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Etiquette for Instant Messaging

Instant Messaging (IM) has caught on like wildfire, and a lot of the communication is via mobile. Whether it is good old Yahoo Messenger, Live, Gtalk, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, people are now using instant messaging as an alternative to both voice and SMS.

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Like in all areas of communication, etiquette is vital to having decent interactions with others. One no-no in instant communications is using the buzz or ping feature to start a conversation. It is simply irritating at the least and is considered very rude by many.

If you want a contact’s attention, a simple “Hello” or “Good day” will do, if you are already familiar with them and have been chatting before now. If the contact is available, they will respond with a greeting, and then your conversation proceeds. However, if they don’t respond, show some consideration. They might be actually busy – even if they are online.

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If this is your first communication with the person, say Hello and then state why you are reaching out. Remember that they do not know you yet, and you need to take the initiative.

If you are not very intimate with a contact, and you wish to make a joke of something, make use of the appropriate emoticons, so that your intent is clear to the other person. Never forget that your contact cannot read your mood, facial expression or body language over IM. Use emoticons for the purpose of clarity.

Always take the pains to explain yourself. It is easy to be misunderstood when you’re trying to type out a quick message. What’s on your mind may not come out as you intended. This is the one tricky part of chatting, whether it is on WhatsApp, Messenger, Twitter DMs, or via another IM platform.

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In all, stay civil and sensitive. Instant Messaging is great, but it can send wrong signals and mess up relationships (I’m using that word loosely here), be they social or business.

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