Combine the convenience of a cell-phone call with the privacy of an email, and there you have the latest, greatest way to keep in touch with someone you like: texting. These days, nearly everyone’s exchanging mini-missives with his or her amour. That said, there’s a right way and a wrong way to get your message through — and while texting has cultivated many a relationship, an equal number have foundered because the texters didn’t adhere to a few simple rules. Follow these helpful tips, however, and they’ll turn you into a texting expert in no time, not to mention aid in cultivating some warm-and-fuzzy feelings between you and your intended.

Do text on noteworthy occasions
Texts are a great way to let the object of your affections know that he or she is on your mind — especially when a response isn’t really required. “One text-worthy occasion is the morning after a great date,” says Regina Lynn, author of The Sexual Revolution 2.0. “A text saying, ‘I had a great time last night’ or ‘Thinking of you’ is less intrusive than a phone call but very sweet.” Other prime texting times would be if your date has mentioned an important upcoming meeting or event. Sending a quick “Good luck at your meeting; you’ll do great!” beforehand or a “Hope your interview went well — looking forward to hearing about it” afterward are the equivalent of little love darts into your honey’s heart. Keep ’em coming!
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Don’t text when a phone call would be better
Though it can get addictive, having endless and lengthy text conversations in place of voice-to-voice action is a bad idea. Why? It’s all about making that human connection. “Texting is OK for simple exchanges of information — meet me here, see you there — but I want to hear my girl say hi,” notes Adam Dreyfus, 37, of New Canaan, CT. “I was dating a woman who texted me all the time, but it wasn’t the same as being at work, stressed out and behind schedule, then hearing the phone ring and hearing her voice. Just a simple ‘hi’ can make everything right in the universe.” So if it’s been a number of days since you’ve spoken to each other, consider picking up the phone to remind your sweetie what you sound like. Also keep in mind that texting can often be more cumbersome and time-consuming than a phone call, so before you compose your text, ask yourself: Would a phone allow us to hash out our plans more quickly? If so, save yourself (and your date) the trouble and use the phone.

Do flirt with caution
Nothing can break up a mundane work day better than a few texted sweet nothings… but if you’re thinking of steaming things up, proceed with caution. It’s all too easy to risk offending the recipient with a message that’s a little too titillating, too soon. “You shouldn’t start with dirty words. Some people do not want to see certain words on their phones,” warns Lynn. “I would begin with some general flirting — I want to kiss you, or something similar — and see what the other person says back.” If the recipient responds in kind and even escalates (example: asking questions like, “What else did you like about last night?” are an obvious welcome sign), feel free to up the ante slightly, with racier confessions. In short, before you dig into full-on dirty talk, you should pave the way with numerous texts that make it clear this is the direction you’re going and that the recipient is fine hearing them.

Don’t text at odd hours
Just as you wouldn’t call at all hours of the night, you should not text anyone then, either. “Always be sensitive to what the person is likely to be doing,” says Lynn. “For example, don’t text before 10 a.m. unless you know for sure he or she gets up early and enjoys mornings. Don’t text after 10 p.m. either.” Not only could you wake the person up (cell phones still make sound when they receive a text), even if your date’s cell is turned off, he or she can still see you texted at 3 a.m. — and that makes you look inconsiderate, needy, or just plain weird.

Don’t say anything you wouldn’t say in person
Hiding behind your phone is a surefire way to start a new relationship out on the wrong foot — especially if what you’re trying to avoid saying in person is important. “I once dated this guy who chose to text me about having an infection,” recalls Sharlene Smithers, 32. “I wasn’t as bothered by the revelation so much as I was bothered that he texted me about it. It felt like a cowardly way out, and it left me wondering what else he was incapable of communicating to me.” It’s best to save texting for fun and flirty notes or where-to-meet-what-time plans. Save heavy conversations and those first “I love you’s” for face-to-face chats.

Carly Milne has written for Maxim, Stuff, and other publications.

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