Master SMS with these 9 basic texting tips
Nobody uses phones as phones anymore.
Okay, I suppose some people still do, but if you’re like me, texting is the new calling, and the few calls you do make are along the lines of, “I’ll text you when I get there.” With that in mind, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting your message across as clearly as possible through text. Here are some ways to do just that.
Use text shortcuts
Both iOS and Android allow you to specify text shortcuts—shorthand blurbs that you enter and that expand to a longer word or phrase when you tap the spacebar. For instance, you can have “brb” turn into “be right back,” or make “donotapprove” turn into “ಠ_ಠ”.
On iOS, pop open the Settings app, tap General, and then tap Keyboard. Look for the Shortcuts section. Tap Add New Shortcut..., enter the phrase you want ready access to, and enter the shortcut you want to assign to it. Once you’re done, tap Save.
On Android, go to Settings, select Language & input under the Personal subheading, and tap Personal dictionary. Press the plus (+) button in the upper-right corner, and on the next screen enter the phrase and its corresponding shortcut. Tap the Back button, and Android will save your shortcut.
Switch your keyboard
Do you use Swype? Or SwiftKey? If you have an Android phone, maybe you should try a new keyboard on for size. By switching to a different keyboard, you can get at all sorts of additional features—or even entirely different keyboard layouts. Start by checking out our recommendations and then head to the Google Play store and test out a few.
Use emoji or emoticons
Emoji and emoticons are more than just cute—they can convey meaning and subtext when such nuance might otherwise be difficult to express. If you own an iPhone—or are one of the lucky few to be running Android 4.4 KitKat, give the emoji keyboard a try.
On iOS, open the Settings app, tap General, and then tap Keyboard. Once you’re on the Keyboard settings screen, tap Keyboards > Add New Keyboard, and select Emoji from the list. The next time you tap out a text in the Messages app, you’ll notice a globe icon next to the spacebar. Tap it to bring up the emoji keyboard, and insert all the faces you like. Just...don’t go too crazy with it.
If you have an Android phone, things are a little more involved. KitKat has built-in emoji support, but earlier versions don’t—or at least they don’t make it easy. Check out our guide.
One note: Not all smartphones support emoji, but you don’t need anything special to use traditional emoticons such as “:P” and “:/” (so those are always an option).
If in doubt, be direct
Not everyone is great at picking up on subtext, not everyone is skilled at using emoticons, and not every situation lends itself well to sarcasm, irony, or humor. And although your friends might appreciate your...er...quirky sense of humor, other people might find it an acquired taste. If you’re exchanging messages with someone you don’t know well, keep your messages direct and to the point, and save yourself the hassle of unintentional miscommunication.
Avoid autocorrect mishaps
We’ve all been there: You try to send an innocuous text to someone—say, you want your significant other to pick up something for dinner. You try to correct a typo in a text you sent, which begets a cascading autocorrect nightmare. And before you know it, your mangled text ends up on Damn You Auto Correct.
Don’t let that happen to you. Before tapping Send, take a deep breath and count to three. Review the message for any unfortunate typos or autocorrect mishaps. This might be a good time to confirm that your text makes sense and that you’re using something approaching proper grammar.
One...two...three...does everything look okay? Good. You may now tap Send.
HULK MAD, BUT HULK NO TEXT WHEN MAD
Taking a moment to think can also come in handy if you’re angry or upset at someone. If you’re in a foul mood because of something a person said or texted to you, stop. Put the phone in your pocket and resist the urge to reply until you’ve calmed down. Showing a little restraint now can help to preserve your relationship with that person and save you from headaches and heartache later.
Feel better? All right, go ahead and tap out a calm response.
Don’t text while inebriated
You thought your angry texts were bad? Drunk texts are even worse. Nothing says “bad judgment” like running off your virtual mouth while you aren’t in control of your mental faculties. If you’re out at the bar, hand your car keys—and your phone—over to your group’s designated driver for your own protection.
Just make sure you log out of Facebook or Twitter beforehand, lest they post embarrassing things like this...
Poopin— Mike Monteiro (@monteiro) January 5, 2014
Don’t text while walking
Are you noticing a pattern here?
Few things in modern life are as annoying as that person who insists on tapping out a text message while shuffling along slowly on a crowded sidewalk. There are other pedestrians who just want to get on with their day. For the sake of your fellow humans, step to the side, out of the way, and tap out your message. Once you’re done, tuck your phone into your pocket and go on your way. The rest of humanity thanks you in advance!
Don’t text while driving
Although drunken texting will embarrass you, texting while driving can injure or kill you—or other people. A growing body of research shows the practice to be at least as dangerous as driving drunk, and it’s probably worse. It’s already against the law in many states, so at the very least you could end up getting slapped with a sizable fine. If you’re driving, put your phone away. It can wait.