In my short career, I’m seen a noticeable shift from traditional phone calls and emails to text message. I suspect that, going forward, text messages will become more common in professional communication now that instant messaging platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack are becoming widespread.
The difficulty with using text messaging in a professional setting is that text messaging is fundamentally an informal means of communicating. This means that the formal language typical to business writing looks awkward in a text message. Conversely, slang and emoticons aren’t appropriate when messaging business contacts. So how are you supposed to write professional texts in a professional setting?
Here are five tips to follow when writing professional text messages. Keep in mind that these tips apply to writing all sorts of texts, including instant messages like Microsoft Teams, Slack, Basecamp, Facebook Messenger, Skype and whatever other messaging system you use at work.
1. Don’t Shy Away From Texting
We are now at the point where text messaging is generally accepted by the professional world. Refusing to text your contacts can now be considered rude. Text messaging, after all, has its advantages—most notably, it’s high (and quick) response rate.
Text messaging also presents a new and additional way of communicating with a contact. For example, because text messaging is silent, you can use it in meetings and other settings where you can’t have a phone call. Text messaging is also useful for sending reminders and for sharing links and documents.
2. Be Concise
Text messages are designed to be short and sweet means of communicating. If you have a lot to say, pick up the phone or type an email. Don’t send it by text.
Keep in mind that being concise does not mean you should use the fewest characters possible. You can still be concise while typing full words and proper sentences.
3. Consider Security and Privacy
When communicating via text message, you need to be aware of the security and privacy risks.
Traditional SMS text messages are generally unencrypted, meaning that text messages are a risky means of communication. You should be cautious if sending confidential work-related matters via text message.
Instead of sending standard SMS text messages, you should consider using an alternative texting app with built-in encryption. Telegram, Whatsapp and iMessage all provide encrypted text messaging services. The downside to these services, however, is that they require that both you and your contact install the same app on your device.
Workplaces frequently have secure texting systems in place for their employees to use, such as Slack or Microsoft Teams. These platforms are great for internal messaging. Workplace-approved apps are also better suited to sharing sensitive workplace information. Keep in mind, however, that while workplace messaging apps may be secure, they are not necessarily private. Your organization may have the ability to view all of the messages that you send on their approved platform.
4. Use Natural and Conversational Language
You should think of texting as a notch below email on the formality scale. A good rule of thumb is that you should write your text messages similar to how you might speak in a professional setting. This means that you should use short and simple sentences. Paragraphs are unnecessary, as are complex sentence structures. I think I can count the number of text messages I’ve seen with semi-colons on one hand.
Avoid using slang, abbreviations and words uncommon to the workplace in your text messages. You should also proofread each text message before sending it to correct any spelling errors.
5. Know When to End a Conversation
All good conversations come to an end. While it can be hard to know when to end a texting conversation, a good indication is when the other party takes a long time to reply and only replies with short answers. This suggests that they are no longer interested in continuing the conversation.
Business text conversations also tend to be transactional in nature. When both you and your contact have achieved what you set out to achieve, then you can wrap up the texting conversation.
How you end the conversation is context specific. Usually, you can send a simple “Thanks, I really appreciate your help” or “Enjoy the rest of your day” to signal an end to the conversation.
Communicating professionally by text messaging takes a bit more thought than standard text messaging. Texting, however, should not be excluded from professional settings. By taking a few extra steps to remain professional, you can make use of text messaging in your career and beyond.