Without a doubt, text messaging is extremely popular among today’s college students. It’s a fun, quick way to connect with friends and family members across the country, across town, or across campus.

Students may be highly efficient and effective in their text-based communications with their peers and family members; as a result, they may be highly confident in their level of competence in this arena. However, they may not yet know how to text in a way that’s appropriate to relationships of a more professional nature.

If you use texting as a communication tool in your college classroom, or if you cover career skills in your course, you may want to touch upon some “do’s and dont’s” of texting as part of your discussion of appropriate communication habits. Below, we’ve shared a few tips that will help them achieve communication success in professional contexts.

Guidelines for Text Messaging: Best Practices

In their book Essentials of Business Communication, Tenth Edition, authors Mary Ellen Guffey and Dana Loewy summarize various etiquette experts’ guidelines for effective and professional use of text messaging. These guidelines apply to the career context, but they’re also useful in academic and personal settings. Review these tips, and discuss them with your students.


•     Don’t text when calling would be inappropriate or rude; for example, at a performance, a restaurant, in a meeting, or a movie theater.

•     Don’t text or answer your phone during a face-to-face conversation. If others use their cell phones while talking to you, you may excuse yourself until they stop.


•     Identify yourself when texting a new contact who doesn’t have your phone number: “Hi—it’s Erica (Office World). Your desk has arrived. Please call 877-322-8989.”


•     Check that you are texting to the correct phone number to avoid embarrassment. If you receive a message by mistake, alert the sender. No need to respond to the message itself.

•     Avoid sending confidential, private, or potentially embarrassing texts. Someone might see your text at the recipient’s end or the message might be sent to an unintended recipient.


•     Don’t use text messages to notify others of sad news, sensitive business matters, or urgent meetings, unless you wish to set up a phone call about that subject.


•     Don’t expect an instant reply. As with e-mail, we don’t know when the recipient will read the message. (Guffey and Loewy, 130)




Do you discuss the positive and negative aspects of communicating via text messaging in your course? What are your classroom guidelines for how to text in an appropriate manner? Share your ideas in the comments.

Reference: Guffey, Mary Ellen and Dana Loewy. 2016. Essentials of Business Communication, 10th ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

©2016 Cengage Learning.