When I text, I can’t seem to bring myself to omit periods, start sentences with lowercase letters, and use abbreviations. My kids tell me I am overthinking things. What do you editors do?
Is it okay to forget about spelling, punctuation, and capitalization when texting?
The short answer
You’re probably overthinking it. Unless you’re texting for business, you needn’t worry about spelling, punctuation, and capitalization when texting.
Yes, there’s a time and a place for careful writing . . . but it’s not in text messages. Texts are meant to be quick, informal, and impermanent communications. As long as the message is clear, no additional fussing is needed.
Perfect spelling and grammar when texting? Fuggedaboutit!
Editors have a bad rap for being nonstop persnickety and pedantic about language. To the contrary, a competent editor will be the first to tell you that although we’re all for language rules and conventions, we’re also all for the evolution and bending of those conventions.
Good thing, too, or thou wouldst be most Shakespearean in thine prose.
Texting is usually the digital equivalent of scribbling a note to post on the fridge. Jot it down, press send, and don’t sweat it if you’ve omitted an apostrophe or mistyped a word with your thumbs.
Consider your audience
The cardinal rule when writing is to consider your audience, and texting is no exception.
If you use text messages for business communications, such as appointment or delivery confirmations, be sure your tone and presentation match your branding. A friend could confirm a coffee date with “CYA TMRW,” but if you got that same message from a lawyer’s office, you might reconsider your choice of legal representative.
Texting has its own etiquette
Texting has evolved to have its own etiquette. Just as conventions are followed when writing a letter or formatting a resume, there’s a certain way to text.
For example, consider the “rule” that a sentence must have closing punctuation. As
To younger generations, using proper punctuation in a casual context like texting can give an impression of formality that borders on rudeness, as if the texter is not comfortable enough with the texting partner to relax. The message-ending period establishes a certain distance. The punctuation is polite when speaking to someone older than you or above you at work, but off-putting among friends.
Let yourself off the hook from the rules you learned in Grade 8 English class. Informal wording, omitted punctuation, and alternative spellings can be appropriate for everyday texting.
When texting in a business context, consider your audience and err on the conservative side. When texting informally, however, forcing yourself to meet formal writing conventions is a habit worth breaking.
The next time you’re messaging with friends or family, forget the proper this and that and write as you might speak. Ignore typos unless they impede understanding. Abbreviate! Take shortcuts! Leave off periods! YOLO
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