The Trouble with Text

Today’s communication scene is dominated by typing words on a device (text messaging, tweeting, emailing or communicating using a number of emerging text-driven apps). Whether you’re grabbing a cup of coffee or walking around your office, chances are, there’s someone in your vicinity whose head is buried in his or her phone, tapping away to friends. But, sometimes, a text message just doesn’t cut it. Some of the most important details often disappear or get lost in translation in text messages: “subtext” and “context.” Tone, color and urgency of what you’re trying to say is often lost in the two-dimensional words or overzealous emojis. Don’t take our typed words for it — here are some real world examples:

1. The Punctuation Problem. Your response when a friend says they’re running late for drinks yet again? “Oh ok.” And your response when they actually show up on time? “Oh ok!” And watch out if you pick the wrong one — you may show up expecting a smile and get an earful instead.

2. Setting the Tone. You text your friend a suggestion and the answer glares up at you from your screen: “k.” Panic hits. What exactly does that singular letter mean? There’s 25 other letters to choose from. Is your friend mad at you? Is he or she just in a rush? Do you respond to clarify, potentially coming off as overly analytical? Or do you just let it lie and risk it all? It’s amazing what hearing someone’s tone can do for such a simple response.

3. The Need for Speed. There’s no text message-induced anxiety quite like watching those three dots hovering in a tiny cloud, telling you that someone’s typing…when will the dots turn into words? When? Ever tried ordering food for that friend who can’t seem to hit “send”? Whether it’s those agonizing seconds staring at your phone as the person you secretly like writes back or dealing with the frustrated people who don’t understand that your life hangs on the next few words, text messages take time — and that just isn’t going to cut it when you’re in a rush.

4. Autocorrect. Autocorrect may have been designed to help you, but we’ve all seen Damn You Autocorrect, haven’t we? Whether it’s telling your wife that you’re cheating on her or offering up the family pet for dinner, autocorrect seems to cause far more harm than good. So, take our advice: reread that text message before hitting send. No one wants to fall victim to a autocorrect violation.

5. To Emoji or Not to Emoji. Everyone’s favorite little pictures aren’t without their problems. Much like wearing your favorite bathrobe or sharing your vacation stories, there is a time and place for emojis. Emailing a hiring manager about a job interview? Maybe not the best time to use the prayer hands emoji. Using the wrong emoji or using one in inappropriate circumstances can have the same effect as missing punctuation — it has the potential to change the entire tone of the conversation.

6. Delayed Response. It’s an age-old problem: when, exactly, are you supposed to get in touch after the first date? Enter text messaging. The first date problem has turned into an every contact one — does an immediate response seem overeager? What’s the line between too many text messages and too few? What does that winky face emoji really mean?

7. Ellipses… These little three dots can quickly take a sentence from unexceptional to incredibly frustrating very quickly. While the person sending the offending text may be intending something entirely different and has long put their phone away, the person receiving it probably feels like they’re waiting for more. What’s being left unsaid? What does it mean? Did I do something wrong? You may never know…

Fortunately for all of us, there’s a simple solution to those texting problems — voice communication. Whether you’re picking up the phone or taking advantage of the latest wearable tech, don’t let what you really mean get lost in translation — use your voice.