How to Use Formal Language in Text Messages

Written by eileen pfefferle
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How to Use Formal Language in Text Messages
Text messaging is no longer simply an informal interaction. (Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

Text messages are often characterised by informal and abbreviated language. Like other technologies, text messaging has transformed the way we communicate with one another and has introduced new factors into communication such as neologisms and issues of privacy. Nonetheless, formal language has its place in text messaging. In 2008, President Barack Obama announced his vice president candidate via text message. Once reserved for intimate interactions, text messaging has expanded into the business and political spheres. Knowing how to incorporate formal language into text messages can help you maintain appearances.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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  1. 1

    Consider the context of the text message. If responding to a message, note the sender's language. The degree of formality in the received message is a good measure of the language used to respond. Also, consider how you would speak in conversation with the sender. If you wouldn't feel comfortable using slang or non-standard language in a face-to-face interaction, more formal language is appropriate in the text message.

  2. 2

    Carefully monitor the autocorrect on your phone and proofread important messages. Jillian Madison, curator of the website, said in an interview with NPR that texting with parents, co-workers or loved ones introduces a whole panoply of new, embarrassing situations. Read and reread any important text message before sending.

  3. 3

    Remember that language is an expression of social identity. Although texting may be akin to small talk, an exchange of inconsequential information, Crispin Thurlow and Michele Poff's 2001 study of text messaging encourages being mindful that texting is not peripheral or unimportant. While the goal in text messaging may be communication, how the communication is executed reflects how you align yourself in society. Consider how you want to be perceived by the person to whom you are sending a text message.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are uncertain about a word's spelling or definition, choose a different word or consult a dictionary. The same is true for grammatical conventions.

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