Ringing in good mobile phone manners

CIOL Bureau
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Jo Bryant 


LONDON, UK:Modern technology may have provided us with mobile phones and the convenience of instant communication, but it's also created a lot more ways to irritate or offend.

Mobile phones are an essential element in our professional and personal lives, but they too come with a code of conduct.

Good mobile phone etiquette takes little effort or thought - it's simply a matter of being aware of your surroundings and of other people.


Manage your Settings

If you're embarrassed by your ring or alert tone in certain situations (on the train, in the office, for example) it's almost certainly the wrong choice. Monitor the volume - ringtones should never be intrusive or cause heads to turn. Switch off your phone, or turn it on to vibrate, when you are going into meetings, theatres, cinemas and so on.

Your mobile phone is not a megaphone, so don't shout. Be aware of your surroundings and try not to use your phone in situations where your conversation may disturb others. Be aware that your voice will distract a peaceful train carriage of newspaper-reading commuters or seem intrusive on a crowded bus. Intimate conversations are never appropriate in front of others. Equally, don't use foul language, have full-blooded rows, or talk about money, sex or bodily functions in front of witnesses. Try and respect your own - and other people's - privacy. There are certain places where it is unacceptable to use your phone: for example, art galleries, churches, libraries, hospitals. Respect the rules.


Two's Company...

People in the flesh deserve more attention than a gadget, so wherever possible turn off your phone in social situations. Don't put your phone on the dining table, or glance at it longingly mid-conversation. If you are awaiting an important call when meeting someone socially, explain at the outset that you will have to take the call, and apologise in advance. At a party or social gathering, excuse yourself and withdraw somewhere private to make or receive calls. And don't send or read text messages when you are out in company, unless it's urgent. Also, don't carry on mobile phone calls while transacting other business - in banks, shops, on buses and so on. It is insulting not to give people who are serving you your full attention.

Priorities and Purpose


Text messages are ideal for conveying a short, instant message. Don't use them to communicate important information or anything that needs a lengthy explanation. If you have to cancel an appointment, always make a phone call rather than send a text; apologies will be better received this way. There's also no need to use confusing, abbreviated text language. Use as much conventional grammar, spelling and punctuation as possible to make yourself clearly understood. The usual salutations and sign offs can be ignored, assuming the recipient knows who you are.

Handwritten thank you letters should never be replaced by a text and never ever finish a relationship by text. Messages of condolence sent by text are the ultimate faux-pas - insensitive, lazy and insulting.

(Jo Bryant is the London-based etiquette advisor for Debrett's, the UK's modern authority on all matters of manners and behaviour. The opinions expressed are her own. Debrett's website is