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Practical Computer Advice
from Martin Kadansky

Volume 18 Issue 3

March 2024

Writing Better Text Messages: Keep It Short but Clear and Other Simple Ideas

The Problem


Has this ever happened to you?


You sent a text message from your smartphone or tablet where you thought what you wrote was clear, but the other person never replied, didn’t understand, or worse -- Their reply was “Who is this?”


Simple things you can do to make your text messages easier to read and understand


I recommend a few simple approaches that can help:


  • Keep it short and clear.
  • Consider signing it with your name at the end.
  • Avoid abbreviations and emoticons unless you’re sure the other person can decipher them correctly.


Consider this example


Would you like to get together for lunch sometime? I like Italian and Chinese, also Mexican and Thai. I could do any day except Tuesday, and on Fridays it would have to be around 1:30pm. Should we pick a place near you, near me, or in the middle? Please let me know, thanks!


For many people that’s too much information, but it may also not be enough to make a decision. And for someone who may not recognize your number, it may come across as a creepy message from a stranger.


Keep it short and clear


In this case I suggest focusing on offering simple, specific scheduling choices first, leaving the restaurant and location for later in the conversation, and signing your name if the other person might not recognize your number:


Hi Bob-- How about lunch? I could do Wed Apr 3 at noon -or- Fri Apr 5 at 1:30pm. What would work for you? --Martin


Note also the use of the other person’s name, simple abbreviations, and including “-or-” to clearly separate the choices you’re offering.


Try this memory aid: Tiny messages for tiny screens!


Avoid obscure abbreviations, shorthand, and emoticons


While abbreviations and acronyms may save you time when writing a message, they can make reading your messages more difficult and time-consuming for the other person. Consider this:


ur ts fan u think goat didja c halftime show lol fwiw imho yolo hmu 4 lunch! c u l8r ty


I’d translate that as: “You’re a Taylor Swift fan, you think she’s the greatest of all time. Did you see the halftime show? (Laughing out loud) For what it’s worth, in my humble opinion you only live once. Hit me up for lunch! See you later, thank you.”


Remember that:


  • Many acronyms have multiple meanings. The very common and popular “LOL” could mean “laughing out loud” or “lots of love.”
  • Emoticons (emotion icons, expressed with text or pictures) can add some feeling to your messages, e.g., “:)” [smiling] and “:(“ [frowning], but for many people they’re obscure and often too small to see on a tiny screen. Consider using words instead like “Happy!” or “This is so sad.”


Don’t text when you’re upset or in a hurry


If you’re writing a text when you’re unhappy or feeling rushed:


  • Take a break. Don’t send something you’ll regret later.
  • Consider writing your message in a separate Note to avoid accidentally tapping the Send button (which might be very close to the text you’re writing or the on-screen keyboard). Then, when you’re ready, copy and paste it into a text message.
  • Proofread, proofread, and proofread again before sending, especially if your iPhone, iPad, or Android has the “autocorrect” feature turned on, which can change what you’ve written or dictated, often ruining what you wanted to say.


These techniques can help you avoid miscommunication, which can sometimes be amusing, but more often the other person can feel confused, hurt, or offended.


Where to go from here


As always, if this seems too difficult to achieve on your own, I recommend that you find someone you know and trust to help you.



And if you want to see examples of text messages that are hilarious, embarrassing, or mortifying, google: text message autocorrect fails

In this context, “fails” is a plural noun that’s short for “failures,” in this case failures to communicate clearly.

How to contact me:

email: martin@kadansky.com

phone: (617) 484-6657

web: http://www.kadansky.com

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I love helping people learn how to use their computers better! Like a "computer driving instructor," I work 1-on-1 with small business owners and individuals to help them find a more productive and successful relationship with their computers and other high-tech gadgets.

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