Putting Tone in Text Messages

Inserting Tone into Your Texts

Texting has become the most common way to communicate when not face to face. Texting is "fire and forget," and this is its greatest benefit. In other words, you can send a message even if the recipient is not able to receive it immediately, and you can be sure it will be read. However, there is a real danger with texting that must be addressed: no tone is conveyed with the message. As a consequence, it is easy for text messages to be misinterpreted. To fix this, many texters include icons or postambles (e.g., kisses, hugs, and terms like "LOL") to ensure the tone of their texts is understood. Compare the examples below:

A Business Message with Tone Indicators

 
Can you pay the invoice by tomorrow? I'm far too busy for that. ; ) LOL. Thanks
 

A Business Message without Tone Indicators

 
Can you pay the invoice by tomorrow? I'm far too busy for that. Tomorrow is past your deadline.
 

A Family Message with Tone Indicators

 
Did you remember to buy some eggs? XO Yes xx
 

A Family Message without Tone Indicators

 
Did you remember to buy some eggs? I'm not stupid!
 
These icons and postambles have become so common that omitting them is often taken as a sign of negativity. According to our survey, this is particularly true with females, most of whom have come to expect such tone indicators in text messaging.

The most common tone indicators are:
  • X (kiss)
  • XO (hugs and kisses)
  • :) (smile)
  • ;) (wink)
There are lots more useful tone indicators on our icons page.

See Also

What does cyber mean? What is a hashtag? What is Cyber Speak? An infographic explaining when Cyber Speak might be inappropriate
Spotting internet grooming Spotting drug abuse Different ways of saying "I love you" online
The evolution of the selfie The evolution of LOL Text speak with numbers Our English grammar site Our mathematics site