketing manager at


In a post for Indeed, Herrity says sarcasm can sometimes be misinterpreted, even if you think you know the email recipient well.


Add emojis sparingly

Who doesn’t like emojis? They can add personality and friendliness to almost any kind of online communication.


However, some say they should still be used thoughtfully. “Overusing or misusing emojis can make your messages appear unprofessional,” advises an article posted by on LinkedIn.


Herrity, the career coach, thinks that you should mostly refrain from using emojis in any of your online communications. “They can come across as unprofessional in certain company cultures.”


Be attentive in virtual meetings

Paying attention while others speak in in-person meetings is seen as a professional courtesy — you should be carrying that same mindset to virtual meetings as well.


Video conferencing may not have the same formal feel as sitting across or next to each other in an onsite meeting, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard the importance of listening.


“Interrupting people while they are talking, finishing their sentences impatiently, and correcting them in a superior manner shows bad business etiquette,” says Parker. “Give opportunity to people to present themselves, and learn about their viewpoint.” 


Keep your technology in check

Technology connectivity issues on your end during a video business call can come across as unprofessional. 


In addition to the inconvenience, it could delay the meeting start time or lead to the meeting going over. This could come across as disrespecting someone’s time, which is considered poor etiquette.


So make sure your business internet service is up to par with your needs and that your business has the speed and reliability to support video conferencing. 


That said, it might be a good idea to double-check that you’re “up and running” five to 10 minutes before a meeting starts to allow for any troubleshooting. 




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