Some are more diligent, effective and far-reaching than others, but most mothers teach their children basic manners and help their little ones — and sometimes their big ones — understand that manners are the glue that holds society together. Without them, we could all do and say exactly what we want, no matter how we affect those around us. If we grew up in the South, manners likely involved the words “sir” and “ma’am,” and they certainly involved sensitivity to the comfort and feelings of others. 

Manners are executed by following certain rules, some of which may seem unnecessary and antiquated to some folks. For example, I learned and taught the Precious Jewels that unless he is injured or handicapped, a polite man stands when a woman enters the room. My father developed an instant dislike for an early high school boyfriend, because his mother had not taught him this rule and he subsequently failed to stand for my mother.

But I digress.

We all received guidance when we learned to speak and write, but who knew that we would require rules about polite use of our new technologies? What is more, we have texting police — in my case a Precious Jewel who pointed out my many texting offenses, which I had no idea I was committing. 

Lest I become an habitual offender, I promptly researched texting etiquette on that font of all knowledge, the Internet, and, indeed, there are rules about how to text politely. Boy! Did I ever get screensful of texting “do’s” and “don’ts,” the equivalents, I suppose, of always bringing a hostess gift and not drinking out of the finger bowl.

In case you are as blank as I was on texting etiquette, here are a few of the basics.

1. Group texting is fraught with danger. You might say something you do not want everyone on the text to know, maybe because you did not realize a certain someone was indeed there. And if you find yourself in a chat with only one of the people on the group text, the rest of the people are also seeing the conversation and their phones are beeping up a storm for no reason. (Full disclosure. Group texting and “blowing up people’s phones” has been my main offense, but I am working on it.)

2. No texting overnight. You may be wide awake, but not everyone is, and no one wants their phone dinging in the middle of the night. Nor do most of us want to wake to a screen full of texts from people with insomnia.

3. Sexting is a thoroughly bad idea whether you are a teenager or an octogenarian. Truth be told, no one really wants to see what you are made of, and you do not want public exposure (forgive me!) when your supposedly private text goes viral. Just contain yourself until you see your sweetie in person.

4. Like talking loudly or taking a phone call in a movie theater, texting is not appropriate everywhere. Do not do it where you would not engage in those other activities — say, at dinner with your boss or meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time.

5. Always, always proofread what you are about to text. If your phone has autocorrect, it could change what you intended to say into something you might be horrified to say. Even simple four letter words can and do morph into words charged with all manner of expletives. I know several people who have been mortified on this score.

6. Private and confidential matters are best left untexted. You never know what the person on the receiving end is doing when your text arrives or who else might see it. This is particularly true if you ignore rule # 3, and share your body parts. Someone’s grandmother might glance at the phone when it lights up with your text and keel over.

7. Since people cannot see you to read facial and body cues, be polite when texting. Use words like “please” and “thank you” which may keep you from sounding rude or short when you really meant to be concise.

8. Speaking of short, keep it that way. If it takes more than 30 seconds or so to type your text, it is probably too long and will be difficult to read on a tiny phone screen. Put your message in an email and then text to say you have sent that email.

9. Unless you are texting with someone with whom you do so regularly, sign off as you do on the telephone. This lets your texting companion know the conversation has ended so he is not left staring at the phone waiting for your next pearl of wisdom.

We all goof on manners from time to time, and I am sure I will make more texting faux pas before I master texting etiquette, but I am trying. In the meantime, I wonder what is coming next in the “who knew” department.

Etiquette for spying on one’s neighbors with drones?

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