You read over a multi-paragraph text. Without much to say in return, you send back a simple “lol,” “K,” or “yeah.” Next thing you know, your conversational partner has assumed that something’s wrong — maybe you’re not feeling well, maybe you’re being passive-aggressive, maybe they’ve said something to make you mad. This is the fate of the “dry texter.”
If that sounds like you, read on. We’ve got 36 ways you can avoid dry texting, and have livelier, more equitable conversations:
What is dry texting?
Dry texting is a pattern of responding to texts with short — sometimes one-word — replies. It’s more than just an occasional “K” here and there, it’s a consistent practice.
This’s generally viewed as a problem for a few reasons. For one, it’s hard to convey tone over text as it is. The fewer words you give your conversational partner to work with, the less able they are to read your subtext. Secondly, in spoken conversations, one-word replies are typically used to convey emotions like annoyance. Last, and perhaps most important, dry texting makes your conversational partner carry all of the weight of the conversation. Dry texts can end up signaling to your partner that you don’t care enough to put more effort into conversing with them.
What makes someone a dry texter?
As mentioned above, dry texting is deeper than an occasional short reply. It’s a pattern of conversational behavior. You might be a dry texter if:
- The majority of your replies are just a few words.
- You take a long time to reply.
- You don’t ask questions.
- You don’t express much enthusiasm in your typed conversations.
- You don’t like putting effort into conversations (until and unless you know they’ll be worth your time).
- You worry a lot about your words being misinterpreted, and so avoid saying more than necessary.
To some people, dry texting is a kind of self-care. They save their energy for in-person conversations, and don’t feel that texting is a good medium for lengthier discussions. However, according to a survey performed by OpenMarket, a whopping 75% of millennial respondents would rather text than call someone. Asynchronous communication is more popular than ever, so it’s worth learning good conversational skills that you can apply to text messages.
36 Ways to not be a dry texter:
1. Examine your reasons for dry texting.
Has this been a pattern in all of your text communications, or is it something that’s only started recently? If it’s recent, do you know what caused it?
Sometimes, dry texting is a defense mechanism. We may resort to it to shut down a conversation with someone we don’t want to talk to, or avoid a sensitive subject. Be honest with yourself here: Is this a long-term pattern for you, or is there something you’re not admitting to yourself?
If you’re using dry texting as a defense, you might not need a guide like this. You may be better served being honest with the other person about your discomfort with having a more involved conversation.
2. Avoid one-letter replies.
It’s a small thing, but typing out “Okay,” or “Why” is still better than “K” or “y.” At the very least, it shows the person you’re responding to that you’re willing to extend some effort for the sake of clarity. While it’s better to avoid one-word replies, this can be a starting point for dyed-in-the-wool dry texters.
3. Avoid one-word replies.
The next step is graduating from one-word replies. This is actually easier than it sounds and will go a long way to preventing miscommunication.
Sure, “Okay” is a complete sentence, but it also doesn’t express very much. “Okay, that’s fine,” or “Okay, I’d like that,” tell your conversational partner a lot more. Even though they both say “Okay,” their tone is completely different.
Before you type and send that one-word reply, think of what that word really represents. Are you really just feeling an “Okay,” or do you have more that you can express?
4. Initiate conversations.
Dry texting tends to make it seem like you’re not interested in talking to your conversational partner. You can avoid this by starting the conversation yourself — after all, you wouldn’t initiate a talk you didn’t want to have, right?
Shoot them a quick hello and ask how their day’s going. You don’t have to write a Tolkien-level text here; it’s the thought that counts. Once you become more comfortable with opening the conversation, you can start expanding on that skill.
5. Remember: A picture is worth a thousand words.
If you struggle with expressing yourself, have you considered using a gif or a meme now and then? It’s more engaging than a one-word reply, gives your partner more to go on, and your choice of image can spark a conversation on its own.
Even a one-word reply with a gif attached can have a completely different meaning. Images can convey sarcasm, humor, disappointment, and all kinds of emotions that don’t come across very well through text alone.
6. Send open-ended questions.
An open-ended question is one that can’t be answered with a simple “Yes” or “No.” Open-ended questions show interest in what your partner has to say. For best results, ask them something you already have an opinion on — this can create a natural back-and-forth that dry texting lacks.
Ask your conversational partner for their opinion on something. Request recommendations. You can even ask them silly things, like what they’d spend a million dollars on, or what they’d do if they were turned into a worm.
7. Avoid the generic.
Not all open-ended questions are created equal. For one, “How are you?” is very generic, and generic questions can often be answered with one-word replies. Instead, try something like, “I know you had a doctor’s appointment today. How’re you feeling now?” or “Seemed like you had trouble sleeping last night. How’s your day going?”
This shows your partner that you remember and care about them. It also gives the conversation a more solid jumping-off point.
8. Use punctuation… within reason.
Worried about how your words will come across? Consider the difference between these replies:
Which one seems more engaged and interested? A little punctuation can go a long way when it comes to helping people understand your tone and intentions. You don’t have to stress over whether your grammar is perfect, just let punctuation color your replies.
Be warned, however, that going too hard on exclamation points can easily cross the line from “I am excited!” to “Your skin will make a fine raincoat!!!”
9. Don’t make your partner wait.
There’re few things more frustrating than texting with someone and waiting hours just to get a one-word reply in return. If you have to make someone wait (for example, you’re at work, in the emergency room after a terrible archery accident, or have recently been abducted by a troupe of Loveland frogmen), then say a quick “Sorry this took so long.” Doing that shows that you value your conversational partner’s time and attention.
Otherwise, avoid overly long pauses between texts whenever you can. A few minutes is okay, but more than a few hours can start to seem rude.
10. Make a note of things that remind you of your conversation throughout the day.
Conversations don’t just begin and end when you pick up the phone. If you see a cute dog, ask to snap a pic and then send it to your partner. If something reminds you of what you talked about the other day, mention it.
These things show that your talks (and your partner) are important and memorable to you. They also give you a way to fill in lulls in the conversation.
11. When in doubt, try a dad joke.
Memes, gifs, and dad humor are the saviors of many a dry texter. If you legitimately don’t know what else to say, try sending a corny joke. (The cornier, the better — most dad jokes are firmly in “so bad it’s good” territory.)
Remember, dad jokes are powerful and need to be deployed judiciously. They’re great for lightening the mood when your conversational partner is dealing with stress from work. They’re not great for trying to lighten the mood if your partner is, for example, at a funeral.
12. Switch things up.
Once you’ve mastered the art of initiating conversations, it’s time to practice switching things up. If you habitually start each convo the same way, try varying your greetings. Instead of saying “Hi!” every time, sprinkle in a “Hey!” or “Good morning!” now and then.
Conversations should be dynamic, and dynamic communication isn’t the same every time. Avoid sounding like an NPC from a roleplaying game by changing your greeting now and then. It’s small, but it has an impact and shows that you put thought into your texts.
13. Toss in an emoji or two.
Like gifs, memes, and the occasional dad joke, emojis can help spice up a conversation. As images, they’re also a concise way to help add subtext and nuance to a plain sentence. To wit:
- I almost got into the wrong car
- I almost got into the wrong car 😳
- I almost got into the wrong car 😂
Even though they technically say the same thing, their meanings are very different.
Since text doesn’t let you show facial expressions or tone of voice, emojis can help fill in those blanks. Just make absolutely sure that you’re sending the right ones — nobody wants to be the guy who 😂 when he meant to 😢.
14. Practice a give and take.
Dry texting isn’t much fun for your conversational partner because it forces them to keep the conversation alive pretty much single-handedly. However, that doesn’t mean that not being a dry texter means you have to carry all that weight instead.
Practice an even give and take. Sometimes, you can be the one to ask questions. Sometimes, you can be the one to tell stories.
Your texts should flow like a natural, in-person conversation would. You wouldn’t want to talk to someone who barely responds, but you wouldn’t want to talk to someone who doesn’t let you get a word in edgewise, either.
15. Know when to hold ’em.
Dry texting keeps your emotions hidden and makes your partner do a lot of guesswork. While this isn’t great, the opposite isn’t either. You want to reserve a little mystery — something to keep your conversational partner coming back for more.
In your desire to avoid dry texting, don’t give everything away. Like the thousand tales of Scheherazade, keep some stories for next time. If your conversational partner gets a new and interesting look into you with every convo, they’ll be psyched to talk to you.
16. Have an eye for detail.
Notice the little things your partner says. Remember the minor stuff, like their favorite color, pizza toppings, Ninja Turtle, or type of screwdriver. If you notice these things in the wild, mention them to your partner.
Remembering this stuff doesn’t take a lot of time or energy, but it shows them that you pay attention and are invested in your conversations.
17. Know the limits.
There are some things that aren’t great topics for polite conversation, like money, religion, and politics. That’s because people are passionate about them, and they can be very divisive. If the internet has taught me anything, I’d also add CrossFit, diets, and cryptocurrency to that list.
Discussing heavy topics like these is definitely something you eventually want to do in your relationship, but it’s best reserved for an in-person conversation. Get to know your conversational partner first, before you hit them with the big questions. It’ll make it easier to have a productive talk, instead of an argument that goes nowhere.
18. Don’t assume your partner isn’t interested.
It’s easy to fall into the pattern of assuming that your partner doesn’t really care about the minutia of whatever you’re doing. Unfortunately, that’s also a self-fulfilling prophecy. Assume they’re interested, and it makes it easier to make your stories interesting.
For example: “My neighbor’s dog is being loud,” versus “My neighbor’s dog is being loud. I think it’s a husky — they kind of make a yodeling noise instead of bark, it’s super weird!” Which of these invites more questions and conversation?
19. Avoid conversation killers.
If your partner asks you a question, how you phrase your reply can make or break the rest of your texts. Some replies are “conversation killers,” meaning that they limit the kind of responses that your partner can give.
For example, say your partner asks, “Why don’t you like flying?” There are a few ways that you can reply to this.
“I’m afraid of heights” is a conversation killer. There’s not much the other person can say in response. It doesn’t really invite further discussion and may tell the other person that you don’t really want to talk about it.
“Once, when I was little, I fell out of a treehouse and broke my leg. Ever since, I’ve had a thing about heights. How about you?” This invites more conversation. The other person can ask more questions, or open up about their experiences in response.
20. Throw in some wordplay.
A close relative of the dad joke, the humble pun is a great way to add a little humor to a conversation. If you see a chance at some wordplay, don’t let it slip by!
For example: “I made the best breakfast today — waffles, scrambled eggs, and fresh-squeezed juice.” “Oh man, I wish I had that. You’re bacon my heart over here!”
Or, “I had some fruit salad, but I picked out all of the cantaloupe.” “If you were in a fruit salad, you’d be a fine-apple 😉”
Are they cheesy? Absolutely, but they’re a gouda way to get the other person to smile. They might even respond with some of their own puns, to show that they wheely like you.
21. Give yourself some breathing room.
If your first inclination is to send a one-word reply, take a brief pause. You don’t want to make the other person wait a long time, but you don’t want to dash off a reply without any thought, either.
Give yourself a minute to think of something to say. It’s okay to invest more energy in the conversation. Putting a little extra thought into your replies will show, and your conversational partner will notice.
22. Don’t overthink things.
This probably sounds contradictory now, but follow me here. Sometimes, your gut reply is the most honest (or even just the funniest). The big thing here is that you don’t want to send a curt, one-word response that doesn’t invite further replies from the other party.
If your gut feeling gives you something that’s authentic, stimulating, or even just silly to send, go ahead. If your first response is short and dry, take a minute to think it over first. The big thing here is context — know when to go with your gut, and when you should give things a little extra thought.
23. Give conversations a natural end.
There are few things as awkward as being in a conversation that just kind of peters out. Nobody knows how to reply, but there’s no real ending to give it closure. It just kind of falls flat.
Dry texting, unfortunately, tends to kill the conversation. If you’re not up to engaging with someone, don’t leave them hanging. A quick, “It’s nice talking to you, I’ve gotta go for a bit, though. Bye!” can work wonders.
Ending conversations also creates the opportunity to start fresh at another time. Saying goodbye opens you up to saying hello the next day, in a way that letting things die out does not.
24. Read your partner’s texts out loud.
If you’re really struggling with dry texting, turn it into a verbal conversation. Read the texts the other person sends you out loud, and imagine that you’re speaking to them face-to-face. Maybe read them a few times, with different tones and inflections.
What would you say in response? Would it really be a flat “Okay?” Imagine how you’d reply in person, and text them that instead. It’ll lead to a much more natural conversation.
25. Then, read your replies before you send them.
It’s always a good idea to proofread before sending a text, but avoiding a dry text is about more than just spelling and grammar. A quick once-over can be the difference between a conversation killer, and an intriguing, enticing reply.
Read your text to yourself, out loud. If someone said this to you in a spoken conversation, how would you feel? What kind of reply would you give?
If it doesn’t seem like your response leaves much for the other person to go on, try rephrasing it. Maybe add a follow-up question, a brief story, or something it reminds you of in order to give your reply some more substance.
26. Mark every communication with your personality.
A simple reply like “hi,” “okay,” or “yeah” doesn’t say much about you. Even though texting is somewhat limiting as a medium, you have the power to stamp your personality on the way you communicate. Don’t be afraid to let the “real you” show through your texts.
Are you passionate about cryptids? Zydeco? Raising exotic pill bugs? Don’t worry about being judged. Let your conversational freak flag fly.
27. Be authentic.
Nobody has a good day every day. Don’t feel like you need to be perfectly upbeat in every conversation you have. If you’re having a tough time, talk about it.
Mentioning why you’re stressed or otherwise unhappy shows trust and vulnerability to your partner. It also opens up an opportunity for them to try to cheer you up. This isn’t to say that you should use them as an emotional dumping ground, but you can be honest with them.
If you’re a dry texter, your conversational partner is likely to assume that your problem lies with them. Open up about the real source of your mood instead. You might find that they can help you with it.
28. Cultivate some mystery.
Dry texting can make it seem like there isn’t much beneath the surface. Combat this by cultivating some mystery.
For example, someone asks you what you’re doing this weekend. Even if you’re just planning on organizing your sock drawer, what sounds more interesting?
- “Top secret plans. I could put them off if you had something else in mind, however 😉”
If you said the second one, you’re right. It invites the other party to be curious, ask questions, and make plans with you in the future.
29. Be flirtatious.
Even if your ultimate goal is a date, flirtation is better treated as a conversational spice rather than the main course. Too much flirtation comes across as pushy or desperate. A little bit here and there, however, is great for getting your partner’s interest.
Remember, the active word here is “flirtation.” Subtly hint that you should get together some time. Make a flirtatious joke now and then.
Avoid being too aggressive or explicit. In most cases, that’ll kill the conversation quickly. If the other person doesn’t seem into the flirtation, don’t press the issue.
30. Read more.
(And no, I don’t mean text messages.)
The best and most common advice given to newbie writers is to read more books. Texting is written communication. If you want to get better at it, read more!
Look at dialogue in stories, and see how it flows, grows, and ends. Reading can expand your vocabulary, making for more nuanced and interesting conversations. If all else fails, you can at least talk about the book you’re currently into.
31. Text with purpose.
Before you send that first greeting, have a goal for your conversation. Do you just want to see how they’re doing? Did you see something that you wanted to show or tell them about?
Establish your goal, and you won’t be aimlessly texting. Aimless texting makes it easier to fall into the trap of one-word replies and lackluster conversation. If you know what you want from the beginning, it gives the discussion a natural flow.
32. Match your partner’s energy.
If you really want to stop being a dry texter, it’s easy to err too far in the other direction. You don’t want to wait days between replies, but you don’t have to jump to reply the second a message hits your inbox, either. Match your partner’s energy.
If they take a few minutes to reply, you can do the same. If they’re using text speak, so can you. Try to pick up on the conversational vibe and let that guide your communication.
33. Remember, for a lot of people, texting is conversation.
Remember that study from the beginning of this article? Over three-quarters of millennials would rather converse over text. In the past, texting was just a way to send a quick message now and then, but this is no longer the case.
If you wouldn’t give a one-word reply in a spoken conversation, you shouldn’t over text, either. Even if you don’t consider text messaging the same as a real face-to-face talk, many other people feel the opposite.
34. Have fun!
Dry texts make it look like the texter isn’t enjoying the conversation. Sometimes, that might actually be the case. If so, change it!
If a conversation isn’t fun for you, it’ll be harder to be enthusiastic about it. If the topic doesn’t interest you, guide the convo somewhere else or break the tension with a meme or joke. Make it fun for everyone involved.
35. Work on your confidence.
All of the advice, to be honest, joke around, and be authentic won’t help you if you’re lacking in confidence. Some dry texters give limited replies because they’re afraid of how they’ll come across.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to relax. It’s almost guaranteed that nobody is analyzing your texts as deeply as you are, so don’t be afraid to let your true self show. The worst thing that can happen is that someone misinterprets what you say, and, if they genuinely care about you, they’ll give you the chance to explain yourself.
If this is symptomatic of deeper social anxiety, you might want to talk to a professional. Social anxiety is common, nothing to be ashamed of, and can improve with the right help.
36. Above all: Give your partner something to work with.
Really, all of these tips can be boiled down to practicing empathy. Put yourself in your text partner’s shoes:
- How would you feel if someone only sent you one-word replies?
- What would you do?
- Would you want to keep talking to them?
- What kind of replies would keep you engaged in the conversation?
If you really just prefer phone calls or in-person conversations, express that! If someone asks you an open-ended question, a reply like, “Oh man, I have way too many thoughts on this to put into text. Can we talk?” is the opposite of dry texting.
For some people, dry texting is their natural way of communicating. For the people they’re texting, unfortunately, it can make it hard to hold a conversation. If dry texting is a problem for you, and you want to learn how to be a better conversationalist, these tips can help you add more substance, personality, and life to your texts. You’ll have deeper, more engaging talks, and a much easier time holding the other party’s interest.