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The Art of ‘Dry Texting’

Where did all these shitty texters come from? Short, curt texts may look rude — but maybe bad digital conversation is a form of self-care

Reza, a 19-year-old in Iran, knows he’s a shitty texter. But it’s not out of malice. He just doesn’t believe every conversation needs to be verbose. 

If you don’t already know, a dry texter is the type of person who responds to messages with one-word answers — or, worse, single letters. They make life hard for the recipient, having to keep pushing the conversation forward with awkward questions and overcompensating replies. 

Dry texting is universally a sign of passive-aggressiveness. There’s a whole alternative dictionary when it comes to terse replies. Responding “K” after your boss assigns you a task is the only agency you have, while “sure” means “I don’t want to, but it’s rude to say no.”

Some dry texts have multiple meanings. “Lol” could imply “I’m not actually laughing” or “It’s funny you even proposed that idea.” There’s also “No,” which means no; while “No <3” means “Fuck off.” No one wants a one-word response after sending over a paragraph. It’s not just inconsiderate, it’s visually unappealing. 

That’s not how dry texters see their messages, though. Sure, they know they seem curt. But they’re just being direct and time-sensitive. We’re overflowing with content, Netflix shows to binge, emails to read and DMs to ignore. Maybe dry texting isn’t rude. It’s efficient.

“Sometimes you can be a dry texter in comfort cause you don’t want anything outta a conversation,” Reza says.

While DMing with Reza on Twitter, I experienced this firsthand. He dry texted me so coolly and mercilessly it was like he didn’t realize it. I asked him if he’s ever annoyed people for dry texting, and he responded, “Yeah.” Immediately, I was flustered by the short response. But Reza says his intention isn’t to be despondent or rude. He’s just an introvert. “I say hi, and I answer your question. That’s it,” he says. 

Doesn’t it bother him that people label him boring or dry? Reza shrugs. “You simply don’t care.” 

Still, it doesn’t feel good to receive dry texts, particularly from a friend or a lover. What feels worse than spending all day mustering up the courage to ask someone out on a date and getting a response like “sounds good”? At that point, you have every right to take the rest of the day off, cancel the rendezvous and spiral in bed. 

Some TikTokers are now offering advice on how to keep the conversation going with a shitty texter. Most of the tips can be chalked up to asking open-ended questions, but that doesn’t save a dry texter from responding with an “idk.” 

There are two better ways to deal with a crappy texter. First, you can ask them directly why they’re responding so dryly. My therapist tells me direct communication is better than creating scenarios in my head, but that’s no fun. So another option is to beat them at their own passive-aggressive game. Don’t respond, but leave your read receipts on and let them see you’re not putting up with their bullshit. (Unfortunately, of course, this is what my therapist would tell you not to do.) 

So here’s a third option, courtesy of TikTok user @skyemmccullough. If a boy is texting dry and you see no way to get him to open up, use his frankness to your advantage. Ask for his full name, then his 16-digit credit card number, then his expiration date and finally CVV. Go buy yourself a new cute shirt from Everlane because he’s clearly too lazy to get it for you.