Communicating by text is great, until it’s not. Here’s what to watch out for.
Just as email became the new business letter, texting has in large part replaced the business phone call. In fact, you may wonder how you survived the day without it — texting is non-disruptive, and there is always a record of your message.
But beware. Texting’s informal “feel” can often get us in trouble. This is especially true when we’re communicating with superiors or with people older than we are. Worse, unlike a spoken faux pas, texts can be read and reread, and even copied and broadcasted to others.
Key here is to remember that text messages, quick and easy as they may be, still qualify as work communication. They should therefore be composed and sent with the same care you’d take with an honest-to-goodness letter typed on white linen stock, signed with a fountain pen, slipped into an envelope and mailed through the post. Here are some guidelines:
Keep abbreviations to a minimum. When texting got started, you only had 140 characters to work with, so it made sense to abbreviate. But that was then. This is now. These days you have the luxury of spelling out your meaning, in addition to help with commonly misspelled words such as “accommodation,” “separate” and “consensus.”
However, as you no doubt know, autocorrect is not always your friend. So please do absolutely, positively reread every text before hitting “send.” Maybe twice. Autocorrect bloopers are fun when they’re Facebook memes. When you’ve just told your manager “I look forward to sleeping with you,” they are far less humorous.
Think about your tone. Because text messages are so brief, they can come across as terse, rude or even angry. So do take the time to say please and thank you. Always write your text in complete sentences, using proper capitalization and punctuation. And, no, sprinkling around emojis won’t help. Trust me. That older colleague you’re communicating with can barely see, much less interpret, the nuance of a frownie face wearing a monocle.
Finally, do consider if a text is the best way to say what you have to say. If you’re finding you have to send multiple messages to cover your topic, or you’re getting a lot of questions in return, then perhaps you might need to actually make a call.