Making a point in a clear, assertive email is one thing. But doing it in a text? LOL, way 2 much 4 txtspk.
Or is it?
Sure, you don’t have as much leeway in a text as in an email because of sheer lack of space, but it is possible to make a point, ask for something important, or express a serious idea in a text message. Here are some tips for how to make it so.
Use real words
As in, “you,” “for,” “today,” “thanks.” Writing in real-speak instead of text-speak shows that you’re serious. For example:
Thx 4 mtg w me 2day. U r rly helpful. WML 4 interview 2moro!
Not quite as effective as:
Thank you for meeting with me today. You were really helpful. Wish me luck for the interview tomorrow!
Sure, it depends on who you’re writing: if it’s your best friend and you always swap “you” for “u,” no need to make things unexpectedly formal. But before you type out your message, think about what you’re trying to say, who’s going to read it, and whether your point will be more effective with actual words.
Start with “Hey”
When people are about to say something important in conversation, they often start with “listen” or “look.” Those senses don’t exactly make sense over text, but a casual “hey” can have the same effect. Plus, it signals that you’re about to get a bit more serious than normal, and even pads the blow a little.
Hey, I wanted to apologize for taking my bad mood out on you earlier.
Without the hey, it sounds stiff, even insincere. With the hey, you get a casual, human touch that leads neatly into the point.
Don’t write a novel
We get it: it’s hard to make a point in a couple lines. But if the message is longer than the phone screen and you have to scroll to see the whole thing, it’s probably too much for the person to digest. Just like in other forms of writing, you’ll make a stronger point if you avoid filler words and get directly to the issue.
Compare these two texts to a coworker:
Hey Karen, I’m really sorry, but I think I ate something weird last night and I’m feeling really sick. I know we were supposed to prep for our big presentation today, but I’m just feeling too sick to leave the house today. Hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow and we can figure things out then. Sorry again, but thanks for understanding!
Then, you take out the (digital) red pen:
Hey Karen, so sorry, but I’ve got food poisoning. We’ll have to do our meeting prep when I’m back. I’ll follow up by email when possible.
More succinct, and more professional, too.
Sum up your argument
What is this, expository essay class? It may sound like even more added weight, but if you have to say something complicated, one way to keep it clean is to write the main point in one text, and send your “conclusion” as a separate text. For example:
Text 1: Hey, I understand that you have a lot going on right now and can’t make it to the dinner tonight, but I’ve got to say I’m disappointed. I planned it months ago and was really counting on you being there. Even with everything you have on your plate, I thought this would be a priority for you.
Text 2: Anyway, sorry for being upset and I do understand you’ve got a lot happening, but wanted you to know.
Heavy stuff—maybe even better over the phone or in person. Still, there are times when you need to have your say, and text is the only venue for doing it. And in those cases, a final line—sometimes with an extra “thanks” or “sorry”—can make the message more personal and caring.
Offer a follow-up
The tips so far have given you some fuel for your serious, thoughtful, or bad-news texts. But there are some conversations that should be had in person. You can lay the groundwork in your text and then plug for a different venue to keep the discussion going. For example:
- Hey, our presentation is coming along, but I think it needs more work. Let’s set up some time to talk about moving it forward.
- Hey, I’m sorry I hurt your feelings with that stupid joke earlier. Can I call you?
- Hi Mom, guess what? I got the job offer! Too many details to text but I’ll tell you more over dinner tomorrow.
With this kind of message, you can say what you need to say but not overburden your text recipient with information.
Send a gif
Caveat: Maybe you don’t send a to your boss to explain you’re running late for your very important date—er, meeting.
But if you think the person you’re writing will respond well to a bit of levity, adding a gif or a meme is a great way to lighten the mood of a serious message. Technology has given us the gift of sending moving cats to people by phone, so why not take advantage of it?
Here are some ways to make it go purringly:
- Things are pretty tough right now ()
- I didn’t mean to lash out at you ()
- What you said hurt my feelings ()
- I’m really sorry I messed up this time ()
- I’m sorry I can’t make it. Just can’t handle a party tonight (. Even with the sombrero.)
As with emails, conversations in person, or other forms of communication, if you’re saying something important in a text message, think through how best to say it. Make sure you plan your words based on the person you’re writing to (e.g., you’ll be more formal in professional settings than personal ones), and before you tap Send, read your message through to make sure it doesn’t sound aggressive, whiny, or mean.
And nine times out of ten, animal gifs are your friend.