Profile Magazine – August 2005

Give Good Text
by Michelle Haimoff

Text messaging is the single greatest thing to happen to correspondence since Alexander Graham Bell turned the epistolary arts into a thing of the past. Lets face it, no one writes love letters anymore, much less sonnets and poems. It is now up to the text message to inspire the kind of verbal sparring reminiscent of earlier, more passionate times.

The best thing about texting is that the messages are short. A standard text has to be less than 450 characters. That's about 36 words. Max. While this may sound constricting, you'll soon find that, on the contrary, texting frees you from the conventions of more formal forms of communication. No more agonizing over the email subject line. No more debating the choice of salutation (love, best, xo, arggh!). No more having to muster a voicemail tone that's as impulsive and interested as it is blasé and nonchalant. No more falling headlong into the harrowing whirlwind that is an IM conversation. And don't even get me started on the potentially devastating consequences of an on-the-spot conversation.

Good Text
Six lines might not seem like a lot, but nearly every word can be condensed with text friendly spelling. Thus a sentence like "Would you be up for meeting at your place beforehand?" at its most concentrated can become "Wld u b up 4 mtg @ ur place b4hand?"

As far as wording is concerned, forget blunt and go for mysterious. For example, I had just started seeing this guy when I spotted him running up my street on his way to the gym. He was all flushed and sexy and I didn't know if he had seen me, but I thought it was a good opportunity to engage in some flirtatious text banter. What I wanted to say was: "I just saw you running and you look hot." What I ended up texting was: "If you keep running by my building like this, I might get the wrong idea . . ."

When it comes to texting, funny rules. The best text messages are the ones that get the recipient laughing. This guy I liked was at the same crowded party as me. I didn't want to march up to him and make my intentions known, but I had his number so I was able to make a move without being too aggressive. I saw him fiddling with his cell phone, so I texted the following: "Look at me. I got a text message. I'm very popular." He read it, he laughed, he came to find me.

Texting is also a great opportunity to gain face. Examples of this include:

Him: "Still on for tomorrow night?"
You: "Which one are you?"

Him: "Want to see a movie?"
You: "I could be persuaded."

Him: "Is 10:00 too late?"
You: "I'd consider breaking curfew for a worthy cause."

Or if you're mad at him:
Him: "Are you free Friday? I owe you a drink."
You: "Busy Friday, and you owe me more than a drink."

Bad Text
As with all fun things, texting can also get you into trouble, so avoid these rookie mistakes:

1. Texting a guy that doesn't have text message. In this day and age every cell phone should be required to have this feature, but some don't, so make sure the guy has it before you text him. And be aware that even if he does, sometimes texts don't go through. If you wrote something funny and clever and perfect, and he hasn't texted back, he might not have gotten it.

2. Texting the wrong person. My friend Liz was trying to avoid this guy she knew from college that she had recently exchanged numbers with. Absentmindedly she texted, "What am I supposed to do about Jarrod?" to Jarrod. Then realizing she had done this, she texted me "OMG, I just txtd what am I supposed 2 do ab Jarrod 2 Jarrod!" This text also went to Jarrod. If she had taken a moment to confirm that the message was going to the right person, Jarrod could have avoided getting slammed not once, but twice in a three minute period.

Many complain that the more advanced our gadgets get, the less personal our relationships become. While some may marvel at the fact that with all our high-speed connections, unlimited minutes and phones that fit in the palm of our hands, we've somehow managed to regress to glorified telegraphs, the truth is that text messaging is hardly a sign of cultural decline. If anything, it's a sign of progress. At long last, courtship is back.