Helpful Survival Tips and Etiquette for Instant Messenger Chat

In this world of technology, online chat is becoming very commonplace in a lot of people’s lives. Some do it for enjoyment and some now must incorporate it into their work day for various reasons.

No matter what your reasons for chatting online, you should know the “dos and don’ts” before you begin. Some mistakes can be overlooked, but other mistakes while online could have irreversible consequences.


Getting Started

Though this is the most logical place to start, the steps used in getting started for your online chat experience can be the most important steps. These steps are the foundation for your chat. This is where you’re building your first impression that people will see. As we all know, first impressions can be everlasting.

Your Screen Name

One of the first things you have to do when you register on a chat site is to set up a screen name. When you choose a screen name for yourself, make sure that it’s appropriate for the situation. If you’re using it for business, you don’t want anything too cutesy or unprofessional such as “Studman Dan”. On the other hand, if this is for personal use, you will want to find something catchy that reflects your personality without being too revealing about your identity.

For instance, if you have a really uncommon last name, you shouldn’t use it. Some websites even caution you about using your real name at all, but in my opinion first names are okay. It’s also a good idea to keep relevant or personal information such as birth dates out of your screen name for security reasons.

The screen name can be difficult if the website requires that it’s unique because there are so many people on chat sites these days! It’s okay to have numbers after your screen name (Batman293, for example) and in some cases it’s unavoidable. The best rule of thumb is to put thought into your screen name. Remember, that first impressions really matter and online your screen name is your first impression.

Your Avatar or Picture

The next step to success in online chatting is your avatar or picture. It’s not a good idea to leave this completely blank. If this is for personal use, you may get overlooked by many other online chatters because they don’t have a visual. People are interested in having a visual connection. If you feel comfortable enough, you can use a picture of yourself and if you don’t you can use an image of something else.

Whatever you decide to use, it should reflect your personality and also attract the audience you’re for which you are targeting. If you’re targeting one night stands, you may want to show your bare chest. If you’re looking for people that will party with you, a picture of you at a bar would work fine. If you have a great sense of humor, your picture or image can reflect that as well.

If your chat profile is for business use, your avatar should be professional, of course. If you use a picture of yourself rather than an image make sure that the picture reflects your personality, but in a professional manner. You may also choose an image depending on your profession or the purpose of the chat profile. For instance, if you’re a computer technician, an image of a PC is perfectly acceptable and appropriate.

Have a Purpose for Chatting

Before you initiate a conversation with someone, make sure you have a purpose for the chat. You don’t want to initiate the chat and have absolutely nothing to say. If you’re the one initiating the chat (even if you already know the person), they expect you to state your purpose.

Initiating a Conversation

It’s important to start off a conversation right. Even if you already know the person that you’re having a conversation with, don’t forget your manners. Don’t just start talking to them about your day. Say “hi”. You can even ask them how their day was. If this is a total stranger, you will of course want to say hi along with introducing yourself. Something like, “Hi, I’m Sam” works just fine. Keep in mind that when you first initiate a conversation, you’re still working on that first impression. You don’t want to come off as rude or intrusive.


Chat Content

This section is for advice on your everyday experiences while chatting. It’s a good idea to develop good habits at the very beginning so that they will become natural as you move on and online chatting becomes second nature.

Custom Fonts, Odd Text Sizes, and Different Colored Text

Whether your chatting purposes are for personal or professional use, it’s a good idea to keep the text size, type, and color as it’s set up on the chat. Professionally, it’s easy to understand why you wouldn’t want to change it. However, if this is for personal use, changing the fonts can be frustrating for other chatters and rarely impresses others. So, it’s really best left alone.


If your chat is for business purposes, it’s very important to make sure that your spelling is accurate. This goes without saying. Yet even in casual chatting situations, you want to make sure that your spelling is accurate. Take your time when typing; it’s not a race. You should also double check your typing for spelling errors and typos before you hit the enter key and send your statement “live”. Once you hit the enter key. Your message is on its way to someone whether you like it or not and there’s no way to undo it. Again, spelling is part of making a good impression.

Don’t Give Out Too Much Information

When chatting online, it’s always important to remember that there are all types of people out there and not all of their intentions are genuine. You don’t want to give out too much of your personal information too people over the internet. This could lead to identity theft or even worse things such as something leading to a psycho stalker, thief or murderer lurking around your area to find you. Never underestimate the person on the other end of your conversation and always be cautious. Your new friend “Candi” may be the psycho bitch from hell or could possible even be some guy who is working on getting people’s personal information to steal your identity.

Don’t Be Too Wordy

You definitely want to fill in a conversation, but each statement made when IM-ing someone or in a chat room should be one or two sentences as a rule. When someone receives an IM that’s huge, it’s a bit overwhelming and they may not want to read it all.


Online Courtesy and Respect of Others

You may find that some of these tips are common sense, while others may not be. However, as you progress in online chats, it will all come together and these tips will make sense.

Don’t SHOUT!

Most people are already aware, but cyber-shouting is when you have your caps lock on. Almost everyone will be offended by this and think that you’re being rude and will turn them off. One word every now and then to emphasize something is acceptable, but shouldn’t be overused.

Pay Attention to Others

When chatting with individuals online, make sure that you pay attention to what they’re saying to you. You don’t want to ask them a question and find out that they’ve already given you that information. This is just as important for personal chat as it is for professional chat. If you’re talking to a prospective date and she finds that you’re not really paying attention to her, your chances of dating her are gone. I can guarantee it.

Be Polite

Being polite should go without saying, but sometimes when we get on a computer to talk to someone, we forget that there is a real person on the other end. Make sure you show them the same respect that you want someone to show you and be respectful of their time. When you first IM someone, even if it’s someone you know. It’s a good idea to ask them if this is a good time for them to chat with you. They will definitely appreciate the courtesy.

Also, be sure what you’re saying won’t be misinterpreted before you send the message off. Since you’re not actually talking, people can’t pick up things from your tone of voice, so it’s very important to make sure that your message is clear and your intentions are known.

Give People Time to Respond

If it’s taking a little while for someone to respond to your last message, remember that you don’t know what’s going on with them on their end. They could have been involuntarily diverted for a moment. Also realize that while you’re trying to make a good impression by monitoring your spelling errors, they’re doing the same. If you hound the person because they haven’t responded promptly by saying something like “Are you still there” they may get annoyed or feel that you’re too pushy. Just be patient.

Don’t Judge Too Quickly

If someone says something online that offends you or turns you off, be sure that their message was clear. If you feel that you may have misinterpreted it, ask questions. It’s true that some people’s intentions are to be mean, but most people online have good intentions and just want to have fun.


Remember that online, humor has its place and you should be very careful. If you think about funny conversations that you have with people or if you think about a professional standup comedian, you’ll notice that a lot of what makes something funny is the delivery and the voice tones that are used. Since you don’t have this online, humor should be limited. It can be done, but you should be careful that it’s taken in the manner in which you intend.

Sending People Pictures or Images

If you want to send a picture or an image to someone, it’s important to ask them if it’s okay first. This may sound strange, but if you consider all of the weirdos out there on the internet, it makes perfect sense. When online, people can send strange things to others, which makes them leery when they see anything being sent to them. If you ask them first it not only shows courtesy, but it’s also a heads up that an image is coming their way and to not be alarmed.

Don’t Be Demanding or Pushy

If someone isn’t responding to an IM that you sent, it’s best to just move on. You don’t want to make matters worse by pissing them off. Move onto another friend or make new friends. If they want to get in touch with you or get back to you they will.

Don’t Cyber Stalk

It’s rude to find out exactly where your friends are every time you go online. A friend of yours may be in a private room, for instance. That’s their business and you don’t need to keep tabs on them. It’s just like knowing where your friends are in the “real world”. If you looked everywhere for them, you would be stalking. Online, it’s the same thing, so just be considerate and respectful of their space.

Ending the Conversation

When you’re finished talking, or if you have to get offline, let whoever you’re talking to know and say “goodbye”. Remember that this is the same courtesy that you would give someone in person or over the phone. They won’t be able to see that you just left, so give them a heads up.


Tricks of the Trade

If you’re already somewhat versed in online chats, then use may already know these little tricks, but if you’re a new user to chats, you will find these things very helpful. The last section is about abbreviations that are commonly used in chat rooms and while IM-ing. This is almost essential in today’s chat room society.

Use the Availability Status Features

Most chat websites have a feature where you can show your status to other users on the site. It may say that you’re available or that you’re busy. If you use these, then it will be a lot less frustrating for people trying to get in touch with you.


Emoticons are the faces that show a facial expression such as smiling or frowning. Most chat sites have these and they’re great! This will help sometimes remove some question as to the tone or manner in which you mean some thing that you say. In many instances it can save some embarrassment as to the way some things may be taken both when you send messages and when people send you messages.


If you’re not up to date on the lingo, chat abbreviations can be tricky, but people use them all the time. Here are some to help get you started when chatting, but there are numerous out there. If someone is talking to you ad uses an abbreviation with which you’re not familiar, it’s not only acceptable to ask them, but encouraged. This is how you’ll learn and probably how they learned. Usually people are more than eager to assist you when you ask.

List Chat of Abbreviations to Get You Started

AAMOF = as a matter of fact
AFAIK=as far as I know
AFK=away from keyboard
AKA=also know as
ASAP=as soon as possible
ASL=age, sex, location?
BAK=back at keyboard
BAK = back at keyboard
BBFN = bye-bye for now
BBL=be back later
BBS=be back soon
BFN = bye for now
BK = back
BRB=be right back
BRBGGP = be right back gotta go potty
BTDT=been there done that
BTW=by the way
CFV=call for votes
CRAFT = can’t remember a fucking thing
CRS = can’t remember shit
CU = see you
CUL=see you later
CUL8R = see you later
CYA = see ya
DYJHIW=don’t you just hate it when…
EOM=end of message
F2F=face to face
FAQ=frequently asked question
FC=fingers crossed
FUBAR =fucked up beyond all recognition
FWIW =for what it’s worth 
FYA=for your amusement
FYI = for your information
GA=go ahead 
GMTA = great minds think alike
GP = general practitioner
GR&D=grinning, running & ducking 
GTG = got to go
HB = hurry back
HH=holding hands
HHOJ / K =ha ha, only joking / kidding 
HIWTH=hate it when that happens
IAE=in any event 
IDK=I don’t know
IITYWTMWYBMAD =if I tell you what this means will you buy me a drink?
IMCO=in my considered opinion 
IMHO=in my humble opinion
IMNSHO = in my not so humble opinion
IMO = in my opinion
IOW=in other words 
IRL=in real life
IYKWIM=if you know what I mean
J/K = just kidding
JAM=just a minute
JASE=just another system error
JK = joke
K = okay
KOTC=kiss on the cheek
LMAO = laughing my ass off
LOL=laugh out loud
LOLROF = laughing out load, rolling on floor
LTNS = long time no see
MYOB = mind your own business
NP = no problem
NRN=no reply necessary 
OBTW=oh, by the way
OIC=oh, I see
OT=off topic 
OTOH=on the other hand 
PITA=pain in the ass
PMFJI=pardon me for jumping in 
ROF = rolling on floor
ROFL=rolling on the floor laughing
ROFLMAO = rolling on floor laughing my ass off
ROFLOL = rolling on floor laughing out loud
RSN=real soon now 
RTFN=read the fucking manual (or message)
SITD=still in the dark
SNAFU=situation normal, all fucked up
SOL = shit out of luck
SOS = same old stuff (or use you imagination)
STFU=shut the fuck up
SYL=see you later
TANSTAAFL=there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch
TGIF=thank god it’s Friday
TIA=thanks in advance
TIC=tongue in cheek
TTFN=ta-ta for now
TTYL = talk to you later
TY = thank you
WB = welcome back
WRT=with regard to 
WTG = way to go
YW = your welcome

Instant Messenger Clients and Places To Chat

AOL Instant Messenger

Yahoo Messenger

Windows Live Messenger

MySpace Messenger

Facebook Chat


Hopefully this was a helpful guide to you and will help you to have a successful online chat. No matter what your reason or purpose for chatting, we wish you well on your journey through cyber space and meeting and conversing with others around the globe.

Leave a Comment

  1. hearsetrax says:

    just my .02 …. you forgot to mention … it has a nearly complete list of all Abbreviations & typed emoticons …also includes most common tech jargon/file extentions