Texting 101: Decoding the language of teens

Since cell phones first rose to prominence in the early 2000s, texting has been one of the most popular ways for teenagers to communicate with friends and family.  From flip phones to touchscreen phones, texting still is the number one way among teenagers to communicate. However, texting is often informal and messages can be difficult to decode. Even detecting emotions or underlying messages can be a challenge.


Emoticons, also known as emojis, are small pictures that represent  facial expressions or items, and have recently become popular in smartphones conversations. These pictures can show emotion, and can help convey  the sender’s intended tone to the reader.

Senior Patrick Hayslip uses emojis to show how he is feeling. “Emojis make a message more fun and show my personality,” Hayslip said. “I don’t want the reader to misinterpret what I mean, so I put in the emoji that represents what emotions I am showing in my message.”

Hey, Hello, Hi

When starting a texting conversation, “hey,” “hello,” and “hi” are common ways to greet the other person. However, the tone of these three greetings can come across as contrary to what the sender really meant. The word “hello” is a more formal way to begin a texting conversation. This word tells the reader that the conversation will be professional. The text greeting “hey” is a casual way to start a conversation.  “Hi” is used as a friendly greeting to initiate a conversation.

Popular Acronyms

“LOL,” “BRB,” and “TTYL” are popular acronyms that texters use to make conversations shorter. Recently, many more acronyms have become popular among teenagers, including  “BAE” (before anyone else), “HMU” (hit me up), and “SMH” (shaking my head).

The acronym “BAE” has may be heard throughout the halls of McNick.  This acronym is often used as a playful nickname for a friend. Sophomore Hannah Brune uses acronyms to be funny and to keep the conversation short.

“My favorite acronym is ‘BAE’ because I call all my friends that to show that I’m close with them,” sophomore Hannah Brune said. “I also think it is fun and cute to call people ‘BAE’.”

Sensing emotion

When misread, simple text messages can come off as indifferent, or sound cold. Or vice-versa, the recipient might be oblivious to an emotion that was conveyed.

Punctuation is key to expressing emotion. Exclamation points can show excitement, while periods can advocate seriousness. If the sender uses one word responses, it could come across negatively to a reader. The recipient may take a one-word response harshly or believe that the conversation isn’t important to the reader.

Senior Cameron Engel avoids using one-word responses because they can come across as harsh and make the conversation boring.

“I always make sure to avoid using one word responses so the conversation doesn’t die,” Engel said. “I also use a lot of punctuation and adjectives to show what emotion I am showing in my text.”



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