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The rules of business texting

Texting is still the easiest and fastest way to communicate short messages to anyone. As businessmen, you should observe etiquette for sending text messages to customers, suppliers, and other businessmen.
By Peter Imbong |
The rules of business texting

“You know what?” texted this new friend of mine the other day. “I appreciate how you always text in complete sentences.” I never realized it until that person pointed it out, but I do text like I write. Shouldn’t everyone? I thought to myself. “It comes with the job,” I simply replied back. Too lazy to say, “I’m not a troglodyte.”

With all due respect to the Bard, in the case of texting, brevity isn’t the soul of wit—it’s the exact opposite. In the past, I’d understand why some people would eliminate all traces of education in a text message to make it fit in one message. That cost one peso. But with the multitude of unlimited texting plans today, you’ve got no excuse to massacre the English language, or even Filipino.

I’ve taken it upon myself that even if I’m limited by a few character restrictions, I will still text like a 21st century educated individual. It’s a discipline that has paid off a few times. And it’s just plain classy. It even forces the recipient to reply the same way.

Still, some people just text like the giggling 16-year-old they once were. All is well if you’re setting a date with your college buddy or communicating with the delivery guy. But when you’re texting a colleague or a client, ask yourself: WWSAWD? What would Strunk and White do? I do.

Text in complete sentences

There is a special place in heaven for people who text in complete sentences, with correct punctuation and grammar. For the lazy ones, a smartphone’s dictionary will help with this. There are some exceptions: some choose to forgo capitalization when it comes to proper nouns. That’s okay, except for names. Also, don’t use incomprehensible abbreviations or uproot vowels. You’re an adult now.

Never use LOL

Unless you have a photo of Justin Bieber or Hannah Montana on your wall, a grown individual should never use “LOL” when texting a business contact. Use it for your college buddies or family members, but never someone you do business with. The same goes for “BTW” for “by the way,” “BRB” for “be right back,” and “GTG” for “got to go.” If they do it, be the better man or woman. If you want to react to something funny, “Haha” will do just fine. “Hehe” is creepy. And go easy on the smileys, emoticons, and emojis.

Exercise restraint

Never text in all caps. It makes you look like you’re shouting. Before sending, check if you’re sending it to the person you actually intend to send it to. We’ve all been there, and it’s embarrassing. Don’t send the same message if you haven’t received a reply within an hour. They’re probably busy. Wait until the end of the day to politely ask if they were able to receive your previous message.

Go for clarity

Texting isn’t the perfect medium to showcase satire, irony, sarcasm, or any kind of subtlety. Chances are you’ll be misunderstood. And it takes a lot more effort to explain what you just said rather than if you had just gone straight to the point. Don’t text anything reckless or something you can’t take back, either.

When in doubt, call

When you find yourself dictating step-by-step instructions in several paragraphs, it would, perhaps, be a good time to call the person. By definition, an SMS is short. If it takes you a book chapter to get your message across, give the guy a call (or send an e-mail if your need for a response isn’t that urgent). Send a message asking if it’s a good time to call. If he says yes, promptly dial the number.


Peter Imbong is a full-time freelance writer covering lifestyle, fitness, travel, food, fashion, and entertainment.

Illustration: Sonny Ramirez

This article was originally published in the September 2013 issue of Entrepreneur magazine.

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