The Dos and Don'ts of Texting Etiquette
How often do you actually pick up the phone to call someone anymore? We’re sure you still do, but probably not as much as you text. Model Jourdan Dunn made her preference clear when she told Vogue, “If you phone me while I’m texting, I will certified not answer; I’ll continue texting.” It turns out she’s not alone. The millennial generation just doesn’t share the baby boomers’ craving to chat. According to a 2013 survey by Meredith’s Parents Network, Millennial Moms & Media, 30% of millennial moms text with their partner more than they speak. Since a typical U.S. smartphone owner spends 58 minutes a day on his or her beloved handheld device, we thought it was time we outlined a few cell phone codes of conduct.
We have one word for all you swift SMS-ers out there—proofread. A misspelled text sends a pretty careless message. It might be a new age tool, but the courteous codes of our past still apply. If you’re going to interrupt someone somewhere with a message from you, then at least ensure it’s legible. There’s nothing worse. Please don’t rely on autocorrect either—read these if you need a reminder. And if you’re going to use txt tlk, “jst mAk suR yor fRnds cn undRstNd it.” If they still listen to music on vinyl instead of Apple music, then at least direct them to transl8it.com so they can decipher it.
In the old days, people wrote handwritten letters to let others know when something terrible happened. But that’s because they probably lived thousands of miles away from each other, and they didn’t have phones. Bad news should always be delivered in person when possible, and at the very least over the phone if there’s excessive distance or time is an issue. Never text your boss to quit your job, don’t deliver a deceased notice via text, and please don’t break up with someone via SMS either. It’s just plain wrong.
In our fast-paced world where everyone is perfecting the art of the juggle, calling someone unexpectedly can be seen as intrusive. Be mindful of the other person’s schedule; she could be in the middle of an important meeting, putting her children to bed, or at coffee with a friend. And if you ignore this advice, here’s the common dilemma as a result. If the person doesn’t answer, you’ll think she’s rude, but even if she does pick up, you’ll still think she’s rude. Why? Well, since she didn’t expect your call, she’s probably in the middle of doing something, which means she’ll also be distracted during your call—“yeah, cool, uh huh, hum, okay”—it’s irritating, isn’t it? So if you want her full attention, just shoot her a simple text to arrange a good time to chat, or say, “You free?” Easy.
We’re all really busy people, that’s not being disputed here, but when you text during a meeting, it’s inappropriate. It sends the message that you’re more important than anyone else there and that you’re not that interested in what your colleagues or clients are saying. Just like you wouldn’t talk over someone while she’s speaking, don’t text over her either. If you have to bring your phone into the meeting room because you’re expecting an important phone call, then at the very least put it on silent and turn it over. We recommend turning off vibrate, too, because this is just as distracting to everyone mid-presentation.
We understand how disruptive voice calls can be. We avoid them too, because who has the time to chat? But when it comes to your mom, please pick up the phone and call her. We’re talking about the woman who made you, raised you, nourished you, and provided for you; she definitely deserves more than a text message. The very the least you can do to return the immeasurable favor is repay her with a quick phone call. The alternative is stalker mom, calling you incessantly with worry because she hasn’t heard from you.
We love emoji as much as the next millennial, but there can be too much of a good thing, especially if it makes your message incoherent. These cute and colorful cartoons are best left for personal texts, because we’re pretty sure your boss isn’t interested in seeing a fist-bump emoticon when you text to confirm you closed the deal. Keep your messages professional when texting in the workplace.
This is where the abbreviation needs to be spelled out. SMS is an acronym for “short message service.” It seems some texters have forgotten its origins because let’s be honest: Anyone who receives a message longer than the original 160-character minimum has probably already lost interest. Send terse texts and you’ll always be read.
Out of all the don’ts, this is the worst. Why? Well, for those who’ve never been included in a group text before, just imagine what it’s like to have a million messages at once when everyone in the SMS squad hits “send all” when they reply. It gets pretty annoying pretty quickly, especially since most of the replies aren’t directed at you personally, and some people start having a separate chat within the same text. If you try to opt out, you run the risk of offending the sender and the group because it looks like you don’t care enough to stay in the thread (we’ve all been privy to the unsightly “unsubscribe!” response). Ergh! If you’re really intent on a group conversation, invite your friends to sign up for GroupMe, which allows users to silence their notifications as desired.
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What are your dos and don’ts of texting? Share them in the comments.
Opening photo: Style.com