Texting Etiquette: What to say and how to say it (as briefly as possible)
When it comes to the modern world of communication, there’s nothing as easy, direct and quick as sending a text. In fact, texting has become the preferred mode of communication for many people, with recent statistics showing that 80% of the total population of North America texts on a regular basis. That’s 292 million people sending messages, emoji’s and memes every single minute of the day.
Just because everyone is doing it, does not mean they are doing it well. To help you become a better texter in both your personal and professional lives, follow these tips to help you enhance your text etiquette.
Think before you text. Before you send a text, ask yourself if the message is better relayed through a text, an email, a phone call or (gasp!) a live conversation. Texts are great for sending and receiving timely messages, but don’t use the technology if a better or more personal mode of communication would better serve you and your recipient.
Know who you are texting. As texting has become so ubiquitous, it has allowed most of us to enhance our typing skills. But the faster we are, the more prone to error we can be. Make sure the text about how excited you are for that new job interview doesn’t accidentally go to your current boss. You may not like the reply you get.
Identify yourself. Some people may not have saved your phone number, so don’t assume that when you send a text that the recipient will know who you are. This is especially true in business, where a potential customer or client may not have added you to their contact list. Simply include your name at the beginning or end of your text so you can avoid the awkward reply of “Who is this?”.
Know your audience. Just as important as knowing who you are texting, also consider your manner of communication. We all text causally with friends and family and more formally with colleagues and coworkers. Think of your text as a projection of how you might sound in person and use your words wisely.
Texting permission. Just because you have someone’s phone number doesn’t necessarily mean they are giving you permission to text them. Some people reserve texting for just family and friends. Be courteous and ask, “Do you mind if I text you?” before blindly doing so.
Texting time. For business texts, try and refrain from sending texts after business hours or on the weekends. The same courtesy should be extended to family and friends, especially when you know they may be sleeping, on vacation or any other place where a text would be intrusive.
Group text. Except for the occasional baby photo that every single family member will probably love, group texts can often be annoying—especially if everyone in the group replies and the recipient receives endless pings or cell phone vibrations. Keep in mind that group texts can reveal the phone number of someone in the group who prefers to be more private or discrete with their contact information. Instead of group texts, consider Facebook group talks or Google Hangouts or just send a group email with recipients addressed as Bccs if they don’t want their information shared.
Proofing. For both personal and professional texts, it’s a good idea to proof before hitting send. Auto correct can turn a normal message into something you never intended. Give that text a quick re-read and make sure you are sending exactly what you wanted to say.
Be brief. By their very design, texts are intended to be a way to communicate quickly. If you get a brief, one- or two-word reply, don’t take it personally because the sender may be pressed for time. Alternately, try and refrain from sending long paragraphs in a text because people may not have time to read it all. If you need to send a longer reply, try email, pick up the phone or plan to meet in person.
Be responsive. Typically, texting is used to send and receive messages that are time sensitive. So, try and respond to a text in a quick fashion. If you are unavailable, simply say you will respond when you are free. If you are not able to respond until much later, you may consider apologizing for the delay (especially for business texting). On the other hand…
Be patient. As with any mode of communication, give the recipient time to send a mindful response. Modern technology has been blamed for an increase in short attention spans but do try and be patient for a response before sending follow up messages that may be annoying.
Be courteous. Just because texting is a more casual form of communication, don’t forget your manners. Saying “please” and “thank you” is just as important in a text as they are IRL (in real life).
Be professional. Speaking of real life, try and refrain from using too many text acronyms (we’re looking at you, LOL) or emojis—especially in more formal or business texts. Acronyms and emojis can also become a bit annoying in your personal texts if used too frequently.
Knowing when to exit. Sometimes texting continues long after the original intent of the conversation has wrapped up. Don’t feel as though you have to have the last “word” in a conversation or simply send an end note text (dare we say, TTYL?).
Never text and drive: This piece of advice is more public service than etiquette advice but remember that you should never text while driving. Remember that 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving, resulting in 390,000 serious injuries every year.
Kim Purscell is a licensed etiquette instructor and protocol consultant, an accomplished speaker, and experienced business executive. Ms. Purscell’s passion is to help people move upward in the workplace by improving their professional image, behavior and communication skills; and empower clients to present themselves with power, confidence, and credibility anywhere in the world. Ms. Purscell can be reached at Kim@EtiquetteMatters.us