Are there right or wrong ways to go about texting? My opinion is yes, just as there are right or wrong ways to go about writing an email or starting a conversation face-to-face.
For example, you wouldn't (typically) just run up to someone and shout in their face. Likewise, there are good and bad ways to go about texting.
After reading a post from PopSugar regarding this very topic, I decided to come up with my own “Ten Commandments” of texting. (Note: this is not an exhaustive list, nor or the “commandments” in any particular order.)
- Thou shalt not be overly informal when texting thy boss.
Depending on your relationship with your supervisor, you might not even want to text them at all. For supervisors that do encourage texting, my advice is this: be careful. Unless your boss is your best friend, you do not want to text him or her the same way you text your buddies. You certainly don't want to come across in a bad light.
- Thou shalt introduce thyself when texting someone for the first time.
We've all received that awkward text from someone with no name attached to the number. Then we have to respond with an awkward “Who is this?” or something of that nature. And finally, we have to wait until they respond back before the original message makes sense. This whole awkward exchange can be avoided if we remember to say who we are when texting someone for the first time.
- Thou shalt not send a text saying only “hey.”
I don't know about everybody else, but once I got out of junior high (ok, maybe the first couple years of high school) I started to get turned off when people would start a conversation with just “hey.” We all have busy lives and would like you to get to the point. I mean, there are definitely worse things a person could do, but it just seems like a wasted message.
- Thou shalt not text anything that thou wouldn't say in person.
This is so important. Many people seem to use text messaging as a shield to say things they would never dare say in person. Before you hit “Send” on that text, ask yourself, “Would I say this to them in person?” If the answer is no, delete everything you just typed.
- Thou shalt not text at inappropriate hours of the night.
A lot of people don't put their phones on silent at night in case there's some kind of emergency. Imagine how obnoxious it then is to jerk awake at 3 in the morning at the sound of your phone only to find that IT WAS JUST A DOG PICTURE SENT BY YOUR CRAZY NEIGHBOR WHO GETS UP AT 3 TO WORK OUT EVERY MORNING!!! Definitely not an emergency. (Note: this didn't actually happen, but the illustration still stands.)
- Thou shalt double-check the recipient of thy message before sending it out.
In the texting world, there is nothing more awkward than sending a message to the wrong person by accident. Now, if you're careful about the kinds of messages you send (see commandment #4) then this may not matter as much; however, even if you follow commandment #4, there are certain messages you send to certain people (your spouse, for example) that you wouldn't want anyone else to see… I'll just leave it there.
- Thou shalt not over-analyze thy messages.
Please please please don't obsess over how many exclamation points a person used in a recent message they sent you, or why they used that particular emoji, or why they put a period at the end of their “sure” (was that an excited “sure,” a reluctant “sure,” or an indifferent “sure”?). You save yourself a lot of stress by not worrying about it. And if something really is bothering you and you can't shake it, why not just ask the person point blank rather than stressing yourself about it?
- Thou shalt exercise restraint and discernment before sending messages.
Before you send your messages, read your message over and THINK. Is this message wise to send? Will it be helpful, or potentially hurtful? Will this come back to haunt me? Am I losing my cool in the heat of the moment? Sometimes, especially during high-stress situations, it might be best to give yourself a few minutes before you actually hit “Send.” Don't send any message you might regret.
- Thou shalt proofread before sending messages.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: please make sure you re-read your message before sending it to make sure you correct any obvious errors in grammar, punctuation, or spelling. This really can help a lot of the miscommunication that occurs in texting.
- Thou shalt speak in person or on the phone if miscommunication is occurring via texting.
If you and your message recipient are really struggling to have a conversation, sometimes the best thing to do is just call them, or set up a time to speak in person. Some things are just difficult to communicate over texting, and some people are better at texting than others. Many times frustration can be averted by simply picking up the phone instead of typing on it.