Text messaging is amazing: It helps us stay connected to other people in our lives quickly, efficiently, and while on the go. But it can also make us seem cold, flaky, or confusing when we're not careful with our texts.
Here are a few tips to help you find a middle ground that works for you. And to clarify, when I say "text message," I'm referring to direct messages, Google Hangouts, What’s App, and more — basically any form of written conversation sent through a phone.
1. Use more than three words per text message.
Put all the words you need in the same message. “Hi!” “How are you?” and “What’s the plan for tonight?” can all go in the same message. Nobody wants to hear their phone buzz three times consecutively; it’s anxiety-inducing.
2. Use punctuation to add tone.
There’s a big difference between the following messages:
The first is enthusiastic, the second is excited, the third is direct (or possibly sassy), and the fourth leaves something to be desired. If it’s not possible to show the meaning of your message with punctuation, it’s time to choose a different word.
If you’re happy, try absolutely, sure thing, or let’s do this. And if you’re not so happy, try whatever you say, if you insist, or only if you really want to. While the second set don’t sound nearly as friendly, at least the recipient will know what you’re trying to say.
3. Go easy on the LOLs.
The more “lols” you throw into the conversation, the less sincere it feels. This is especially important if you are delivering bad news. Consider the following messages:
- Option 1: I’m sorry, I won’t be able to make it tonight.
- Option 2: I read the invitation wrong lol
While that final lol is meant to be playful, it may come off as “I didn’t care enough to read the invitation correctly the first time.” Make sure to use lol only if the situation is actually funny, and even then, use it sparingly.
4. Don’t add people to a group text unless they want to be added to a group text.
Once you’re in a conversation, there’s no way out. Not only can it be annoying to have your phone go off constantly, but my co-workers and I once ran up a $400 bill for my boss. (Although, in fairness, he should have known better than to start a huge group text message announcing his engagement while he was home in India.)
5. Feel free to clarify or ask for clarification if you didn't understand the tone.
If you send a text message and immediately know it’s unclear, send a follow-up text. A quick “sorry, what I meant to say was…” or “no sarcasm” can save clarifications later. Also, feel free to be honest if you're confused about how to reply. A simple note like “I couldn’t tell what tone that was said with…” can save you some potential embarrassment or emotional turmoil later.
6. If you’re too lazy to type all the words, don't text.
In fact, take this as a sign that it's time to pick up the phone. (If you're confused about whether or not you should text, call, or talk in person, read this.)
7. Read like you listen.
This one doesn't have to do so much with sending text messages as it does with receiving them. You know your friends. You know how they talk. Read the text messages like they talk. If you have a friend who is easily excitable, you know exactly how those exclamation marks sound. If you have a friend who likes to be straight to the point, you know those periods aren't anything to be worried about; it's just efficient.
8. Wait eight hours before you nudge for a reply. Really.
If you texted somebody, give your friend at least a full workday to respond before you make a big deal out of it. If you really need a response, pick up the phone and call. People aren't in front of their phones all day — and we've all been the person who forgot our charger before heading out for the day. And remember, texting isn't everyone's preferred method of communication, so if you haven't heard back, think about whether your friend might prefer email or Facebook messaging. Personally, I'm very prompt on email, but I may not remember to respond to a text message for close to 24 hours.
9. Remember to put down the phone.
If you're out with a group of friends or family, remember to enjoy the company you’re with. The text messages will be there upon your return and you’ll be able to be more present with the people you love.
So go get ‘em, tiger. Heart, heart-eyed-face, laugh-so-hard-til-you-cry-face all over the place; just try your best to be polite. It’ll be appreciated by all. As for emojis, I won't even try to get into this ... use your judgment.
Photo Credit: iStock Photo