I received a text message from a professional person yesterday that set my teeth on edge. The content was fine, but it was presented in a very unfortunate way. See, any place “you’re”, “you”, or “are” should have been used, she replaced it with “UR”, “U”, and “R”. Unless she’s on a special texting plan where she pays by the letter (unlikely), there’s no excuse for those abbreviations in a professional setting.
Sadly, this has been a trend I am encountering more and more, even with adults in a corporate setting. Text-speak is bad enough with personal messages, but at least those are informal. When you’re trying to present yourself as an expert, or as someone whose services are necessary, it just makes you look immature and incompetent. I recognize these abbreviations may have originally appeared to get around the 160 character limit on text messages, but here’s how I see it: If you need to communicate with me, and you’ve run out of space in your text message, this is a sign the information shouldn’t be conveyed via text. If it’s not time-sensitive, send me an email. If it’s important, pick up the phone and call me; don’t send me a text that reads as a 12-year old wrote it.
And what really irritates me is that sender of this text is in the sales business. So am I. One of the first things you learn about building a sales business and reputation is that everything you put out with your name on it is something that reflects on you directly. Every letter, every brochure, every business card, and yes, every text message. No one ever thinks “Oh how terrible, my lawyer/accountant/realtor sent me this professional and formal message”, but they’re far more likely to notice if they get a message that’s too informal or personal for the relationship. And trust me, it won’t be a positive impression. Personally, I think long and hard about doing business with anyone who doesn’t care enough about their professional image to spell out words and use full sentences.
I asked the rest of the Gear Diary team what their thoughts were…here’s what they had to say:
Travis: I hate it!!! Some of my friends have made comments about how I send long texts because I write correctly. Maybe it is because I am a teacher and have seen text speak in student essay answers! It makes steam come out of my ears because there is a time and place for everything!
Joel: Seriously? Wow. Even the teens I know wouldn’t do that. Man.
Doug: If they’re over the age of, say, 18, then yeah, it really bugs me; kids who grew up doing it, not so much. I suspect that by the time my daughter is 30, it will be pervasive even at the professional level, but I may be wrong.
I’m a writer–I mean, a professional, ya know, *writer*, so I take a perverse pride in going the extra mile. Hell, in corporate emails I don’t even use *common* acronyms like “ASAP” and “FYI”; I use the opportunity when I might as a chance to maybe reword things better. I treat Twitter’s 140 character limit as a challenge to be brief and precise–I avoid those kinds of abbreviations even *there*.
In short, yes, I think it’s bogus from one professional to another, but I also recognize that I’m on the far end of the spectrum that way. Perhaps Siri will help alleviate it?
Thomas: At work, we often shorten our communications in instant messaging, including not worrying about misspelling/grammar, as we are in a highly interactive, fast-paced discussion. However, in any other communication (email, etc.), we write things properly.
I personally don’t like when people do this either unless they are trying to save characters so they can get everything into a single message. I do that on Twitter in some cases. If they send something like “thx i got ur msg”, though, I _hate_ that, as they had more space to type things out properly.
Judie: I can’t stand it. I try not to make assumptions about the writer when I get texts or emails written with those type abbreviations, but I generally figure that anyone shooting off a reply which includes numbers or letters substituted for common words is driving, which is irresponsible and unsafe. It’s more likely that the writer is just lazy or under the age of 25, and I do realize this is probably a generational gap thing as Doug suggested. But I have also been guilty of using ‘LOL’ to indicate that I think something is funny, and I am the queen of placing a smilie after a sentence. Those are all parts of the same unprofessional problem, right?
And … most of the time I can’t be bothered to use caps when I tweet or Facebook, so I feel like a jerk for even complaining; it’s the pot calling the kettle black. =P
Dan: Ur all 2 picky
Joel: I say that it all depends on the predictive text you use on your phone. I use the built-in stuff because it works the best on my devices, but the predictive text can be a pain. I usually do NOT use abbreviations as they annoy me.
Mike: Since I have a 15 and an almost-14-year-old, as well as three just-out-of-college nieces and nephews, I have seen stuff on all ends of the spectrum. But in professional communications I expect … well, professional communications. If someone has a BlackBerry, Android or iPhone there is no excuse. With people I have become friends with through work, the communications become more casual, but when I see a ‘u’ or ‘ur’ I immediate judge age, and if that is wrong I just judge.
Dan: When I have a business email or letter I almost always have my assistant read it first (so long as it is not confidential) for the very reason OF professionalism.
And here is my related pet peeve- this MG Seigler/Josh Topolsky exchange last week. I don’t give a @#!$ what language you use with your friends and family but in business, or something that is published it is unprofessional to be dropping f-bombs as if they are the article “the”. It didn’t make either of them look cool or passionate, it made them look like morons.
So that’s the Gear Diary Team’s view. We’re all of varying ages and backgrounds, and we all agree — it’s not professional to use text-speak and curse words to make your point. But what’s your take? Does it make you want to pull your hair out, or do you not notice or care?