You can text your friends and family with the default texting app on your phone, or opt for one of the many other new messaging apps. Whichever app you choose, there’s no escaping the fact that texting is an extremely popular way to communicate. Despite its popularity, texting is still subject to some pretty nebulous rules about etiquette, so we’ve compiled the top texting rules that you shouldn’t break. Whether you’re having a quick conversation with a friend, texting someone you’ve only been on a couple of dates with, resolving an issue with your roommate, or sending a message to someone you really don’t know at all, you’ll have a better handle on texting etiquette in no time.
1. Respond to text messages within a reasonable timeframe
Even if you don’t really want to deal with the situation at hand, you owe it to your friends (and acquaintances) to respond to their texts in a timely manner. It can get tedious to remind your roommate of the gate code he should have memorized, and it gets old re-explaining details you’ve already covered. But, it’s always better to respond to somebody quickly and briefly than to leave them hanging.
2. Keep your texts clear and brief
You don’t have to limit yourself to the length of a tweet, but the text messages that are easiest to understand are often the shortest. Some people proofread and some people don’t. Either way, you should try to make sure that your texts are easy to read and relatively straightforward to understand. If you’re trying to reduce a complex conversation to a simple message thread, it may be easier just to close your messaging app and make a call instead.
3. Be conscious of other people’s schedules
You may be awake and enthusiastic about continuing a texting thread, but that doesn’t mean that you should text your friends at 7 a.m. or send a GIF at 2 in the afternoon when you’re free and your buddies are at work. It’s also usually a good idea to avoid texting late at night or early in the morning so that you’re always being considerate of others’ schedules. If you don’t know somebody’s work schedule, it’s probably fine to send a message (or two), but don’t inundate someone with a constant stream of messages that may go unread for hours.
4. If someone texts you, think twice before calling them to respond
Part of being considerate of other people’s schedules is realizing that even when someone is able to text you, they might not be available or allowed to take a call. Many people dislike sending a text and then getting a call in response (particularly true introverts, who prefer to coordinate most details via text instead of a phone call). Unless somebody texts you, “Call me,” think twice before calling someone who just sent you a text. Or, at least ask if it would be a good time to talk before you hit the call button.
5. If someone doesn’t answer right away, don’t keep on texting until they reply
It’s frustrating when you really need an answer from a roommate or a friend and they don’t respond to a text quickly. It’s tempting to send another message to make sure that they got the first one, and another one after that to make sure that they know that you need an answer, but resist the urge. Texting somebody over and over again doesn’t make it any more likely that they’ll respond quickly. And, it dramatically increases your chances that they’ll be annoyed at you when they do.
6. Watch your tone
It’s said again and again by etiquette-conscious tech lovers. It’s extremely difficult for people to accurately gauge the intended tone of a text message. That may not be a problem when you’re texting your best friends, but when messaging anyone who doesn’t know you extremely well, it’s often a good idea to watch your tone. Keep sarcasm to a minimum, and avoid jokes that may hurt somebody’s feelings if taken the wrong way. And if you aren’t sure how it’s going to be construed, avoid typing in ALL CAPS.
7. At least consider proofreading before you send
Not everybody likes checking over all of their messages before hitting “send.” But, if you’re using a swiping keyboard or often have problems with autocorrect, it’s a good idea to give your messages a quick once-over. Double-check that the message is generally coherent and that autocorrect hasn’t done anything particularly ridiculous. It never hurts to check that you’re sending the message to the right person to avoid any embarrassing mishaps, either.
8. Know when to have a conversation face-to-face
Just as people tend to use email to avoid having difficult conversations in person, some people turn to text when they don’t want to have a tough discussion face-to-face. That’s never a good idea, since texting is a pretty inefficient way to reach a resolution or close a conflict. You should probably reserve the conversations, important discussions, and even arguments and breakups for the next time you’re in the same room as the person on the other end of the message thread.
9. Keep hashtags and abbreviations to a minimum
Some people are particularly enthusiastic about abbreviations and hashtags, but you generally shouldn’t overload your text messages with either. Some of your friends may find your hashtag obsession annoying, and others may not know what you’re talking about when you incorporate tons of abbreviations into your texts. This brings us to another important reminder: Make sure that you know exactly what your abbreviations and hashtags mean before you use them in a message. And no matter how big of a hurry you’re in, never respond to a thoughtfully composed message with a single “K.”
10. Don’t go overboard with GIFs and emoji
Everybody loves a well-placed emoji or an unexpected GIF that’s hilariously perfect for the situation at hand, but it’s true that you can have too much of a good thing. Just like you wouldn’t punctuate your texts with dozens of exclamation points (we hope), don’t make your texts illegible by using all of your favorite emoji at once. And, unless you know that your friends are going to be comfortable with getting reply after reply in GIF form, make sure to throw in a written message every once in a while.
11. Be cognizant of general smartphone etiquette, too
Even if you’re doing everything right in your conversations with friends, you should also be aware that there are some bad smartphone habits you should be wary of falling into. Don’t check your phone constantly when you’re hanging out with someone. Don’t text while drunk, or while walking or driving. Try not to invade people’s personal space and privacy by texting from the restroom. And, don’t keep your ringer (or audible notifications for texts) on all the time, regardless of time or place.