Now more than ever our interpersonal relationships are dictated by electronic communication, which in turn depends upon some form of the written word. Text is of course a great way to express oneself, whether in an e-mail, an instant message, or a text message. However, when it comes to interacting with your friends, family, and business associates in this way, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind:
DO send a text to convey quick details, such as a time and address for meeting with a colleague or friend. Texts are also a great way to answer questions. And if you're out and about in a noisy locale, texting is an easy way to get across a message without having to shout into your phone.
However, texting isn't the be-all, end-all. DO pick up the phone and make a call if you have a lot of catching up to do with a friend or family member, or if you have to communicate a lot of detail--it can be confusing (and annoying) to read an 800-character message, split into 160-character bytes. Also, keep in mind that it's rude to stay glued to your phone all night when you're out with friends, whether texting or talking.
DO use proper grammar texts (and, while you're at it, in e-mail and instant messages, too). Enough phones these days have a full keypad--there's no excuse for using "da" in place of "the," "u" in place of "you," or "dis" instead of "this." Also, learn the difference between "then" and "than," and "there" and "their." With so many written messages flying around these days, grammar is more important than ever.
And yes, maybe I'm a grammar Nazi, but it's not just my editorial compatriots who appreciate a good command of the English language. If you use proper grammar, you'll come across as smarter in general--particularly important in business relations. Also, though some friends and family members probably don't mind, rest assured there are others secretly plotting your demise because you seemingly can't refrain from using "your" and "you're" interchangeably, or can only manage to eke out a "ur." So knock it off already.
DON'T overuse the emoticon. As a smiley addict, I often have to forcibly remind myself to follow my own advice. This mainly applies to business communications, as it's generally not appropriate to include emoticons in e-mails of a professional nature. A possible exception comes into play if a business associate is also a friend. But in general, show some restraint with smileys. I have more than a handful of female friends who visibly cringe when a male suitor uses emoticons, and a couple who barely tolerate it from their closest of friends (i.e., me).
DO foster relationships over IM, text, and e-mail. Before she up and moved to NYC, smartphones editor/traitor Bonnie Cha and I never had more than a cube or two between us for at least five years. As we were both new employees and fairly shy, we didn't interact much for the first few weeks she was at CNET, but one particularly outlandish statement by a former coworker inspired me to hunt down her IM handle so that we could
mutually ridicule discuss the comment. We've been friends ever since, and still rely on IM to help us blow off steam when frustrated with work or life in general. On a similar note, I have several friends who count on silly daily e-mails with significant others to keep the love alive, and these days, digital communication is practically a must to keep in touch with family. Even my grandparents use e-mail (though thankfully not Facebook).
Conversely, DON'T get into fights with loved ones over IM or e-mail. I know of at least two couples who fight frequently over IM, and it never ends well. I myself had a significant other who would pick fights over IM and then refuse to discuss them face to face. The result was that nothing was ever completely resolved and the relationship ended. The problem with IM is that often pieces of the conversation are missed when they're pushed off the top of the window. Plus, conversational aspects like tone and sarcasm don't come across, which is also an issue with e-mail.
So when things get heated, DO find a quiet spot, pick up the phone, and give your loved one a call...or just wait to talk in person. It's always easier to type mean things than to say them, so if you have trouble making the words come out of your mouth directly, perhaps it's best they not be communicated at all. Plus, if it turns out you're in the wrong, written communication has one major downside: there's a permanent record.
Trying to start a new relationship? DON'T ask a person out on a date via text message. Or DO. The jury's still out on this one, but I say there's nothing like a good old-fashioned phone call. I invite you to throw in your 2 cents on the matter below.