The ever changing etiquette of texting

If you’re over the age of 12, the most frustrating part of today’s modern world is the pace of change. If your kids are over the age of 12 it’s twice as frustrating, and if your grandkids are over the age of 12 it’s incredibly vexing.

Think about it. It wasn’t that long ago that writing meant physical “snail” mail and that’s it. E-mail came in, and then was replaced by texting for casual conversations. There have also been instant message apps starting with the granddaddy of them all, AOL instant messenger. Today people use Whatsapp, Facebook and others for their friends, Slack for their coworkers, and all the while they’re still texting. Along the way, etiquette has become more and more confusing.

If you haven’t been paying attention, here are some new rules to follow that really actually do make sense. You just have to realize that it’s a new world.

Using a period

Texting in complete sentences might just be a mistake. Don’t end your texts with a period unless you want to end the conversation. It’s considered a conversation stopper.

All caps

By now most people realize that using all caps in a text is the equivalent of shouting. It’s just not polite unless you really mean it.

Texting something meaningless to end a discussion

It’s been considered polite to end a discussion with “goodbye” or “thanks” or “ok” but in the world of texting this is a no-no. What you’re really doing is making someone pick up their phone without giving them a meaningful bit of information. The only reason to “end” a discussion is if you are going to truly be out of contact such as in a movie theater or live performance. Otherwise just let it peter out. It’s going to seem very rude but it’s how it’s done.

Using abbreviations

This is one of those moving targets. If you use “the first generation” of texting slang like LOL, OMG, or TTFN, you’ll be marked as distinctly out of touch. These extreme abbreviations were needed in the days when texting meant pressing number keys over and over. Today they’re hardly found in most texts because it’s just as fast to write the whole word out. LOL seems to have completely gone out of fashion, inexplicably replaced with “hahahahaha” or some variant.

Also you should be very careful using abbreviations because they often contain words you wouldn’t say in polite conversation. I think it should go without saying (and yet I’m saying it) that any abbreviation with the letter “F” in it should be carefully considered.

Replacing “you” with “u”

This is one of those calls that you’ll have to make. It seems perfectly natural if a person under 25 uses “u” and “ur” instead of “you” and “your” but when someone over 50 uses it it marks them as a poser. Don’t let it happen to you.


Everyone likes a good emoji and now there are so many to choose from. Just be super careful because it seems that many of them have meanings quite different from what you would think. Stick to the generic smiles and you’ll probably be ok.

Potentially ethnic or gender-oriented slang

I think most readers know that it’s not smart to use ethnic or gender slang, or even imitate the speech patterns usually associated with a gender or ethnicity, unless you are 100% sure of your audience. Remember that you’re trying to be understood, and it’s not likely you’re trying to offend someone.

Pointing out autocorrect errors

Autocorrect errors happen to everyone. The newly polite method of dealing with them is just ignoring them, as long as everyone still understands your meaning. If you do need to make a correction, type as few words as possible and precede with an asterisk. For example, if your discussion about satellite TV autocorrects “dish” to “dis”, type *dish in the following line.


It’s a cliche, but completly true, to say that people over the age of 45 cannot and will not ever properly understand how and when to use a hashtag. Don’t use them unless you are extremely confident in your ability to use them right.

Why is the culture changing anyway?

A lot of older folks think that text messages are somehow inferior to written prose. Yes, they are far less grammatical, but as you can see there are still a large number of rules to consider when texting. It’s an almost barren medium, with very little opportunity to express emotion or tone. A whole culture has grown up working around these limitations and if you follow the rules you’ll be able to express yourself through texting just as effectively as you can with an 800-word article like this one. Although I’d have trouble going into quite as much detail in a text as I did here, here’s the gist of it.

Texting is just as rich as regular writing -just follow the rules, cuz being polite over text isn’t that hard

Don’t LOL or use periods and don’t hashtag unless you know how

What else do I need to say?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.