The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Texting do’s and don’t’s for 2024

As old texting rules fall away, new ones bubble up to replace them

Texting etiquette
Old expectations around texting are falling away. Here’s the etiquette that’s sticking around. (Washington Post illustration; iStock)
8 min

Lizzie Post once sent a text message checking in on a friend with a new baby. The response came late — a full year later.

Would her great-great-grandmother, the prolific writer and titan of American etiquette Emily Post, be horrified? The younger Post says she doesn’t think so.

“I feel like her personality would have been one where if you weren't offended by the disconnection, then of course you would welcome the reconnection,” the younger Post said. “If the disconnection offended you, then either don't respond or let someone know it was a problem. Either take ownership of it or let it go.”

During her career spanning the first half of the 20th century, Emily Post adjusted her etiquette advice to reflect a changing society, says the younger Post, who co-wrote the 19th and 20th editions of the book “Emily Post’s Etiquette.” And that approach may be the only hope we have to make sense of texting, which now props up much of our social and professional lives.

Agreed-upon texting rules have imploded amid a global pandemic, social media apps and the breakdown of work-life boundaries. Search TikTok for “texting etiquette” and you’ll find contradictory advice — is it rude to let a text sit or rude to expect a response? Is the thumbs-up emoji passive-aggressive? Does an all-caps message demand an all-caps response? Generational differences make things even harder, as teens progress from literal to ironic emoji use while our aunts keep replying “OK.”

Skip to end of carousel