110: Moderator Etiquette

Discord Moderators exist on every Discord server in different forms. With the constant growth of Discord as a whole (and as a direct result, servers on Discord), moderators’ roles have grown in importance and necessity in the pursuit of keeping chat flowing and providing users with an enjoyable but safe environment on their server. But what does it really mean to “moderate” a server? What are things you should be aware of when applying for a moderation position? Here is a step by step guide to understand the role.

What it means to be a Discord Moderator

A community thrives in a healthy, comfortable and safe environment - and that's where moderation comes into play. Being a moderator means more than just being hoisted at the top of the server and having a fancy color. It is your responsibility to prevent and resolve conflicts between users, ensure the server is safe and free from potential harm, and set an example for the rest of the community to the best of your abilities.

 

While bigger servers may be less lenient when it comes to second chances, banning people over minor infractions may not always be the best approach. Your responsibility is not just to execute punishments, but also to weigh out the severity of the infraction. Moderating larger or more active communities can be overwhelming at first, so don’t be afraid to ask fellow moderators for help, and take their advice on improving your methods of moderation. While moderating, always be friendly and ready to help users in public. Find a balance between enforcing the rules, while also fostering a healthy relationship with users. “Aggressive” moderators tend to intimidate or scare off new users, which will harm your community. 

 

As a moderator you will be the first point of contact for newer users, meaning people will seek out your attention or ping you for multiple reasons. It might even happen that they develop a parasocial relationship, which you can read more about here. Just because you go into moderation knowing that it is a commitment doesn’t mean that it can’t be overwhelming at times. It is important to know that any contribution you make to your server and its members is appreciated, and that there are tools to help keep your workload under control. You have a whole team behind you to rely on and communicate with, so don’t feel like you have to handle everything yourself.

Public Behavior

It is important to be aware of the fact that your public behavior in both servers you moderate and other servers you’re a member of will affect how users perceive you as a moderator.

In the Servers You Moderate

Having multiple permissions, a special role color meant to differentiate you, and power over users doesn’t mean you are freed from the servers’ rules or can act above them. Instead, you should encourage users to abide by the rules at all times while still being able to enjoy their stay on the server. Showing that you're dedicated to helping the server grow and by being an fair and trustworthy figure for the community goes a lot towards overall server morale. A key part of achieving this is to ensure you don’t do anything that would get normal users in trouble, i.e. flooding emojis or repeatedly writing in capital letters only. Being extra mindful of the images you post and the things you say to ensure you never approach a “gray area” of breaking the rules will better help users understand how to behave in the server and contribute to the image of the moderation team being judicious and accountable.

 

Moderators are seen as role models for the server. That means that you should act maturely and set a good example for the community. That includes, but is not limited to, obscene behavior in both your messages and Discord profile: your picture, username, status, and linked socials are globally visible. Running a Discord server will result in members from different nationalities and backgrounds engaging in the community. Furthermore, in case of a dispute happening on the server, focus on the logic of the argument rather than the individuals involved. Fair and equal treatment for everyone should be the standard for moderation actions.

 

Nobody is perfect and nobody expects you to be perfect. However, when you find yourself in such an influential position, you need to have an open mind and learn how to accept constructive criticism. Making mistakes is understandable as long as you take responsibility for your actions and learn from them. 

In other Servers

While nobody can control what you do in private, you should always be mindful of your behavior in public servers. As a representative of your server, any inappropriate behavior in other communities will rebound if someone recognizes you and reports your irresponsible actions to your server staff. Remember that everything you share can reflect on your position and reputation.

 

All of the above doesn’t imply that you should never freely talk to users - other servers allow you to let go of your moderator-persona and act casual without feeling responsible for the chat. As long as you follow the Discord Community Guidelines and the rules of the other communities you participate in while you are there, you won’t have any issues.

Engaging with Users

User engagement and activity is one of the essential aspects of running a Discord server successfully. In terms of smoothly conversing with a user, it is recommended to take the following points into account:

Users New to Discord

You should never assume that everyone knows how Discord works, or how your server operates. If there is the case that you come across a user who has multiple, seemingly “ridiculous” questions, don’t immediately assume they are a troll. There are many ways to get confused by things that may seem natural to superusers of the platform. Take your time to explain certain parts or functions of both Discord and the server you're moderating while keeping a friendly and inviting tone.

 

Users that are new to a community they aren’t experienced with may not know terms that are everyday words for active members. Abbreviations like LFG (looking for groups) in gaming communities, GFX (graphic effects) in art servers, and much more. When communicating with an inexperienced or intimidated user, ensure that you don’t sound rude because they are unfamiliar with the lingo. Try to guide them around the server without using confusing abbreviations and be patient as it may be their first time in those types of servers. 

Communication

Online communication cannot accurately convey our usual ways of expression: facial cues, emotions, physical gestures, and your vocal tone. This makes it easy for others to misinterpret your messages, and for you to misunderstand theirs. When reading and analyzing a message without those real-life factors, it often happens that our own emotions fill in those blanks and that misunderstanding encourages us to act in the heat of the moment. Before acting on negative emotions, give the other user the benefit of the doubt and calmly ask them for clarification on parts of their messages that upset you without being accusatory.


When sending messages, there are many ways to convey what you really want to express including emojis or other special symbols such as tonal indicators. Always make sure to read through your messages as a moderator and think “how could that be misunderstood in a way that it upsets someone?”, and adjust based upon that thought process. 

 

Furthermore, you may encounter users whose first language isn’t your servers’ primary language. Even though a server rule states to speak in the designated language only, it’s usually not productive to immediately someone for violating that rule, especially if it’s their first post or two in the server. Start with a verbal warning with a reminder to stick to the server’s language rules. Also consider that while misspelling words may be a common way to avoid a bot’s filter, try to identify which part of the faulty spelling might be due to their poor language skills and be more lenient when it comes to taking action as a moderator in those circumstances.

User Privacy

It may happen that a friend of yours joins the server or you become close friends with fellow members or moderators on the server.Never post personal information about another server user without their explicit permission, even if it is meant in a joking way. Such information includes calling or identifying users by their real name, revealing their age, or where they reside. Let everyone explore or open up to the server and its community at their own pace. Only after that, with their consent, should you mention them by their name in public.

Engaging with Staff

Teamwork makes the dream work and it is important to maintain a healthy, communicative, and respectful relationship with your moderation team to ensure easy moderation of your community.

Teamwork is Key

When dealing with moderation issues, seeking help from fellow staff members always seems like optimal assistance. Getting another person’s opinion on a topic may help you to see things from a different angle, or reinforce your judgement. Taking everyone’s perspective into account can help you master even the most difficult problems and it takes weight off your shoulders to let other people know about your concern. You are part of a team, and do not have to act alone.

Respectful Treatment

Another consideration when it comes to public appearance is respect for your fellow moderators. A successful staff team flourishes when all of its members work together. It is not expected of you to become the best of friends with every single staff member, but one thing you should never do is talk badly about fellow staff in public or do things you know will cause a bad reaction from their part. If you have any issue regarding them, you should address it in private or get your team’s upper management involved if there are more severe issues going on. 

Staff Discretion

The same can be said for general problems within the moderation team. Internal problems should stay internal. Keeping privacy about staff related matters does not equal to being absolutely exclusive. A certain level of transparency in moderation is always recommended (read more about that here), and if a user has an inquiry about a punishment they received or wants to talk about something that happened in the server, they should never be shut down. The same goes for staff members: if they have questions about a moderation act, you should keep them up to date so they are informed in case new- but similar- issues arise.

Summary

Taking up the moderation mantle can be a very fulfilling duty. Being in such a position means you can help people in ways others cannot, and even the smallest “thank you” or a nice gesture of appreciation can brighten up your day. 

 

When performing your duties as a moderator, remember to give everyone a fair and equal treatment. Approach users in a friendly way and never make them feel less validated for asking questions, even if they have been frequently asked. As a representative of your server, you have to interact with others in a respective manner, especially with users that are either new to Discord or don’t fluently speak your servers’ chosen language. When moderating, keep an open mind about everything and take context into account. Every situation is different. Be ready and willing to implement constructive feedback into how you approach moderation and own up to when you aren’t in the right. Sometimes things will go wrong or the road ahead may twist, but it’s crucial to remember that making mistakes is okay, as long as you take appropriate responsibility and grow from them. 



Ready to test your moderator skills? Take the Discord Moderator Exam!