Text-Messaging Etiquette: Are You Effective or Annoying?
Whether personally or professionally, texting is fast becoming the most common form of communication. And why not? It’s quick, it’s easy, and when used effectively, it’s often the best tool to convey a message. But just as quickly, texting can sabotage your professional presence if you misuse it. You don’t want to annoy the people you’re trying to talk with!
Increase your professional presence and decrease your annoying aura with these pro texting tips:
Don’t Expect an Instantaneous Response
It can be hard to believe, but people have lives away from their cell phones! Someone who is busy, doesn’t feel like talking, or carrying around a dead phone is not likely to respond right away—and don’t text-bomb them until they do! Let 24 hours go by before you send a check-in text: “Just wanted to make sure you got my text yesterday.” People who get a lot of texts can completely forget that they did not respond.
Always, Always, Always Respond
You don’t want to be the person someone else is waiting on, so don’t blow anyone off. (Remember, barring most natural disasters, people are nearly always checking their phones.) Respond to someone’s text in a kind and timely manner, ideally within 24 hours.
Mind the Clock
Clock-watching means watching how long it takes you to reply to a text and what time of day you send that reply. Not everyone silences their phones at night, so be careful about texting during your 3 a.m. Netflix binge. If your friend is a late riser, don’t text at 7 on Saturday morning. And if you’re texting someone during work hours, be aware that sending two-dozen messages will not end their meeting early.
Be Careful With Sarcasm
Because tone is easily lost or muddled in a text message, sarcasm gets tricky. It’s best avoided unless you know the other person really well, and even then it’s safer paired with a winky or eye-roll emoji.
Decide Whether to Text or Email or Call
Texting is not the best way to communicate every message; it works well for brief, timely exchanges. A good rule of thumb: If the message takes more than 30 seconds to text, consider whether you’d do better to email or call.
Don’t Respond to a Text With a Phone Call
This is not a blanket no-no—if you would rather move from text to voice, ask the other person if it’s OK if you call them, and if now is a good time. Often, people text because they are not in a position to talk on the phone, and your call will catch them off guard.
Proofread Your Message
Especially for professional texts, double-check your message for typos or autocorrect errors, and triple-check that you’ve selected the intended message recipient. It’s a common mistake to reply to the last person you heard from, even if you mean to text someone else. This can lead to some embarrassing mistakes!
Text When You’re Running Late
It’s easy, timely, and oh so courteous to text someone when you’re running late (versus calling or sending an email). Include an ETA if you’re able.
Don’t Hide Behind a Text Message
Some conversations are tougher than others! And so you probably already know it’s terrible manners to break up with someone or to drop other big news by text. (Those are good cases for a phone call or an in-person meeting.) Likewise, if you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, don’t text it to them. Your phone is not a magical suit of armor that shields you from awkward communications.
Don’t Be Text-Happy When You Have Company
Disclaimer 1: You may find yourself in a situation where it’s OK to text while sitting with others, such as when you have a mutual understanding with a group of close friends. Disclaimer 2: If you’re expecting an urgent communication, be sure to let your company know you’ll be checking your phone now and again. But in other scenarios, such as a professional meeting or a date, or any case where you don’t know the other person well, take a break from texting. It’s rude and it gives the impression the other person isn’t as important as the person on your phone.
Don’t Text and Drive
This is etiquette to the extreme, because it involves your safety and the safety of those around you!
Follow these tips the next time you pick up your phone, and feel confident you’re at your A+ professional phone presence!