My husband and I love your column. Our children are in their teens, and they spend their days on their phones texting. Is there any texting etiquette we should make them aware of?
The general rule when it comes to texting is do unto others what you’d like done to yourself. That said, here are some tips to be mindful of.
Be Kind: If you wouldn’t say it to the recipient’s face, don’t say it in a text. It’s easy to forget that the person on the receiving end of a message is a human being with feelings.
Tone Counts: Tone can’t be detected in a text. A sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek, or light-hearted message can easily be misconstrued, so be aware. Also, if you’re concerned that this kind of text might be taken differently than intended, let the recipient know that it shouldn’t be taken seriously to avoid miscommunication.
Double-Check Your Autocorrect: Autocorrected words can be very funny – but only when sent to the right person. You don’t want these kind of mistakes in texts sent to your grandmother or boss.
Respond Proportionally: If someone poured his or her soul into a several long-winded messages, a “K” will probably be hurtful and confusing.
Don’t use all CAPS unless you’re shouting: Messages in capital letters will be interpreted as shouting. Unless shouting is what you actually want to do, scratch the all-caps.
Don’t text when hanging out with real people: Continuously texting others while spending time with friends or family is generally considered rude. The message your real-life companions receive is that you don’t sufficiently value them or their time.
But there are exceptions to this rule – such as when the matter is urgent and/or pressing or if it’s generally accepted in the group you’re in. If you’re in a more formal setting, you can always let your friends/family/colleagues know in advance that you’re expecting a message that will need a response so that they won’t think later that you’re being rude.
Not everything should be communicated via text: A phone call is a better way to share bad news that affects the recipient of the message. Similarly, breaking up with someone you’ve been dating a while with a text is generally considered offensive.
Introduce yourself when texting someone new: Not everyone has your number saved. Therefore, when texting a new number, it’s advisable to start the conversation by briefly introducing yourself. This saves the recipient the awkward “Who is this?” text and makes the conversation run smoother.
Your text messages reflect you: While texting allows for shortcuts, a message laden with multiple grammatical and spelling errors demonstrates sloppiness.
Respond in a timely manner: People tend to feel anxious when the recipient of their message doesn’t respond. Be mindful of that – and try to respond in a timely manner. Also, if you’re on the receiving end of a non-response, recognize that no response is also a response.
Reread business texts before sending: Texting colleagues, superiors, and even customers has become the norm. When it comes to business communications, though, it’s advisable to take a few extra seconds before pressing the send button to ensure you’re not spamming your colleagues or customers or sending error-laden messages their way. You will be judged on the content you send. Also, unless it’s an emergency, try to send business texts during business hours.