There’s no question that text messaging can be a helpful, even entertaining, way to communicate. Family chats can keep relatives in touch with each other’s lives. Friends can offer support and encouragement. And it’s tough not to appreciate the practical uses, whether that’s reminding your spouse to buy coffee beans or wishing a far-flung friend a happy birthday.
“Texting is part of our daily routine,” says Diane Gottsman, an international etiquette expert, author and founder of the Protocol School of Texas. “It makes life easy for us but can also complicate relationships if we don’t understand basic etiquette rules.”
Not everything should be handled over texts. And there are some places where you just shouldn’t be on your phone at all.
Here are just a few of the things Gottsman told Money Talks News that you shouldn’t do when texting.
1. Overuse emojis, text abbreviations or punctuation
BTW. LOL. SMH. You might know that those abbreviations stand for “by the way/laughing out loud/shaking my head,” but not everyone on the receiving end of your texts will be clued in. Same with emojis and other graphics, Gottsman says. A “thumbs up” image might mean simple agreement to you, but others might see it as dismissive.
The comedic emojis present problems too, and unless you know the sender well, they may be misinterpreted. For instance, some that seem innocent have weirdly risque associations. And Gottsman is no fan of excessive punctuation, like multiple exclamation points or question marks. Keep your texts as simple as you can, she advises.
2. Write novel-length texts
It can be exhausting to read an unbroken block of words on a tiny phone screen. Keep the overly lengthy explanations for when you can chat face-to-face, Gottsman advises. People tend to skim long texts, and they may miss something important.
3. Bother students during class
Texting can be a useful way for parents and high school kids to keep in touch. But when students are in school, class should be their first priority, Gottsman notes.
It can be convenient to text your teen for confirmation of a pick-up spot or time, but don’t send your student constant messages or expect them to be able to instantly respond. Their teachers have enough to worry about as far as keeping students’ attention and don’t need more distractions.
4. Share extremely important or personal information
Texting has its place, and it’s generally not for overly personal or extreme messages. Don’t quit a job or confess your love via text, and be judicious when sharing news of another’s death.
Consider the situation, Gottsman says. It might be perfectly fine to tell someone that a distant acquaintance has taken ill or even died. But you wouldn’t use texts to share that news with someone who’s very near and dear to the person in question.
5. Share your credit card or password information
You’d never send your bank password or a photo of your credit card via text — or would you? Gottsman notes that people might think it’s perfectly fine to share such info with a loved one over text. Your niece, Molly, is perfectly trustworthy, right? Molly might be, but if she happens to leave her phone lying around the sorority house — or if it’s stolen — then your personal info could fall into a stranger’s hand.
6. Let auto-correct or speech-to-text type for you, unedited
“Meet me at Garble Blargerstaff at #@; pm.” Uh, come again? If you use the speech-to-text option or let your phone’s auto-correct feature “fix” your messages, you may end up not saying what you intended. Be sure and check your messages before you send them, even if you think you’re an ace typist.
7. Add people to a group text without asking
Group texts, whether among work buddies or old college friends, can be a useful and entertaining way to stay in touch or simply communicate about an issue. But not everyone cares to keep up, especially when some group members text about anything and everything that crosses their mind. “Be respectful about who you’re adding to a text (group),” says Gottsman. “And don’t be offended if they leave (the group).”
8. Gossip about a boss or friend
It’s so tempting to blast away to a pal on text when you’ve had a bad day. Refrain. People can and do take screenshots of messages and share them with others. Your simple moment of letting off steam could result in someone getting steamed at you. Try to stay classy.
9. Share personal photos
No, not THOSE kinds of photos. (Although … those too.) Gottsman points out that seemingly innocent photos meant for one person only, say images of a bride-to-be’s wedding gown or of a surprise gift, can easily be shared publicly by others. So, think twice before texting them. Once you text a photo, assume that everyone in the recipient’s contact list could end up seeing it.