Career Tips

SMS Etiquette: Text messaging tips for business!

Posted: 09/09/2015

Following on from our earlier blog post on email etiquette, we now bring you the next instalment of this need to know business information, SMS etiquette!

The requirement for SMS etiquette speaks volumes about how fast the world is changing. What was once a tool for occasional social communication has now firmly worked its way into the business world. But how do we know what’s okay to text at work when there are no ‘traditions’ to follow? Texting is possibly the most casual form of communication, so when used for business, you need to exercise some professional etiquette. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Be aware of your tone of voice

With brevity comes the potential for blatant misinterpretation! Be careful that you don’t sound harsher than intended. Try to write in complete, but succinct sentences. It helps to avoid negative words that can seem overly cruel or blunt, such as “wrong” or “failed”. Golden rule: always read your message before you send to check that it sounds friendly but professional.

Avoid shortcuts

Although ever popular with text messages, some abbreviations just look kind of bad, even amongst friends. (Read: unsophisticated, tacky.)

“R U OK?” Maybe its cool for school, but not for the business world!

Just in case you’ve had your head stuck in the swear word sand, abbreviations that imply profanities (rude or foul language) are not appropriate.

Do not send bad news via text

Bad or unpleasant news such as negative feedback, warnings or resignations should never be delivered via text message. These topics require more personal communication. Why so? Text messaging is an extremely casual and impersonal medium. Bad news delivered so casually, and without the opportunity for appropriate one-on-one interaction is bound to seem much worse to the recipient. And, let’s put it out there, it would just be downright rude to deliver something as personal as “you are no longer employed” via text, wouldn’t it?

Do not change appointment times or important details via text

How do you know for sure that the recipient will read the SMS? Instead, telephone the individual concerned to assure that the message has been received.  This also shows more respect for both the topic at hand and the individual that you are speaking to.

“Check yourself before you wreck yourself – read before you send!”

Be aware of dictation software

Despite dictation software being a brilliant timesaver that’s often used for text messages, it pays to check your message before sending. While dictation software is usually quite accurate, watch out: small misinterpretations can drastically (and hilariously) change the meaning or tone of your message. Again, check yourself before you wreck yourself – read before you send!

Check the AutoCorrect

As with dictation software, AutoCorrect can lead to devastating consequences! Want some examples? Just search popular websites such as Mashable or Huffington Post to see some woefully hilarious mistakes.

Remember common sense etiquette

If you are in a business meeting or presentation, it’s pretty rude to start texting. No matter how discreetly you try to do this, it is considered inappropriate and bad mannered. So, put the phone away, or where you can see the screen only for emergency calls for the duration of the meeting – you’ll feel better for it and those around you won’t be annoyed.

Refrain from texting outside of business hours

It may be okay to text your sister at 10 PM, but not your new business client or your boss. Unlike email, text messages are a more invasive and can imply to some that you want an immediate response. Play it safe. It’s best not to text after hours unless the recipient is expecting you to.

Reply promptly

SMS dos and donts - My Career in Aged CareAs with all business communications, replying promptly is a must. If you receive a business related text, the recipient will be keen to know that you have it. Honour them with the courtesy of a quick reply.

Do not group SMS people

This is similar to the advice on emails – respect people’s privacy and do not group SMS people unless everyone on the list has agreed. Privacy aside, unless there is an absolute imperative for the group text, they can appear lazy – or (yikes!) verging on spam.

Don’t be a communication stalker

There is an old-school chain of thought that it’s professional to follow-up important events by phone, fax and email. But by today’s standards, A: it’s just not necessary; B: it’s too formal and C: you risk the chance of looking like a stalker! Choose the most effective form of communication for the topic and recipient, and go with that. If the matter is urgent or serious, you may want to follow-up with a phone call or email, but you can afford to chill a little here: there is no need to digitally bombard people with (well-meaning) attempts to show your professionalism.

SMS is not a replacement for email

You may be an iPhone wizard, but just because texting is your personal preference, it doesn’t make it a replacement for email – or a phone call. Text messages should be left for short, urgent messages or when the recipient is expecting a text. Where a longer or more personal communication is required, email or telephone the recipient.

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