Just a quick poll. What feelings do these digital scenarios evoke: being ghosted, getting trapped in a group text, being left on ‘read,’ or someone blowing up your phone with a million messages?
Did you cringe a little or drop your phone like a hot potato? You wouldn’t be alone. A lot of people (this writer included) make these communication faux pas every day without even realizing it.
But making this season a little more merry and bright, Facebook Messenger recently teamed up with Debrett’s, the authority on modern etiquette, to develop the first formal guide on the etiquette of digital messaging. Based on consumer research, the guide applies to chatting with friends, family, co-workers, or love interests.
So, to stay off everyone’s naughty list this year, take a minute to review timeless ways to be more courteous and considerate when texting, emailing or messaging. We’ve paraphrased the guide
but recommend you download the full guide here.
10 messaging étiquette tips
- Hone your tone. Keep the tone of your messages upbeat and neutral – avoid using sarcasm or irony unless you are confident the other person will get the joke. Include a positive symbol or affectionate emoji to make it clear the joke is well-intended.
- Keep it concise… but not too concise. Stick to a few sentences. Long paragraphs of text are overwhelming and put the burden on the other person to respond in kind. On the other hand, consistently sending one-word messages or a single emoji looks curt and implies that you’re too busy or uninterested.
- Don’t multi-message. Don’t send four or five messages (blow up someone’s phone) if one will do. Multiple notifications can be distracting. Likewise, in a group chat, sending several messages at a time can appear domineering and be confusing others on the chat.
- Share with care. Don’t forward a message unless the original sender has given permission. If in doubt, ask first. Equally, refrain from broadcasting other people’s private information on a group chat.
- Know your audience. Invited to a group chat? Be sure to check who else is involved before sending a message. Failing to familiarize yourself with who is in the chat could be trouble. Start a separate message exchange if you need to make individual arrangements – spare the group the additional details and alerts.
- Don’t leave them hanging. If a member of your group chat has sent a message without receiving a reply, alleviate their awkwardness with a response – even if only to ‘like’ their message or say that you don’t know the answer.
- Abide by the quick reply. As a recipient, it’s polite to reply promptly to messages. Busy? If it’s not urgent, leave it unread until you can respond. Alternatively, turn on push notifications so you can preview the message without letting the other person know it has been seen. As the sender, unless a message is urgent, wait at least a day before nudging someone for a reply.
- Give up ghosting. If you’ve lost interest in a conversation, don’t abruptly cut off all contact — or ghost — someone. Ignoring someone’s messages leads to anxiety and uncertainty for the sender. If you want to end an interaction, do so openly but gently, with a brief, polite explanation. If you have been dating or have known someone a while, give them a call or let them know in person.
- Practice good exit-quette. Too many food photos and wedding prep updates on your group text? Don’t just drop off. Offer a brief explanation, keeping as close to the truth as possible: ‘Hi guys, I’m on deadline and need a break from my phone to get some work done!’ Another option is to mute the conversation.
- Sign off in style. Don’t underestimate the value of closing out a conversation. If you’re switching gears to another activity, it’s best to let the other person know, even if it’s a simple, “be right back.”
A final, personal note on digital etiquette. Billions of people congregate online every day. Billions. A lot of beautiful words, ideas, and connections transpire every minute alongside missteps and hurtful offenses. That said, it’s Christmas. If you’ve been on the sending or receiving side of a digital fallout over the years, consider extending some grace. Reconnect. Apologize. Forgive. No one’s getting it right all the time online, but we’re all getting better, and that’s something to celebrate.