Punctuation is ‘judgey’? Text before calling? How proper cell phone etiquette has changed

Call me old fashioned, or maybe I have a terrible case of clumsy thumbs. If I have a choice between texting or a phone call to converse with someone, I choose a call most of the time.

It’s faster, easier, and I can do it safely while driving, walking, or folding laundry. Also? If someone calls and doesn’t leave me a voice message, I will likely assume they don’t need to talk with me.

According to the latest rules of smartphone etiquette − and my 22-year-old daughter − I’m doing it all wrong.

As new technology changes, so do the rules of engagement around it, and it’s harder than ever to keep up!

What is the rule of thumb for cell phone etiquette?

While common sense should dictate that it’s not polite to talk on our cell phones while we’re in a bathroom or use the speakerphone in a movie theater, clearly, some people missed that memo.

Doing either is considered baseline rude at best, but I witnessed both in the last week alone. If some people are still so oblivious to the most obvious tech-related social faux pas, how are we supposed to pick up on the new stuff, like whether we should text someone before we call them or when to use the latest iOS 17 video voicemail feature?

“Much like everything else, behavior evolves based on the situation,” national etiquette expert Diane Gottsman wrote via email. When everyday situations change for the masses, such as more people using FaceTime and making videos in public places, there are social nuances that are simply more polite, sensitive, and respectful to others, she explained.

Before we go through specifics, though, it’s important to note that what works for close friends and family is not the same for business or professional relationships. Also, age can play a role in what’s socially acceptable.

For instance, I can’t get all judgey if someone texts or DMs in all lowercase without punctuation anymore. My 23-year-old production assistant recently told me it’s kind of rude to add a period even when I’m texting her. It’s like I’m being passive-aggressive and not as sincere.

“You can’t assume everyone understands or communicates the same way. Many abbreviations are age-related or even depend on a person’s country of origin. It’s important to mirror the communication style of the person you speak with,” Gottsman added, especially in client or work situations.

Leave a Comment