Most of us communicate by text a lot these days. Research shows that texting is preferred over calling and email by a vast majority of millennials and that most people under age 50 are sending and receiving texts daily.
It’s a communication method that grew quickly in popularity, and only in recent years has become acceptable for business and professional purposes. And because professional life and personal life are different, the rules for texting your boss, colleagues, and business contacts differ from the rules for texting your friends. You know that, right?
Obviously, you should watch your grammar and proofread. But that stuff people are always spewing about typos being unprofessional is a bit much. Nobody expects (or should expect) perfection in a text. So, I wouldn’t lose my head over that.
Other than that, here are 15 rules for professional texting.
Only text if you know it’s OK
Many people prefer texting as a means of business communication, but others do not. When it comes to your specific workplace, make sure that texting is an acceptable form of communication before using it professionally.
Mind your words
There’s an old statistic stating that the words you use only count for 7% of communication and that the rest is body language and tone of voice. While I doubt that reality is numerically specific, there is still a lot of truth here. When there is no other data to process, the words you use matter a great deal. There is no tone in texting. This is why jokes fall flat, irony gets lost, and people might think you’re yelling at them when you go all caps. Make sure your meaning is clear in the words you use, and don’t assume anyone is going to read between the lines. It’s safer to underestimate people’s ability to catch your drift than to overestimate it.
Double-check your autocucumber
My phone has corrected “just a sec” to “just a sex,” “public” to “pubic” and “hahahahaha” to “Yay ayahuasca” — all in professional texts (or emails. Note that it also applies when sending emails on your phone). And you can find many far worse examples of how bad this can go if you search online. I have since learned my lesson and am very careful about reading everything carefully before sending it.
Use emojis with caution
The odd smiley face isn’t going to hurt anyone. But know your audience before sending poop emojis etc.
Keep it within reasonable hours
It’s not reasonable to tell people to only text during “business hours” these days. And what does “business hours” mean, anyway? Many people no longer work 9-5, and lots of us work weekends. What constitutes “reasonable hours” will depend on your workplace. But it might be something like 7 am – 8 pm on weekdays, a 9-5 Saturdays, and no texting on Sundays.
Don’t overdo it
My husband and I text each other all day, sometimes even when we’re in the same room. Everything from big important questions – “OMG, what are we having for dinner!?” – to lame jokes – “Hey. Why did the banana go to the doctor?” – to meeting requests – “Come here a sec?” goes into a text. Don’t do this to your coworkers. Text sparingly. Make sure to think about everything you need to say before sending, so you don’t have to send six follow-up texts.
Don’t text bad news
If you’re quitting, this is not something you should communicate by text. You might be nervous about it, but have the courage to communicate this information in person, or at the very least over the phone. Similarly, don’t share the news that the office burned down or that someone has died over text.
Know when you use other communication channels
If your text is long and rambling and/or might lead to questions, consider using email or making an actual call instead. The same goes if you’re asking a question that requires a long, detailed answer. While some people could probably write novels on their phones, others (like me) have a hard time with the teeny keyboard and hate typing long messages.
Limit ur abbreviations. Srsly
That little keyboard is also the reason people have turned to using so many abbreviations. Be careful with these. They can look sloppy and juvenile. While it’s probably OK to trot out the odd LOL, or IDK, just keep it to a minimum. And avoid the WTFs and the LMFAOs.
Don’t let a professional text linger without a response for hours or days. If someone is texting you, it’s probably because email is too slow. Be courteous by replying quickly, as you probably expect the same when you are texting someone.
Double-check the recipient
Many of us have sent texts to the wrong person. At least there will be nothing embarrassing here if you’re keeping it professional. But it’s still good to make sure.
Don’t text confidential information
See above. You might send it to the wrong person. Also, you just never know what can happen. Don’t text anything confidential.
Sign your name
How many times have you gotten a text from someone and had no idea who sent it? Don’t make people guess or ask. Even if you think they know who you are, sign your name just in case.
Err on the side of formality
When in doubt, just keep it formal. Don’t make jokes, comments, or statements that could be misconstrued or deemed disrespectful or irreverent. Better to come across as square than rude.
Don’t text during meetings
This should go without saying, but put the phone away during meetings.