Tone Indicators

By Remington Ross

Have you ever been texting someone and couldn’t understand if the message they sent was serious or meant to be a joke? Well, there’s a solution: tone indicators. Tone indicators are mainly used by neurodivergent people who have difficulty understanding tone, but they’re becoming more widespread by the day. 

First things first, what are tone indicators? Tone indicators are typed after a message by adding a slash (/) and then an abbreviation of the tone you’re using, such as “serious.” When finished, the indicator should look like “/srs”. There are many different tone indicators out there, but the mainstream ones are pretty easy to remember. If you’re wondering if a certain indicator exists, just type “tone indicators” into Google and many examples will pop up. 

Joking = /j

Half-joking = /hj

Sarcastic = /s

Serious = /srs

Lighthearted = /lh

Not mad = /nm

Genuine/Genuine question = /gen

Rhetorical question = /rt

Lyrics = /ly or /lyr

Teasing = /t

platonic= /p

romantic= /r

Surprisingly, tone indicators aren’t a new grammatical form. In a sense, even the question mark can be seen as an indicator of someone’s tone in text media. Early attempts at tone indicators could’ve ended up like the punctuation we all know, such as the reverse question mark to indicate a rhetorical question, but most of these attempts died out quickly.

One of the many reasons this style of communication stuck was because neurodivergent people were able to more easily interpret the tone the other person was using over text media. Of course, neurotypical people (what is considered the “typical” human mental/neurological function) still have miscommunications over text; it’s much more common in neurodivergent people. Further evidence is found in a study done by Albert Mehrabian, which suggests that 93% of indications are from non-verbal cues such as body language and vocal tones. 

Although we can’t show our body language over text media, tone indicators give all of us the ability to express our vocal tones to avoid miscommunication. It may not be necessary to use tone indicators in every message you send, but even using it once for a confusing message is a step in the right direction.