Texting, according to Generation Z

By Sophie Shields

Texting is a landmine of unwritten rules: periods are passive aggressive; three exclamation marks make you untrustworthy; and a laugh-cry emoji can be downright anxiety-inducing. So before you unwittingly insult the teens in your life again, let’s get your texting etiquette up to speed.

  1. Periods or full stops in texting are passive aggressive. Imagine this conversation: JOE: “How are you?” BOB: “Good.” While some people might read that as a perfectly normal text chain in proper English, for generation Z there is no question: Bob is upset with Joe. Is Bob angry that Joe hasn’t texted him in a while? Should Joe know better than to ask how he is? Either way, avoid texting anyone with full stops unless you’re angry with them, in which case go right ahead.
  2. Two exclamation marks is the perfect number – or four. But three exclamation marks comes across as too socially perfect – it makes me wonder if you felt obligated to send this text and are faking your excitement. So, as a rule of thumb, !! is the way to go – it shows you are more excited than ! but not as sycophantic as !!!. If need be, !!!! can be a strong response as well – it tells me you really are excited and aren’t just following social norms.
  3. The abbreviated OK – “K” or a thumbs-up emoji – is seen as an easy response, which means that the other person doesn’t care about you. For instance, I recently received a “K.” from my mother in response to my “Can you pick me up?” Literal chills. While my mother may have meant nothing beyond it was OK for her to pick me up, the abbreviated response, aligned with the full stop, cut me cold and deep. Obviously, I took the bus home.

So, the next time you text a young person, avoid full stops and using three exclamation marks. And if an OK is needed, add a smiley face. Or better yet, call them the old-fashioned way. They may not answer, but at least they won’t be insulted.

Sophie Shields is a Carleton student studying global literature and a proud Franco-Ukrainian who is learning German. She is the social media coordinator for the Glebe Report.

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