Texting can be hazardous to professional health

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • May 16, 2010 - 3:40 PM

I'd TILII but CT cuz BIL so CWYL.

Texting. It's quick. It's easy. And it's here to stay -- at least until technology comes up with a more efficient means of producing text than fingers on keyboards.

Compared with e-mail, texting is:

Quicker. Constant connectivity promotes a culture of "reachability," which encourages users to check for messages more frequently and respond more rapidly.

More discreet. If you're adept, you can text out of sight -- below a desk or behind a book, purse or briefcase -- without breaking eye contact with the person you're supposed to be listening to or interacting with.

More portable and available. Whereas it would violate social norms to carry a laptop into a theater, sporting event, lecture, live performance or bathroom stall, handheld devices are easily concealed.

More concise and efficient. Short Message Service (SMS) language is ultra-concise, relying heavily on abbreviations, initialisms (in which the letters are pronounced individually, as with LOL for "Laughing Out Loud"), and acronyms (in which letters are pronounced like words, as with ACORN for "A Completely Obsessive, Really Nutty" person).

More direct and candid in tone. Abbreviated, shorthand communication encourages a TILII ("Tell It Like It Is") style that values personality and emphasis over subtlety and substance.

More fun. For younger users, texting feels like something they own, a medium they can use to exclude older people.

•One the negative side, texting is:

More likely to be used at inappropriate times. Because texting is so easy, texters are tempted to fire off a message rather than wait for a more appropriate time to communicate.

More likely to encourage inconsequential communication and self-disclosure. Short, quick exchanges in a social networking environment create a culture of sharing for the sake of sharing, sometimes to the detriment of the user's professional standing or reputation.

More likely to be incomplete and inadequate. Hurried creation of text in severely limited space results in less detail and less carefully developed thought.

More prone to typographical and proofreading errors.

More likely to be incomprehensible or misunderstood. Initialisms and acronyms are not understood by everyone, and sometimes they have more than one meaning, as with STD, which means both "Seal The Deal" and "Sexually Transmitted Disease."

More likely to result in unacceptable style and tone. Informality may cause users to be blunt, undiplomatic, inappropriately casual and unprofessional in their word choice.

So, as I said, I'd tell it like it is, but I can't talk because the boss is listening, so I'll chat with you later.

Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at His website is

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