Mom's Choice Gold Award for Excellence in Parenting Books
facebook twitter google+ pinterest
Print Friendly

Seven Ways to Text with Graciousness and Savvy

7 Ways to Text with Graciousness and Savvy

By: Maralee McKee


Texting etiquette hasn’t reached the heights of the tsunami of texts we send every day because no other technological form of communication has caught on so quickly. It’s easy to see why many have become so smitten.

Texting is the 21st century equivalent of passing a note in class!

It began with students who discovered that electronic notes are more direct and less anxiety-filled than tearing out a sheet of notebook paper, scribbling an “I’ve gotta tell you…” message, folding it securely, and hoping the teacher doesn’t catch you, or that others don’t read your note on its way around the room to your BFF four rows to your left in pre-algebra.

Usually what’s popular with tweens and teens is passé to grownups. Not this time. We might have balked at our kids at first; now we’ve joined them. Those of us over 30 didn’t vote or even hold a town hall meeting, but either through agreement or acquiescence, we’ve joined in. (Do you remember the old Verizon commerical where the teens are getting on to mom and dad for texting? I included it here for you to take a look at.)

Of course, texting in itself isn’t bad or good. It’s in how we use it.

It’s kind of like a family of deer. Watching them graze leisurely in a meadow is a delight. Have them prancing full throttle through your living room equals disaster.

I text, and I don’t plan to stop. Texting in a place where you’re not with anyone or bothering anyone is fine. However, texting around others or as part of multi-tasking often causes harm.

It’s in the less obvious ways than car crashes (We’re 93% more likely to crash if texting while driving.), or while walking, (a New York City area teen fell into a manhole while texting and had to be hospitalized; luckily, she’s fine now) that texting hurts by depersonalizing our personal encounters.

With every text message sent or received in the presence of others around the family table, the living room sofa, the boardroom, or the grocery store check-out lane, we’re separating our focus from the person in front of us.

Our attention is a gift.

Our full attention is the foundation of every kindhearted, other-centered interaction. Texting alters the continuity, focus, and momentum of our encounters.

It produces anxiety (mild to severe) in the other person, and whether they’re telling you (or even aware of it themselves) or not, they’re attention is apt to desire to focus on someone who pays them back equally.

These are big matters.

If we’re not being careful, texting can hurt our family, our friendships, our business relationships, even our ability to govern.

Awhile back a ruckus in the New York Senate halted agendas because one senator was angry at another for fiddling with his smart phone throughout a meeting.

A Yahoo Hot Jobs poll of 5300 people found that 33% of associates admit to texting regularly during meetings. (If 33% admit to it, how many do you think really are doing it? Lot’s more, for sure.)

I’ll never forget, a couple of years ago I was teaching a second-grade class on car manners. When the lesson turned to riding to and from school, the children stunned me. One little guy started, “Mrs. McKee, I don’t talk to my mom on the way home from school. She talks to her friends on her phone. I just play my video games.” One after another, almost all 15 children shared how their moms and dads didn’t give them their focus in what should be precious one-on-one time.

The children felt their parents’ lack of attention. None of them ever told their moms or dads that it upset them. Each one simply conformed to his parent’s norm and mirrored him or her by turning to his own electronic gadget to fill the time (and the void).

As a little dose of etiquette penicillin to try and curb the spread of smartphone-idess. I wrote this post, What To Do When Someone is Paying More Attention to Their Cell Phone Than to You. You’ll enjoy it if you know anyone who has been inflicted with the dreaded cell phone disease.

They were alone together. That’s Sad.

So what do we do at home, at work, and in our world at large to keep up with technology and to be purposely focused on those physically near us?

Well… first we make ourselves aware that we might be adapting to a new norm of lack of focus on others without even being aware of it.

Second, we stop.

Next, we set down new social standards (etiquettes) for ourselves, our families, and our businesses, for interacting with technology so that we use it to connect with those near us, not disconnect from them. If you want to make sure you never hurt anyone unintentionally while using  your phone, check out these posts I wrote, Your Savvy Guide to Smartphone Manners and this one, How to Avoid the 7 Most Common Cell Phone Sins.

As I sat down and wrote my list of texting etiquette, I quick as a wink realized it was way too long for this post. There are whole books written on technology etiquette including one I plan to write.

So, here I offer my top seven tips for keeping up with the Joneses while texting without becoming “that guy,” the one who lets technology get in the way of his face-to-face interactions.

7 Ways to Text with Graciousness and Savvy

Seven Golden Rules for Gracious Texting

1. Think of texts as preludes or follow-ups to conversation, not the conversation itself. Keep them short. More than 160 characters means that a phone call or e-mail is the better way to deliver your message.

2. It’s super easy for your tone to be misunderstood in a text, even more so than an in e-mail. That’s why texts are best left for mundane messages like, “I’m home safely!” or, “See you at 8:00 PM at your house.”

3. Texting while you’re with others is as rude as getting up and leaving them in mid-sentence. Just don’t do it! Also, don’t text in movies, church, meetings, class, or while at someone’s house. Even if your friends have left the area for a moment, or the movie, business meeting, or church service hasn’t started yet, be tuned in to the place you’re at as soon as you enter the area, even in the quiet moments and down time.

4. Texting is the most informal form of communicating. Usually, you don’t want to represent your business or organization or to relay important family news (unless everyone has agreed in advance) in a text message. Call or e-mail instead.

5. Don’t use text lingo and shorthand unless you’re positive (It’s really hard to be positive.) the recipient is fluent in the constantly emerging language of texting. One techno-savvy twenty-something wrongly assumed “LOL” meant “lots of love.” Poor girl, she was heartbroken and embarrassed when she found out the guy on the other end was being rude by “laughing out loud.” He wasn’t sending his love at all.

6. Don’t leave them guessing. If the recipient likely doesn’t have your cell phone number stored in their phone, make sure to let them know who you are before composing the rest of your text. For example: “Hi, Everly! This is Sarah (Kim’s mom from school)…”

7. Don’t send texts (or e-mails that go to smart phones) after bedtime. If the recipient forgot to turn their phone to silent before turning in for the night (like my husband has done twice in the last week!), you’ll wake people up at midnight by the beep of their phone alerting them they have a new message.

8. OK, I know, I said “7 Tips” but this one just has to be said again. Please, please, please, don’t ever text, or read a text while driving! Maybe you haven’t hurt yourself or anyone yet; but this just could be the time! Don’t do it, ever! Ever. Ever.

Well there it is, like I said, it’s just a start! Now it’s your turn!

Help write the chapter on texting etiquette. Comment back and include what you want the world to consider about keeping others first while texting. Feel free to share your texting stories. It just might help someone shine when facing the same dilemma in the midst of their everyday encounters.

A McKee Update!Are you on Facebook? Come join me at: Manners Mentor!

I appreciate each of you. I hope you know that, but just in case you don’t, consider yourselves much loved!




  • Matthew Litwin

    Texting should be a conversation that begins and ends. It should start with a salutation and end with a valediction. There is nothing more frustrating when one person decides they are done with the exchange, leaving the other person hanging when they ask a question that doesn’t get answered.

    For instance, say you have a conversation that goes like this:

    Bob: Hey Joe, it’s Bob. Are you coming to the BBQ tonight?
    Joe: Yes, looking forward to it
    Bob: Great, will you be bringing Wilma and the kids?
    Joe: Yes, the whole family will be there
    (Joe at this point is distracted by some shiny object and forgets he was in the middle of a text conversation)
    Bob: Terrific! We’re running low on BBQ sauce so can you please stop by the market and grab another bottle on your way over?

    Later, there isn’t enough sauce at the BBQ for all of Joe’s kids because Joe didn’t finish the conversation and Bob assumed that Joe would finish reading his texts before arriving.

    • Knowuthrume

      This is a perfect example of why phone calls are more appropriate for many exchanges. I only engage in texts with a few select people, as our etiquette contrasts too greatly.

  • Mindy

    Hi, My mother has a issue with me texting her. She says I text her to much and send 3 texts instead of one really large one. I tried to explain she should just answer in the order received. Answer the first ,then the second question, then the third. So she thinks not answering me at all will prove her side of being overwhelmed. I don’t think she understands that I go through my own trauma when she doesn’t answer. I worry somethings wrong, I wonder why shes not answering. I told her to just answer Y for yes and N for no or something…. Part of it is just accepting that she doesn’t live in the modern world but she has an I pad, an Apple Tv, and 2 computers. I dunno how to express to her I want to just tell her shes just being old minded. But thats me and my mom. I think theres an overall communication issue in my family that explains this. But my fully educated background doesn’t do much but make me feel like I’m being an insufferable know it all. The think is I see this communication issue being a huge problem with my siblings and her as well.

    • Maralee McKee

      Hi, Mindy!
      Texting isn’t meant to take the place of a conversation. I know that it often does now, but it didn’t even exist when your Mom was your age. That might be part of her resistance. Plus, every phone company breaks up a large text into smaller texts (so they can charge for each of them) after a certain number of characters (A lot of companies use 160 characters as the cut-off point.) so your one message (The one point you’re making, might come across in three or more emails to her.) I can get how if you’re not use to that form of communicating how it can be overwhelming. The easiest thing to do would be to call her instead. I’m a mom, and my kids are still young, but I already know that I’ll want to hear their voices every chance I can when they grow up. The second thing is to remember the 160 character cut off and send her one text at a time that fits the character limit. Wait, no matter how long it is, until she’s answered the first one before sending her the second text. Also, if you’re ever worried about her, do call. What if you’re right. You’d feel awful about not calling. You know, maybe texting just isn’t her thing. We all have something techie we aren’t into. Me, I ADORE technology and social media, but Twitter, I just can’t seem to like as much as I try. Maybe texting is the one your Mom isn’t ever going to care for. I know texting is great for fast updates, but if someone doesn’t care for something, it isn’t really their fault. We all have something. So keep your texts to her super short and call her more than text. You’ll both be happier: she’s more likely to answer your text because she’s not overwhelmed by it, and she’ll get to talk to you on the phone and hear your voice. Hope this helps!

  • jrpieces

    How long in between texts with a close friend..Once a week, Once a month ?

    • Maralee McKee

      Greetings! Texts are often typed “conversations.” You can send as many of them as you need to have the conversation you need. As far as initititating “conversations” via text with your friends, there’s no protocol in place. You can send more texts than it would be polite to call others. So, text away and if someone mentions that it’s over-kill, then know that their text tolerance is lower and keep that in mind for future texting.

    • Maralee McKee


      Each friendship is different. Some friends you might text in-and-out throughout each day. Other friends you might text once a week or month. Their isn’t a set standard. If you text someone a lot and you don’t get a lot of responses, take it as a sign they would like fewer texts. Best yet, ask your friends, what’s your preferred method for me to reach you most time: voice mail, text, IM, or something else. They’ll appreciate you for thinking of their preferences. :)

      All my best,

      • jrpieces

        Thank You very much..I feel like a current friend of mine Texts me Once a Month and I feel like she really isn’t my friend and she wants nothing to do with me anymore

  • Jessica

    That makes sense. what if you are at a stop light that just turned red. Is that an acceptable time to read or respond to a text?

    • Elizabeth Tufts Adair

      Hi Jessica! As a mom with 2 young kids, it can be really tempting to text or read a text at a red light, simply because I know that I can do it safely. However, I have decided that when I am in the car I will refrain from texting altogether, because it sends the wrong message to my kids (that sometimes it’s ok to text when driving). Young drivers don’t always have the best judgement when it comes to such things, and I don’t want my kids to learn by example that they can text from the drivers’ seat. I even try not to make/take phone calls – if I do, I put the phone on speaker so that I have both hands free to drive. I want to convey to my kids that it is extremely dangerous to text while driving. What better way than to set that example for them every time? (even at red lights!) Just my two cents’ worth. :)

      • Veronica

        Also, once when thinking of texting at a red light, I declined. Instead looked around, and sure enough, behind me was a man who wasn’t watching. I honked my horn, he looked up and slammed on his brakes; consequently just tapping me instead of hitting me full speed at 35 MPH. Be aware at all times. (a friend in his 70′s was hit from behind by a 24 yr old who was texting. He is in constant pain now, with no relief in sight. He has forgiven her, but when he told his story, I made a promise to never text and drive again. It is with gratitude towards him that I write this!)

  • Karebear

    I think that if your texting someone you know and love and they don’t answer you right away you should wait at least 3 minutes before saying things like “hello?” or “are you there?”

  • Pingback: Texting (1) | Classy and True

  • Leslie

    Dearest Maralee,
    What a beautiful tribute. It makes me wish I had known your dear stepfather. I'll be praying for you and your family as you adjust to life without him and eagerly look forward to seeing him in heaven. Love, Leslie

  • Maralee McKee

    Thank you everyone for your kind words towards the tribute to my step-father. I'm grateful for your kindness in reading about him!

  • Anonymous

    How lucky you and your family were to have had him in your lives. And, I suspect, that he was also lucky, in that he had all of you to love him back….

  • Bill

    Wonderful story my friend! All my love to you.

  • Anonymous

    What a wonderful way to share your stepfather with the world. Thank you for sharing his life and your love with us. And welcome back! Mary

  • Maralee McKee

    Hello Everyone,

    This blog post was written last week before I received the news of the passing of Les Hodson, my beloved stepfather of 28 years.

    He touched my life in every way and helped mold the best of me. He prouldy set in the pew as I graduated from high school, he tutored me through college algebra (not an easy task), walked me down the aisle, held my hand through my first husband's long battle with cancer, and then held my heart as he died.

    He was my shelter, my secure and strong resting place.

    A few year's latter he gave his blessing on my second marriage. Three years after that, he paced up-and-down the hall outside my hospital door through 52 hours of labor with my first child. He was the first man, after Kent, my husband, to hold both my boys.

    Daddy was a good bit older than my mom. He was actually a WWII hero written about in more than one book.

    He was commisioned a Second Lieutent and then a Captain, bomber pilot, and squardon commander of a B29 group. He flew 35 bombing missions over Japan. Not one of his men or planes were ever lost.

    On Thanksgiving day of 1943 he piloted the last plane to Saigon. At the time it was the longest flight over water.

    Near the end of the war he become a pilot's training commander in what later would become "Top Gun" school.

    I'll never forget two times being surrounded by young pilots who treated Daddy like a rock star. They asked him questions for more than an hour each time. They applauded and admired him. They asked to have their pictures taken with him. Truth be told, at that moment, even though they were in their 20's and 30's, and Daddy was well into his 80's. They wanted to be him!

    After the war he returned to college and received his Master's Degree in engineering from Ohio Northern University. For aproximately the next 30 years he worked for Lever Brother's in New York.

    He and my mother met several years after the death of Daddy's first wife from cancer. (They had retired and moved to Florida before her death.)

    My mom and stepfather were married in 1981. Daddy was a man of great warmth, a deep desire to want to help in a practical way by fixing anything and everything he could. (Even if it involved taking it apart, just to have a look-see!)

    He was a master craftsman. I'm the honored receipent of a grandfather clock and a china cabinet that he handmade with love.

    From finance, religion, politics, gardening, home repair, current events, and history he was interested in everything.

    Knowledge is what he craved, and wise counsel is what he gifted each of us who were lucky enough to have him as a mentor.

    Daddy is preceeded in death by his parents, brother, sister, adopted son, and one grandson. He is survied by my mother,three step children,four grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren.

    What I miss the most about him already is the twinkle in his blue-gray eyes and his warm smile. When he saw you coming, his face always showed the true measure of his heart's love towards you.

    I miss, mourn and remember him. I'm eternaly greatful and better because he was kind enough to share freely and generously the treasure of who he was with me and our family.

    I love, admire and appreicate you so much Daddy! I'll see you in Heaven!