In the age of the computer the vast majority of many business communications are text messages. By this I don’t just mean SMS messages. I mean emails, instant messages such as Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, business communication platforms such as Slack and Yammer, and, of course, text messages on your phone. But have you considered whether you should be treating these messages differently?

Text Messages Overload

In 2014 the Radicati Group reported that the average number of business-related emails sent and received each day is 121. That number is predicted to rise to at least 140 by 2018. On top of this many organisations are also using business communication tools such as Skype and Slack. These are great for instant access but greatly add to the mass of text messages that need to be processed.

The Ability to be Misunderstood

When having a face-to-face conversation you get extra indications about the message the individual is trying to convey. This could be the tone of voice or their body language. You get none of this with text messages. Instead there are a whole separate set of considerations.

Things to consider

Here is a short list of things to consider when you are next working your way through your inbox:

tone. The tone that an individual takes in written form can be quite different to what is said when spoken. In fact it can be quite difficult to determine the true meaning of some written words. They could be taken in a number of different ways depending on the emotion and expression applied to them by the reader. Better to read several times to see if a different viewpoint could have been expressed than sending an angry response.

text slang. There has built up a whole new vocabulary of abbreviations that can be used to add meaning and expression to text messages. It is important to know exactly what these mean. It can be embarrassing to discover that you thought lol stood for “lots of love” as former PM David Cameron discovered. Here is a list of popular English internet slang so you can brush up.

emojis. These are the pictures that are popular in instant messaging that are used to convey meaning in a single icon. Similar to text slang each has a meaning that could be subjective (Check out Emojipedia for a handy ready reckoner). A further issue is that each emoji might be displayed differently on each platform. At the time this post is being written there is a debate about the pistol emoji, for example. This highlights the issues perfectly.

auto correct. If a response is sent in a hurry from a mobile device there might also be some unexpected words. Sending a response from a cramped keyboard on a smartphone and not reviewing your wording can lead to some interesting messages that can change the whole meaning. As the BBC found…

An embarrassing auto-correct text message

Take Your Time

More and more millennials are entering the work place. This is a group who have grown up with instant messaging being the primary form of communication. Their text based mannerisms will continue to seep into business communications so confusion will worsen.

The key to successfully navigating the choppy waters of text communication is to take your time and re-read it to make absolutely certain you have understood the underlying message.  Or ask a millennial to translate it for you!