What Did He Mean By That? SMS and E-mail Etiquette


The other day I was reminded of how important it is when e-mailing or texting that you make yourself “understood”. What I mean by that is when e-mailing or texting, what you write is left to the recipient to interpret the mood or intent of the words. Sometimes the words are taken the wrong way.

I received a request to do something via text and it was followed up a few minutes later with another request by the same person for the same thing. I hadn’t had time to reply to the first text so I jokingly sent out a reply to the second letting the person know that I’d get right on that request. Since it wasn’t anything important that needed to be done right away, and they knew that as well, I thought the reply would be taken good naturedly. Well, it wasn’t. Not sure if the person was having a bad day or not, but they let me know that they weren’t real happy with my flippant reply. When I let them know that it wasn’t meant to be flippant, they let me know that sometimes their phone sends messages twice when they only mean to send it once. Communication breakdown? Yes, but also a good reminder that when e-mailing and texting, there is etiquette to follow:

  • Be wary of the reply all button. Most of the time you would only want to reply to the sender, not to everyone on the list.
  • Don’t type in all caps. That’s the equivalent of shouting. Not nice.
  • Watch for excessive punctuation. There is no need to put 5 exclamation marks at the end of a sentence!!!!! And I mean it.
  • Acronyms. Don’t assume that everyone is going to know what ROTFL (rolling on the floor laughing) or TNSTAAFL (there’s no such thing as a free lunch) means. There are some common abbreviations, such as BTW (by-the-way) and FYI (for your information) but some of the others, well, write the words. If you need to find out what something means, check the Acronym List.
  • Let them know how you feel. What happened to me the other day could have been avoided if I had included a smiley with my reply. These need to be added with care, as in less is more, but in this instance, adding one would have let the other person know that I was saying it light-heartedly. Part of the nature of a good one-on-one conversation are the use of visual cues. Since there are no visual or auditory cues with e-mail or texts, users have come up with something called “smilies”. They are simple strings of characters that are typed in the e-mail text to convey your emotions or meaning. The most common example is :-).  Here are some more examples.  – Smileys and Emoticons. Use them to let the other person know what you mean. 😉
  • When forwarding on an e-mail, remove the e-mail addresses that are on the original e-mail. Highlight and delete them before you send. That puts the text that you want read at the top of the e-mail and removes unwanted items. I don’t need to see who the e-mail was sent to before me.
  • Scan through your text or e-mail before you press Send. Check the recipients to make sure that it’s going to the right person(s). See if there are parts that shouldn’t be said or should possibly be said differently. If there needs to be a smiley inserted to clarify intent, do so.
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2 Responses

  1. Excellent advice Bill. 🙂 It’s amazing to me how many people really don’t know these very basic things. The one that aggravates me the most is when an e-mail is forwarded with all the addresses left in the body of the e-mail. Sometimes it has been around the world a time or two and there are more “original message” lines and “cc” addresses than there is actual content. Grrrr.

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