Tone in Text Messages

Inserting "Voice" Tone into Text Messages

Texting apps are great, but all too often our messages lack tone. There are many stories highlighting the dangers of texting without tone. Below is a list of tone indicators designed to help you to add the right voice tone to your messages.
ways to insert tone into texts
Texting Is "Fire and Forget"
Texting is "fire and forget," and this is its greatest benefit. In other words, you can send a message even if the recipient is not able to receive it immediately, and you can be pretty sure it will be read.
So, What's the Problem?
There is a real danger with texting: no tone is conveyed with the message. In speech, the tone of a person's voice can be negative, positive, neutral, serious, sarcastic, joking, friendly, threatening, teasing, sexually suggestive, etc., etc.

Tone is vital in understanding the true meaning and sentiment of a message. As a consequence, it is easy for text messages to be misinterpreted.
What's the Solution?
A tone indicator is inserted in a message (usually at the end) as an indication of the sender's sentiment. They are especially useful when the sentiment of the message could be ambiguous (e.g., informative, aggressive, forthright, friendly).

Compare these two examples in a business text:
A Business Message with Tone Indicators

Can you pay the invoice by tomorrow?


I'm far too busy for that. ; )

LOL. Thanks

A Business Message without Tone Indicators

Can you pay the invoice by tomorrow?


I'm far too busy for that.

Tomorrow is past your deadline.


Compare these two examples in a family text:

A Family Message with Tone Indicators

Did you remember to buy some eggs? XO


Yes xx

A Family Message without Tone Indicators

Did you remember to buy some eggs?


I'm not stupid!

What Do Tone Indicators Look Like?
Tone indicators traditionally take the form of individual letters or bigrams, such as, X (a kiss), XO (hugs and kisses), and :) (a smile). Others take the form of a forward slash followed by an abbreviation, such as, /nsrs (not serious), /nsx (not sexual), /m (metaphorically).

These tone indicators have largely been supplanted by icons (i.e., emojis and emoticons), as well as by abbreviations such as LOL (Laughing Out Loud) and OJ (Only Joking).
Who Uses Tone Indicators?
Anyone can use tone indicators, but they are more common in informal messaging and are often essential when communicating with neurodivergent people.

Omitting tone indicators completely is often taken as a sign of negativity. (According to our survey, this is particularly true with females.)

List of Tone Indicators

Here's a complete list of tone indicators that consist of an abbreviation preceded by a forward-slash. If we've missed one or got the meaning wrong, please drop us a line and we will update the list.
Tone IndicatorMeaning
/GENGenuine Question
/IJI'm Joking, Inside Joke
/LHLight Hearted
/LULittle Upset
/NBHNobody Here
/NCNegative Connotation
/NEGNegative Connotation
/NMNot Mad
/NSRSNot Serious
/NSXNon-Sexual Intent
/NXNon-Sexual Intent
/PCPositive Connotation
/POSPositive Connotation
/RHRhetorical Question
/RTRhetorical Question
/SRSSerious, Seriously
/SXSexual Intent
/XSexual Intent

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