I don’t have to tell you this because you’ve seen it in every news story, on every TV channel and at every dinner table you’ve come into contact with over the last few years: everyone’s obsessed with their smartphones. They’ve changed how we communicate, and we’re drifting more and more towards texting, “pinging,” “slacking,” or “g-chatting” our colleagues.
While we learned how to write a letter in grade school, then learned to write an email through immense practice (and a bit of rickrolling), how do we write a text that’s OK for work? Or, more like, how should we not write a text? If you’re doing any of the following, you’re not following the golden rules of the professional text message — and it could be hurting your rep.
1. Not asking permission
Before texting someone’s cellphone, you should ask for their go-ahead — especially if it’s a personal number. Your first text should reaffirm that you’ve asked (e.g.: “Hi Sarah, here’s that text I promised” or “Hi Mark, I wanted to follow up on our conversation today, is this number still fine?”).
2. Expecting an immediate response
While you might treat texting like an instant messenger, not everyone responds to text messages in the same way. If you need an immediate response, try to give the person a call or try sending an email with “URGENT” in the subject line. As a precaution, don’t wait to ask someone something over text (or really over any communication channel) right before a deadline. If you think you’re going to need to follow up with someone multiple times, consider moving the conversation to email.
3. Using too many emojis
While emojis are super fun, using too many in a work conversation — especially with someone you aren’t close with in the office — can affect how they view you as a professional. To cut down on the risk you’re viewed in a not-so-professional light, cut down on your use of smiley faces.
4. Allowing excessive grammar and spelling mistakes
While text messaging is definitely casual compared to, say, a white paper, professional text messaging conversations aren’t the place for lazy spelling and grammar. Text messages that contain a bunch of mistakes point to a lack of clear communication skills and attention to detail on your part, no matter how harmless. Be sure to double check your messages before you send, and send an asterisked clarification if a mistake slips by your proofread.
5. Sending messages at inappropriate hours
Because text messaging conversations are often viewed as more intimate than an email chain, try to text during normal working hours (a good place to start: 8 AM to 7 PM). If you need to send a message before or after office hours, clarify at the beginning of the message why you’re sending the message then instead of in the morning.
6. Sending long blocks of text
The wonderful thing about text messaging? It’s brief. If you need to send a message that is more than a few sentences, email is probably the best route. No one wants to scroll through a wall of text and try to comprehend what it’s saying — and texting a response to so much content is even more annoying!
7. Sending sensitive information
Professional text messaging is all about boundaries. As a result, sending sensitive information is a no-go — whether you’re talking about confidential information about the business or sensitive information about yourself. Information like an employee’s salary, a client’s contract price, or other potentially confidential tidbits shouldn’t be sent over text. In a similar vein, personal information about yourself should not be shared in professional text messaging conversations. You never know who may be reading notifications — or who may be receiving screenshots.