I've been asking a series of questions about chat because, even though I've been there a few times, it takes some getting used to and I'm just trying to clarify things.

So what's up with behavior and etiquette?

Recently it seems like in a number of chatrooms (including ELU) there was a bit of drama, people being flagged and suspended and yelled at and rage-quitting (I know, I know what I've said about UD).

I'd like to have fun in chat, but I also don't want to piss anybody off. Chat is just typing, and so if it's hard to tell someone's emotions in real life it's that much harder through typing (and, no, emoji's are not helping).

So what are the rules (or rather I hope just recommendations) of etiquette here? Martha touched on it. I'm sure that they all stem from 'Be Nice, Don't be a jerk' but I guess I need more guidance.


1 Answer 1


Etiquette means the rules or norms (written or unwritten) of polite behavior within a social group. There are three significant sources of Stack Exchange chat etiquette, listed in order of highest priority.

  1. Norms formally established by Stack Exchange Inc. (the owners). Whenever there is a potential conflict of norms, these take priority.

  2. Local social norms other than the above, sitewide or in a particular chat room.

  3. Common global social norms for chat rooms, not Stack Exchange specific but often in effect as long they are not in conflict with the first two sources.

1. Norms formally established by Stack Exchange, Inc.

The purpose of these norms is to make this a welcoming site and build a community. Always consider whether your behavior is constructive and welcoming.

Be nice. This has been elaborated on by management in various ways, which can be summarized as:

  • Do treat others with respect even when they don’t deserve it.
  • Do be welcoming, be patient, and assume good intentions.
  • Do disagree politely.
  • Do not be rude, vulgar, inappropriate, or sexually suggestive.
  • Do not be hostile or demeaning. Do not call names, harass, or bully.
  • Do not use language likely to offend or alienate – when unsure, do not post it.


  • Do disengage with users whose behavior is impolite.
  • Do flag impolite behavior for moderator or staff attention.

Use chat to build community:

  • Do collaborate.
  • Do socialize.
  • Do stay roughly on topic.¹ ² ³ ⁴

2. Local social norms other than the above

English Language & Usage chat room

  • Do discuss language freely, including taboo language. There is a clear difference between investigating offensive language and using it to offend.⁵
  • Do post questions and opinions that would be off-topic on the main site, such as:
    • “Can I have some proofreading help?”
    • Ain’t is an abomination, am I right?”
    • “Hey @tchrist what is the etymology of Balrog?”
  • Do socialize, including puns, wordplay, and idle chatter.
  • Do limit idle chatter when there is a site-related question or discussion going on.

3. Common global social norms for chat rooms

These are well known norms that are often expected to apply in chat rooms.⁶ They apply to Stack Exchange chat rooms to the extent that they are relevant and not in conflict with the first two sources. So, unlike the norms listed above, these are not necessarily all in play in all Stack Exchange chat rooms.

  • Do locate and read the chat room’s user guidance or frequently answered questions before posting.
  • Do introduce yourself if you are new.
  • Do say hello and goodbye.
  • Do stay on topic. (But see above for nuance.)
  • Do keep posts short and to the point.
  • Do wait patiently for an answer.
  • Do use a pseudonym. (But note that on Stack Exchange, there is no special pseudonym function in chat. Chat uses your regular user handle.)
  • Do not use an unwelcome pseudonym.
  • Do not post personally identifying information – yours or someone else’s.
  • Do not pester people for their age, sex, or location.
  • Do not use all caps.
  • Do not flood the room.

Notes and references

1. Be nice. - Help Center - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange
2. What kind of behavior is expected of users? - Help Center - English Language & Usage Stack Exchange
3. Chat for chat.stackexchange.com
4. Privileges - talk in chat - Meta Stack Exchange
5. Use–mention distinction - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
6. Google search [ chat room etiquette ]

  • Please post all your constructive suggestions and I will incorporate.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:08
  • 1) Use a pseudonym? I don't get what you intend. We choose our name on the main site. 2) hi and goodbye? That's a new one. People only do this is they have to go in the middle of a conversation. 3) on topic? Always? That doesn't sound right all by itself. maybe 'don't hijack for long periods of time'? Or rather 'priority to on-topic topics over other stuff' 'a newbies questions on topic should take precedence over off-topic'. 4) pestering for ASL is (I've heard) common practice in some non-SO chats, but should not be here (just move to the SO specific section)
    – Mitch
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:23
  • 5) reorder sections logically: General, SE, ELU
    – Mitch
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:23
  • Maybe something along the lines of "criticize ideas, not people" Dec 16, 2015 at 18:38
  • Pseudonyms are a generic social norm, not specific to us, and we do it, but you're right it's handled elsewhere. I can maybe make a footnote. I will also point out that our specific local norms take precedence when they conflict with the generic ones. For example "on topic" -- we do have that norm but the topic of an SE chatroom is very broad.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:49
  • The logical order is order of precedence. SE management norms come first, then room norms, then (if they still apply) generic chatroom norms. I need to make that ordering clear.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:50
  • Pestering for ASL is common practice where?
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:51
  • @Mr.ShinyandNew安宇 Criticize ideas, not people -- I avoided that one deliberately. It is true in principle. In practice, it gives people license to use corrosive criticism. "I wasn't saying SHE is a moron, just saying her IDEAS are completely and totally moronic." How do you feel about "question ideas, not people"?
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 18:57
  • 2
    @MετάEd That's softer, but maybe we just need to spell out that disagreement should remain polite. Dec 16, 2015 at 19:00
  • 1
    I like your way of putting that.
    – MetaEd
    Dec 16, 2015 at 19:01
  • @MετάEd re pestering: I certainly don't want it here. I was just caviling that it may actually be common practice somewhere, somewhere that I don't know about. Yahoo? AOL? Is that a thing? What do kids use these days?
    – Mitch
    Dec 16, 2015 at 23:12
  • 2
    Maybe add a link to Use-Mention in the part about discussing taboo language.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Dec 16, 2015 at 23:33
  • 2
    Personally identifiable information should not be posted, not even by the person who it identifies. (I believe PII poses a compliance complication for SE). If you want someone to contact you, ask a mod for help.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Dec 16, 2015 at 23:42
  • 1
    Chat should be at least partially in English or in a language that at least one of the mods or room owners understands, for moderation purposes.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Dec 17, 2015 at 0:26
  • 1
    Here is fresh off the press moderation policy from SE about chat.
    – Kit Z. Fox Mod
    Dec 18, 2015 at 23:21

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