Mobile phone text messaging is one of the world’s most widely used forms of communication today. Nevertheless, it is surprising how many people lack the proper decorum in sending text messages, which can lead to misunderstandings, irritation, and even hurt feelings.
Like any other social activity, text messaging has its own protocols. Here are some general tips for proper text messaging etiquette.
AVOID USING ALL CAPS. As in online chat rooms, typing your message in upper case letters is equivalent to shouting and is therefore considered a rude gesture. Upper case letters should only be used to emphasize a specific word or phrase.
KEEP YOUR MESSAGES SHORT. On a cellphone's small screen, long or wordy messages are difficult to read, especially on the bus or while walking. Use short words or words that can be clearly abbreviated and punctuate sentences properly to avoid confusion.
DON'T OVER-ABBREVIATE TEXT. Although abbreviations are natural in texting due to its character limitations, it would be a mistake to assume that all people will understand the same word shortcuts. Some shortcuts may also mean two or more things, depending on the individual and the specific context. For instance, the shortened “pt.” can be read as either “part” or “point” and is subject to misinterpretation. Where there can be confusion, spell out what you mean.
SEND A MESSAGE ONLY ONCE. There is nothing more annoying than getting the same message twice. This is akin to nagging. Be patient and wait till you get a response. Only send a follow-up message if you have not received a response within an hour or so.
DON'T TEXT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT, UNLESS IT IS AN EMERGENCY. Just like a phone call, the audible notification of a text message sent during an unholy hour can disturb someone who is otherwise peacefully asleep. Nothing is more annoying, especially if the message is relatively unimportant.
PROPERLY INTRODUCE YOURSELF. This is a must when you are uncertain whether the other party has your name and contact information in his cellphone directory. Play it safe by writing your name at the end of your initial message. This will prevent embarrassing responses such as “Who is this?” from the other party.
USE POLITE LANGUAGE. Courtesy expressions, such as “please” and “thanks” should be employed in your text messages just as if you were speaking to that person face-to-face. Moreover, be careful with your choice of words, making sure it is appropriate for the recipient. For example, communications with your boss or a professional colleague probably should have a different, more proper tone than those with a close friend.
KNOW WHEN TO TRANSITION TO A PHONE CALL. The urgency of the situation and the amount of detail needed should be guiding factors on whether a phone conversation is required. It would be a waste of time to have many text exchanges when a phone call could achieve faster and more effective results.
TEXT ONLY IN APPROPRIATE SITUATIONS. Do not tap away at your phone while watching a movie, eating a meal with your partner, or attending a class lecture. Text messaging during these and similar situations is considered inappropriate and rude. As with taking a cellphone call, text messaging should be done privately outside a conference room or theater where no one will be disturbed. When appropriate, don’t forget to excuse yourself before stepping out to send a text message.
These simple, common sense tips will not only assure effective communication but also convey to your friends and colleagues the proper respect they are due.
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