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13 Texting Etiquette Rules You Should Be Following by Now—but Aren’t

For better or worse, texting is almost as prevalent as talking, so it pays to stay on top of the constantly evolving rules of texting etiquette

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Why texting etiquette matters

Ever since the first text message was sent on Dec. 3, 1992, texting has evolved into our most widely used form of communication. Super-convenient? Absolutely. But like all forms of interpersonal interaction, it can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings and worse. That’s where texting etiquette comes in (and social media etiquette and email etiquette too). Defined by the Emily Post Institute (regarded by many as the last word on etiquette) as a “code of behavior based on treating others with honesty, respect and consideration,” etiquette can go a long way toward avoiding texting mishaps, including miscommunications and hurt feelings. Here’s what you need to know right now.

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1. Don’t text and drive

It’s that simple, according to the Post Institute. Don’t do it. Personal safety always comes first, and staying off your handheld while driving is paramount. If you can’t resist, then keep your phone where you can’t reach it while you’re driving. And if you know you’ll need to send a text at a time that you’ll be behind the wheel, you can learn how to schedule a text message to send automatically instead.

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2. Don’t put others in the situation of texting and driving

Messaging somebody who is driving is one of the things you should never do over text. If somebody replies “driving,” stop texting. Period. Don’t even say “OK.” Just stop texting. You can consider calling the person, but please bear in mind that some states have laws in place restricting talking on the phone while driving, and some folks aren’t comfortable talking on the phone while driving.

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3. Be brief

Although texting seems to be taking the place of some other forms of communication, it really can’t. Some messages are simply too long to convey via text. When that’s the case, “make a phone call instead,” suggests the Post Institute. Or at the very least, consider email. This is especially important if you actually wish for the other person’s reply to be responsive; the more points you throw at them in a single text, the less likely they are to respond to any of those points. To keep your messages brief, try using these text abbreviations.

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4. Be responsive

Speaking of responding, Fortune magazine points out that texting can be a source of “acute” anxiety. After hitting send, the sender experiences anxiety waiting for a response, and the recipient experiences pressure to respond within a set period of time or risk breaching texting etiquette (just ask a teenager). Google is working toward designing a phone interface that will ease some of these tensions (good luck with that, Google!), but until then, studies show that you have about 20 minutes to respond to a message before the sender starts to grow impatient. Here are some other cell phone etiquette tips you should know too.

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5. But if you don’t get a response, chill

“Don’t keep texting until they respond,” an article on LifeHack suggests. “They’re probably busy. And if they’re not, maybe they just don’t feel like texting.” While not getting a response likely makes you feel anxious, and while many consider it rude, it’s also rude to continue bombarding someone with messages when that person is not replying to you. The good news is that you can now unsend and edit text messages if you regret pestering somebody for a reply.

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6. Avoid group texts

“Most would say group texts are the worst,” notes an article on Mashable. “They take up more time than you ever anticipated, reading through all your messages is a chore, and they seem to never end. Like, never end.” No one likes them, so don’t be the one to start one if you can possibly avoid it (it’s definitely an annoying texting habit). Texting etiquette demands that you think of, basically, any other means of communication.

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7. If you MUST group-text, follow these guidelines

  • Before including someone, consider if they really will want to be included and whether their schedule is consistent with the rest of the group you have in mind.
  • Don’t send lots of one-word texts, which everyone will inevitably find annoying.
  • Don’t point out lack of activity (“Hey, where’d everyone go?”) and otherwise remind people they’re in a group text. “Literally, no one cares,” Mashable points out.
  • Don’t be afraid to mute the thread or leave the group.
  • If you leave the group, consider giving a heads-up.

Make sure you follow these other group-texting etiquette tips too.

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8. Don’t send personal texts using your business Wi-Fi

If you send or receive a text from a company-owned device or over your company network, the message is considered company domain, according to Entrepreneur. That’s bad enough for you, but think about how bad it is for the recipient, who may have no idea of this privacy issue while they send you flirty texts.

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9. Don’t send texts in front of other people

Just as you shouldn’t answer your phone during a conversation, you shouldn’t text when you’re engaged with someone else, the Post Institute points out. And if you find yourself with someone who won’t stop texting during your conversation, it’s perfectly acceptable to excuse yourself until they’ve concluded their messaging. Make sure you aren’t committing these other rude conversation habits either.

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10. If you receive a text not intended for you, don’t ignore it

“If you receive a text by mistake, respond to the sender with ‘Sorry, wrong number,'” advises the Post Institute. If you don’t, the person on the other end has no idea that their message didn’t reach the right person. It’s also a good wake-up call for the person to check carefully to make sure they’re texting who they think they’re texting. However, before you respond, make sure it isn’t one of the types of texts you should delete immediately.

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11. Don’t use text to convey bad news

While we’ve come to rely on text as our go-to form of interpersonal communication, it’s not the appropriate medium with which to convey bad news or sad news. “Deliver the news in person or by phone,” the Post Institute advises.

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12. End your conversations

When an in-person conversation is wrapping up, there are social cues. Not so much with texting, where every message prolongs the conversation but silence can be considered rude, GQ points out. If you’ve been conversing with someone via text and now you need to end the conversation, it’s to your benefit as much as it is to theirs to let them know you’re dropping off from the conversation. That way, they will know the conversation is over, and there will be no misunderstandings.

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13. Don’t ghost

If dropping off a text conversation is an etiquette “don’t,” ending a relationship by ceasing to respond to texts may very well be the ultimate. “Ghosting,” defined as ending a relationship by withdrawing from all communication without explanation, is just plain hurtful, explains Psychology Today. It leaves the other person in the position of believing they are in the relationship, even after you’ve left. That’s bad for them, and it’s bad for you. Rather than ghosting the person, simply tell them you’re no longer going to be communicating. It really adds up to the same thing.


  • Psychology Today: “Why Ghosting Hurts So Much”
  • GQ: “How to End a Conversation”
  • Entrepreneur: “Ask the Etiquette Expert: 8 Rules for Texting at Work”
  • Mashable: “How to make group texting suck less for you and the whole group”
  • LifeHack: “The 18 Unwritten Rules of Texting You Should Know”
  • Fortune: “It’s Rude to Wait More Than 20 Minutes to Reply to a Text, Google Research Says”
  • Emily Post Institute: “Texting Manners”
  • CNN: “OMG, the text message turns 20. But has SMS peaked?”

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.