Instant messaging using your computer or phone is convenient when you don’t mind the typing. It has many advantages for businesses, for persons limited with their hearing abilities, for conversations that require a little toning down, for keeping in touch with the family and can just be fun.
However, there are a few bits of netiquette (etiquette online) that all instant messaging users should use. Just to clarify, I am using the term instant messaging to refer to IM, SMS and text messages because the etiquette involved using the tools is the same and doesn’t change.
The number one rule is respect. If you know someone is busy and they don’t have the time for a phone call, then assume they don’t have the time for an instant message unless they specifically tell you. If someone has designated a period of time when they don’t want to be disturbed, assume the busy person is referring to all forms of communication including instant messaging. Respect the other person.
Each instant message has a cost. Some people have instant messages as part of a monthly phone rate package. Others don’t and have to pay a cost for each message sent and received. When you send an instant message through your home computer, the cost of each message is included in your monthly allowance of data transmissions.
So, don’t simply say hi in a message. Tell the person you’re sending the message to exactly what you want to know. If you just want to know how they are doing at that moment or how things went at an earlier time, ask them. There’s no need to have transmitted four messages when only two are needed.
If you think there may be a misunderstanding from the content of a message, use emoticons to clarify the mood of the content. Typing in all capital letters usually indicates to the reader that you are shouting. Try not to use all capital letters. You don’t want someone to interpret a joke as being serious because they didn’t see the expression on your face or hear the inflection of your voice. If you were serious about the content that could upset someone, consider continuing the conversation in email, in person or over the phone.
Before you send the message, reread your message. Check for spelling and punctuation. And, please be sure you send the message to the person you intend to receive it.