Is your workplace set up for instant messaging? When used appropriately, IM’ing is great for quick and efficient back-and-forths. But, as with email, these types of messages can be treacherous because of the absence of vocal inflection and body language. Here are seven etiquette tips to keep in mind as you IM at work:

1. Check the receiver’s status before you send. Have they posted a “busy” or “away” status?  Be respectful of that and either wait or send an email instead.

2. Consider, too, if they even like IMs. That may not be their preferred form of communication and favor phone or email instead.

3. As with all communication, it is polite to ask upfront if they have time for a quick question or chat. They may be swamped and didn’t have time to post a “busy” status.

4. IMs are meant to be short. Send them when you need to get info to someone in real time or need a quick response to something they won’t need to research. Never use IMs to send negative or sensitive news.

5. Don’t send crucial last-minute changes via IM. They may have already left for the meeting and won’t get your update in time.

6. Watch the texting-style abbreviations. Use only ones that are universally known (by several generations, not just yours).

7. One of you needs to end with a “thank you” at the end, so that both parties know the conversation is finished.

® 2014 Jill Bremer