The Office: Is Texting Lingo Too Casual For Work?

Dear DW,

Is it too casual to use texting language in emails, Slack, or Teams, or are there times when it is appropriate?


Inclined to Text 

Dear Inclined,

When people text, there is often a familiarity within the conversation that isn’t typically found in workplace emails. In a text, you’re more likely to use abbreviations, emojis, and even slang.

So should you bring that level of familiarity over to your business communications? Well, it depends.

Every organization is different, so when thinking about workplace communication norms, it’s important to have a sense of the company’s culture, says Phoebe Gavin, a career and leadership coach in Alexandria, Virginia.

Some organizations are formal by nature. If that’s the case where you work, you’ll want to avoid using texting language entirely and keep your communications professional. However, some organizations promote a more casual atmosphere where such communication is welcome.

Pay attention to the emails and instant messages of other people on your team, Gavin says. If you notice that they are using gifs, emojis, and abbreviations in their communications, doing the same “may help you integrate into the culture more quickly and build stronger relationships,” she adds. Make sure to stick to abbreviations and slang that are more common in the workplace—think WFH (working from home) or SME (subject matter expert), rather than LOML (love of my life). And never use abbreviations, slang, or emojis that are vulgar or sexual or convey profanity.

Also keep in mind that emails can serve as a record of business correspondence, and the emails you send today can be read by someone years from now. A good rule of thumb to consider is whether you’d want your email or Teams conversation to be seen by your boss or a senior leader in your company. If the answer isn’t an absolute yes, keep the texting language out of the workplace.

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