Common sense: Writing professional instant messages

best-five-free-instant-messenger-download-6Writing a Professional Instant Message seems like an easy task.  It also sounds like the task should be done by using common sense.  Try to remember, however, that common sense is not so common.  Many professionals abuse this form of technology.  Imagine the following conversation:

John:  How is it going with the shipment of the iPads?


While this message does accomplish the task of getting information instantaneously; all professionalism has been lost and Sara’s reputation as a professional has been compromised.

As Lynn Gaertner-Johnston and points out there are key points and rules to remember.  Many people carelessly throw together a one-liner and forget the basic principles.  Another thing to mention is tone.  The reader cannot see your expressions to know if you are angry or confused – they simply read your writing.  Always be careful not to display an unintended tone.

The benefit of Instant Messaging is clear:  to receive instant information without waiting for an email or a conversation.  However, try to remember these tips when writing IMs professionally:

  • Always greet the other person (Do not start the conversation with simply what you want to ask)
  • NEVER use acronyms! (TTYL, LOL, JK, etc.)
  • Be courteous (Do not interrupt someone’s concentration from a task to ask something that doesn’t need an immediate response- send an email instead)
  • Don’t send confidential information (Unless you can verify that you are reaching the intended person and you’re on a secure system)
  • Make IMs brief (If you need a longer, more detailed, explanation then send an email)
  • Avoid carrying-on multiple IMs simultaneously (It is easy to confuse the messages that need to go to separate conversations)
  • Don’t use all CAPITALS –  it comes across as yelling.
  • Use extreme care with the “!”.
  • Always end the conversation.

Using these tips, the conversation now reads like this:

John:  Hello, Sara.  Are you having a good day?

Sara:  I am, thank you.  How is your day going?

John:  It’s been fine so far.  I was wandering how the shipment of the iPads is going.  Do you think that they will meet the deadline?

Sara:  The deadline will be met as they are in packaging and set to ship tomorrow.

John:  Thank you Sara.  Have a great day.

Sara:  You too.

Using care to always be professional shines through even in the simplest of tasks (such as instant messaging).  Instant messages take place in the time frame that their name suggests- INSTANTLY.  However, try to take the time to plan and revise.  A revision consists of nothing more than a quick scan to check for errors such as misspelled words.  In the English language, one simple misplaced letter can throw off the entire meaning.

Bottom line- always use care when writing instant messages even though it may seem like an easy task.

Cheryl Baker is a business student at the University of South Florida.  She is currently enrolled in Professional Writing (ENC 3250).

2 thoughts on “Common sense: Writing professional instant messages

  1. Cheryl, I agree that when writing an instant message in the business enviroment it is best to still be professional in the IM world. Most people who think they have common sense when it comes to instant messaging, may not have as much common sense as they thought. Your example is a great example of how to correctly write an instant message in the business enviroment.
    Kelsey Tucker

  2. I agree that one needs to consider their audience when writing a response in instant messenger. Let’s remember that it is called instant messenger for a reason. The true intent was to forego having to draft an email just to get two lines of communication or information to another person. While in the professional environment, I think that it is imperative to use correct grammar and syntax when composing an instant message.
    Jamie Langlois

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