Tag Archives: voicemail

Do you know the unwritten rules of modern communication?


With the proliferation of communication mechanisms in the last 20 years you will have noticed and conformed to as well broken the unwritten etiquette of modern communication.

For example, if someone communicates to you using a certain form of communication, e.g. Email, then you are expected to respond using the same form of communication or something higher up on the hierarchy.

The communication hierarchy is as follows:

Do people still write letters?!

If you respond with a lower form of communication, e.g. one person calls and leaves a voicemail and the other emails back, then the first person might feel snubbed, but it will depend, of course, on the nature/content of the message.

However, the communication hierarchy has an almost inverse correlation to the unwritten social convention of how quickly you are meant to respond to the various forms of communication without seeming rude.

The following table outlines the amount of time with which you are meant to respond to a general ‘how are you doing?’ contact:

Type of Contact Acceptable Response Time
SMS/Text Message Within 24hrs
Missed Call (with Voicemail) Within 2 days
Missed Call (No Voicemail) Within 6 days
Email Within 5 days
Letter Within a month
IM Message No response actually required

These response times can be considerably reduced depending on who is communicating to you and the nature of the communication, for example, if it is your partner, your boss or your mum!

Normally we instinctively know these rules but we all occasionally get them wrong, or some have different views of what the rules are, and then we end up offending someone.

Some people prefer to use certain forms of communication, e.g. my mate Alex always calls and practically never texts, where another Kim always texts and never calls.

We all know people who are particularly poor at responding to any sort of messages. I have one friend like this, but they do it to everyone so some think this is okay. I don’t. I think not responding to a communication shows lack of consideration and respect.

It doesn’t matter how busy you are everyone can spare the few seconds it takes to email or text a friend ‘Hey, how’s it going? Super busy at the moment but will be in touch in a few weeks’.


We have all been offended by someone else’s poor communication, but do we have a right to be upset with them if the rules are unwritten?