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Good Advice on Not Texting

Straightening my office bookshelf this weekend, I found a news clipping I had saved because of its wise words from advice columnist Carolyn Hax. Although she was advising a wife on texts between her and her husband, the advice applies to texts in business. She wrote:

And you both badly need to stop communicating by text. Texting strips away context, facial expression, voice inflection and elaboration, also known as everything human beings use to indicate their tone. It also creates false courage. You’ve both basically asked for a fight by using such a blunt medium to have such a delicate exchange.

I especially liked Ms. Hax’s comment on false courage. If you would not have the courage to make a statement to someone directly in conversation, do not use a text–or an email–to communicate it. The words will linger on screens long after your courage has evaporated. I have seen both personal and business relationships suffer and die because of ill-considered texts.

Even in routine texts, I like to greet the other person and sign off in a friendly way to be sure my positive tone comes across. Although a message may be routine, the relationship is not.

If you have advice on texting or not texting, please share it.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

5 comments on “Good Advice on Not Texting”

  • A text lets you take all of the problems associated with email, such as those listed in Ms. Hax’s column, and multiply them by shortening your working space and having them delivered at (often) inconvenient times.

    I can’t imagine using texts for any situation in which the relationship is in any need of strengthening. In our marriage, my wife and I use texts for things such as, (while you’re at the store) “pick up some bread.” Anything more sensitive is asking for trouble.

    Quick story to illustrate inconvenient times: this weekend my wife’s phone “dinged” at 7:20 am with a message from my sister. The message said, “what are your plans for the day?” Since I had my wife’s phone to fix an email problem with it, I immediately replied, “Sleep until 8:00.” After a couple minutes, I called my sister to assure her that I was having a bit of fun at her expense (and to tell her that my wife’s plans did indeed begin with an 8:00 wake-up).

  • Hi, Randy. Thanks for the perfect story illustrating how what is convenient for one person may be very inconvenient for another. Your sister would not have called at 7:20 a.m. on the weekend, but she felt comfortable texting. Unfortunately, her ding created the same interruption a ringing phone would have caused.

    Thanks for the great advice!


  • I can’t stand the expression “shoot an email about….” It implies that no thought is needed and very often these type emails are ineffective communication. Those are the business (and personal) emails that become unnecessarily long email chains because the first person doesn’t take time to express themselves clearly.

  • Hi, Patty. Great observation. “Shoot an email” does give the impression of just blasting rather than thinking about the message and the audience.

    I apologize for the delay in responding to you. Somehow I missed your comment.


  • Lynn,

    What are your thoughts on employing someone online where you need to disclose important information, say an online financial adviser like , and your way of communication is via email, text or chat.Should we avoid these kind of transactions? Although they are very convenient. Don’t you think that there are advantages in this form of transaction? Or does the false courage puts in a more dangerous situation when you are investing or borrowing online? Or will it be helpful when you’re taking a risk, business wise, …because that risk will be harder to take in a personal negotiation.

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