The Art of Texting
BEN RICHMAN // DECEMBER 14, 2018
The art of adding tone to text messages is something that should not go unappreciated. The complexities of human existence -- the pain, the joy and the melancholy -- can not always be articulated through texts. Creating tone is a nuanced and tricky skill that, if done incorrectly, can lead to disaster. We are all aware of the obvious techniques to add an underlying message to seemingly innocuous texts, like the thirsty extra ‘y’ on the end of ‘heyy’ or the abrupt period after one word texts that add a sense of petty annoyance to a word as simple as ‘ok.’ These techniques, however, are not enough to capture emotions and ideas more complex than just being horny or angry. For a deeper dive into how to spice up your hastily-written words, read on.
The nonchalant exclamation: For when the exclamation point needs some space.
Adding a space before the exclamation point gives some breathing room, adding a chill demeanor to the sentence. It shows you're excited, but in a fun, cool way, because you’re a cool kid, who’s down for whatever. “Amazing !” is very different from “Amazing!” The extra space between the subject “Amazing,” and the qualifier “!” allows for a reduction of the frantic tone in the original message. The same rule applies to the equally as nonchalant space before the question mark which says: I'm asking this question, I guess.
The passive-aggressive ‘lol’: When you both know no one is actually laughing out loud.
This lol is very different from the acronyms’ original purpose. Being straightforward is hard. Adding an lol can take the edge off of an otherwise aggressive text, allowing you to be honest with someone in a more lighthearted way:
“Hey can someone please add to the google doc, its currently empty lol”
“Heard what you said about me lol”
“I think I need some space lol”
“I’ve never liked your experimental performance art lol”
This method can also be used for equally risky non aggressive texts like,
“We should be more than friends lol”
“I’m in love with your brother and want him to participate in the kissing booth at my schools carnival lol”
The dramatic ellipsis(...): When you want to say something… But it doesn't matter... no one cares anyway…
Any great director will tell you that pauses in dialogue can be as important as the dialogue itself. Anger, sadness, and regret can all be articulated in subtle pauses. But in a-tonal text messages, how do you add a prolonged sigh? Or a glance off into the distance? If you want the reader of your message to know you’re typing your text as you wistfully stare out of your window with a glass of brandy in hand... just add a few ellipses in there. Adding a dramatic pause in your text message tells the recipient that you are going through something deep and profound. It can add a sense of intrigue to any text message, showing that you are mysterious and dark.
“I'll do the dishes later… I just need some time by myself.”
“Can I borrow your car… I just need to drive… to CVS”
The ellipsis can also be useful in adding a dramatic moment of suspense before a difficult confession:
“Mom… I have to come clean… I was the one who ate all the cookies from the cookie jar.”
Or: “I used your netflix… to watch The Kissing Booth.”
The series of short abrupt sentences: When you’re not being rude, you’re just a middle aged parent unsure of how to relate to their children.
Sometimes adding tone is not just about showing your emotions. It can also be about adding a sense of self to the voice of the message, especially if that voice is in their 50’s and is texting you that “Mom cut hair. Call soon. Bye. -Dad.” This use of voice can add a sense of character to your text, revealing more about the speaker. Simple texts like “Found your fake I.D. Not good. Come home.” can show that the speaker just discovered Facebook and is liking all of your friend’s photos, or that they were disappointed with the Big Bang Theory spinoff Young Sheldon. This text style adds some maturity and wisdom to your texting, because you don't have time to text in full sentences, you have bills, a mortgage, and a kid who who goes to a $70,000 all-year-round summer camp. This method can also be used to try and show that you are hip to what the kids are into these days.
“Your performance art is very lit. Enjoyed part where you shaved on stage. Cool stuff.”
“I am lol’ing right now. Great meme. Good find.”
I hope that these techniques will serve you well as you try to navigate your personal and professional relationships via text messages, Instagram DM, or even an errant Facebook message that gets lost in their message request inbox because they haven’t accepted your friend request. Emotions are complicated and communication can be hard but if I learned anything from Joey King’s character in Netflix’s The Kissing Booth, maybe the best technique for successful communication is to just be direct and straightforward. Or maybe just have the conversation face to face...