Life Support: How to send perfect text messages

Essential skills for the modern world

Read the cues

As any body-language expert or life coach will tell you, mirroring – ie copying – someone else's behaviour is the quickest way to trick them into liking you. They lean in, you lean in, and bingo: you get laid, promoted, or both. The same goes for texts, although with less movement. So, if somebody sends you a carefully crafted, perfectly punctuated electronic missive, it's best not to reply in robotic text speak. "Where 4 rt thou?" just doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?

Timing is everything

Correctly timing the sending and receiving of texts is a minefield that must be carefully approached if you are to preserve your dignity – not to mention any budding relationships that are being conducted by this medium. While replying instantly every time you receive a text can make you look a bit keen, waiting a week to reply to a simple suggestion of a coffee is equally naff. If you want to cultivate an aloof image, don't do it via text – you'll just look rude. And, if you are one of those who believe that agonising over the timing of texts is pathetic, at least bear in mind the time of day at which you are texting. Post-midnight texts are fraught with pitfalls, as even the most proficient texter can slip up when drunk in charge of a keypad.

Don't emote

Some things are better left unsaid, and there are many more that should never, ever be said in a text. Breaking up with someone is never easy or pleasant, but sending a text that reads "U r dumped" is unacceptable over the age of 14. Similarly, while condolence cards may seem overly formal, the only thing it is acceptable to mourn the passing of via text is the family pet. And you could be skating on thin ice even there. Also, be wary of sending anything that you don't want recorded for posterity. While the instant, informal nature of texting inspires confidence and loosens digits, your message will not self-destruct upon reading, and anything embarrassing may resurface at your wedding/leaving drinks/court appearance.

Be Blackberry friendly

The newer a medium of communication is, the more likely you are to get it wrong. Just when most people regarded themselves as au fait with texting from a mobile phone, along came the BlackBerry. Communicating with a BlackBerry falls somewhere between texting and emailing, and this is where most people fall down. Being "on the BlackBerry" is not an excuse for abruptness. Unlike texting from a mobile, you have unlimited characters, so use them. Don't use "Sent from my BlackBerry" in lieu of a signature, or kind regards.

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