Beyond Email: Text Messages

Lesson 5: Text Messages



illustration of a text message conversation

You've probably heard people talk about text messaging, or texting. Text messages are short messages (usually 160 characters or fewer) sent from one mobile phone to another. It's similar to instant messaging, except that you won't need to log in—you'll just send messages directly from your phone.

Typically, texting is not free, although your mobile carrier probably offers service packages that include a certain number of texts per month (or even unlimited texts). If you don't have a texting plan, you'll generally be charged whenever you send or receive a text message.

Text messaging is also known as SMS, which stands for Short Message Service.

Why text?

Many people ask the same question: "Why would I send a text message when I could just call the person?" One of the main reasons is that it's faster, at least for short messages. It can easily take several minutes to "send" your message with a phone call. With a text message, the same message could be sent with a text in just a few seconds.

There are also times when it's not really possible to call someone, like if you're at a meeting, or in class, or any other place where you're not able to talk easily. Texting is often the best alternative in these situations.

Do note that typing on a mobile phone tends to be slower than typing on a computer. To speed things up, people often use abbreviations and acronyms. If you're not familiar with these abbreviations, it can be difficult to understand some text messages. To see some of the most common acronyms, check out the Top 50 Popular Text & Chat Acronyms.

Texting without a mobile phone

Text messages are designed to be sent from one mobile phone to another. However, there are some websites, such as, which allow you to send a text message from a computer to a mobile phone.

This can be especially helpful if you don't use texting on your phone but need to contact someone who does.

Pros and cons of text messaging

Will text messages work for your needs? Review some of the pros and cons to help decide:


  • Texts can be sent and received with almost any mobile phone—not just smartphones.
  • They are great for quick messages, especially if you are away from a computer.
  • People you text will see your message either immediately or the next time they look at their phones.
  • It's possible to send text messages from a computer to a mobile phone.


  • Text messages generally cost money, unless they are included in your mobile phone plan. Also, recipients may also be charged when they read the message.
  • The 160-character limit makes text messages unsuitable for longer messages.
  • Unless your mobile phone has a full keyboard, it may take a long time to type your message.

If you are interested in learning how to send and receive text messages, we have tutorials on the following: