Admit it: You’re guilty of distractedly dashing off the occasional text message—or, gasp, work email—that didn’t quite make sense. Maybe you were busy, in a rush, or thinking about something else.
In hindsight, it’s a little awkward that you told your mom you needed to “level-set expectations” ahead of Thanksgiving. And, it was a tad stressful that your manager misinterpreted your well-intended “hang loose” emoji to mean “call me.” Or, perhaps you’ve run into bigger panics—like thinking you were texting your best friend about your annoying colleague, but instead texted your boss.
When you’re messaging on the go via a mobile device, you tend to be short on time and economical with your words. This can lead to all manner of communication gaffes.
Mercifully, we have a few tips to help you avoid some of the most common blunders.
Keep it short—but not too short
The messages we write on mobile devices tend to be short and to the point. Sometimes, this is a good thing; there’s nothing wrong with writing directly and economically. Be wary, though, of the pitfall of overdoing it. Curt, choppy messages can come off as brusque, aloof, or insensitive.
Another consideration when it comes to brevity is how much abbreviation is too much. You may know that by “HIC” you mean “here I come” (as in, you’re on your way), but it’s not saving anyone time or precious words of explanation if you then have to clarify you do not have the hiccups.
Always question: Who’s this for?
Scenario: Friday after work, you text ye olde Dungeons & Dragons group thread to see if 9 p.m. still works for everyone. A reply comes: “I shan’t be doing naught at 9.” That’s when you realize you mistakenly queried your coworkers’ thread instead. You’re lucky it was a fairly innocent message and not one of those gross-pet-name texts you sometimes send to your partner.
This type of gaffe shows why it’s wise to never stop double-checking the “to” field, even on your phone. For delicate work emails, you might even consider waiting to fill in an address until you’re satisfied with the draft, just to make certain it won’t go out prematurely.
Play to your audience
If you’ve never once found yourself fielding a work email on your phone while lying in bed, you are doing something extremely right. Many of us, though, sometimes struggle to shift gears as we toggle back and forth between professional correspondence and friends’ WandaVision theories.
Losing track and confusing your recipients can make for some very out-of-place sentences, so be mindful of workplace jargon and slang that don’t belong. Just as you might not enjoy a half-asleep missive from a loved one that starts with “I hope you’re doing well” and ends with an impersonal “best regards,” you probably want to avoid telling the editor you just professionally connected with that your latest draft “slaps.”
Mind your tone
Your messages convey a lot more than only their words, so it’s critical to strike the right tone. You want to sound confident but not forceful with your boss, but confident and assertive with a client whose payment is way overdue. You want to sound appreciative and admiring of the friends who sent flowers, but appreciative while not too effusive toward Abe in accounting who tracked down your missing tax forms.
The Grammarly Keyboard can help with your communication on mobile devices. Thanks to the tone detector feature, you can get a quick assessment of how you’re likely to come across before you hit send.
This means you can worry less about seeming overly casual as you answer a colleague’s question while out walking the dog—or oddly stuffy while making dinner plans with your partner, [insert gross pet name here].