When it comes to communication, texting is about as casual as it gets.
In some situations, it’s also one of the most convenient and efficient ways to correspond — which is why it’s becoming a more acceptable and common means of communication at work.
But when you’re texting colleagues, bosses, employees, or clients, it’s imperative that you always abide by a specific set of professional etiquette rules, says career coach Barbara Pachter in her book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette.”
Here are seven of them:
1. Be careful with abbreviations.
Texting is meant to be a fast form of communication, so we tend to use abbreviations and shortcuts such as “np” (no problem) or “u” (you). But there is such a thing as an inappropriate abbreviation.
“Using shortcuts has become more common in the business world, but make sure it’s appropriate for ‘u’ to be that informal,” says Pachter.
If you choose to include them in your texts, she suggests only using shortcuts that are widely known — ones that the receiver would understand the meaning of. And with acronyms or abbreviations that are unprofessional — like, “WTF,” for example — a good rule of thumb is to only type what you would be comfortable saying out loud.
Ultimately, the safest route is to type out the entire word or phrase.
2. Be aware of your tone.
When you’re writing short and fast, you’re not thinking about your tone and “your text may sound harsher than you intend,” Pachter says.
Try to write in complete sentences to prevent sounding abrupt, and always read your message out loud to make sure it doesn’t sound too harsh.
“Avoid negative words such as ‘failure,’ ‘wrong,’ or ‘neglected,'” Pachter writes. “Use ‘please’ and ‘thank you.'”
3. Never send bad news via text.
“Don’t give negative feedback or quit your job in a text,” Pachter writes. “In both cases, speak to the person concerned. Even if you are leaving a company, you don’t want to burn your bridges — you may need a reference in the future.”
The bottom line is that texting is too casual a medium to give bad news. It’s difficult to know what tone you’re giving off in a text message, so Pachter says it’s safer to stick to only good news when sending texts to people in your professional network.
4. Don’t change meeting times or venues in a text.
“The potential attendees may not check their phones in time,” she writes. “Older workers may not look at their phones as often as their younger counterparts.”
If you’re going to change a meeting time or venue at the last minute, give the person a call out of respect.
5. Always double check when using the voice-to-text feature.
“Smartphones allow you to speak your message, which the phone then converts to text,” says Pachter. “But a lot can be lost in the translation. Make sure that what you said is what is showing as text, before you hit the send button.”
You have no idea what voices your phone may be picking up. It could be a conversation nearby or even lyrics from a song on the radio. It might be a bit confusing for your professional contact to get messages from you that read like the latest Beyonce single.
6. Don’t text under the table during a meeting or presentation.
This is just rude, Pachter says. “It is distracting to the speaker as well as to the other people in the room.” People think that since the phone is under the table, it’s not visible. “But your body language of looking down and the movement of the fingers are very revealing,” she says. “Put your phone away. If you don’t want people to text when you speak, don’t text when they do.”
7. Watch out for autocorrections.
We live in a world of multitasking. But it’s important to focus when you’re sending a text to a business colleague. “It is easy to make mistakes. Also, autocorrect changes are not always correct,” Pachter says. “I thought I had responded to a vendor ‘NP’ (‘no problem’) when she told me she was running late, but my phone autocorrected and the vendor received a text that said ‘NO.'”
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