Type Like a Teenager, Communicate Like a Professional

(Originally posted on the Paradigm Consulting blog.)

Whether it’s fair, or not, people judge you by the words you use, spoken and written. This applies to electronic communication as well and, while the accepted norms for grammar are being relaxed more and more every day, f u typ lik ths n a prof ltr, ul look like a ful.

In case you are someone who is repulsed by the excessive use of shortcuts that are so pervasive in text messaging (and other media) today, I said “if you type like this in a professional letter, you’ll look like a fool.” Don’t be bothered if you didn’t get that the first time through.

But let’s face it: there is something to be said for the efficiency of only typing one or two characters and (hopefully) conveying the same meaning to the recipient. If you have an iPhone, you can do just that!

Anyone who uses an iPhone is (possibly painfully) familiar with its autocorrect feature. If you don’t know what I mean, check out the hilarious website, Damn You Autocorrect. (Warning – this website is NSWF: not safe for work.) iOS, the operating system that runs on iPhones, iPods, and iPads, comes with a number of auto-correct features and shortcuts, but did you know you can customize these and create your own shortcuts? For instance, I can configure my iPhone so when I type “nsfw” it instead auto-corrects to “Not Safe For Work.”

To set your own shortcuts, simply tap Settings, General, Keyboard, Shortcuts. By default, my iPhone came with one shortcut: “omw” expands to “On my way!” I have a habit of typing “tx” as an abbreviation for “Thanks.” However, my iPhone would always correct that to “Tax.”

Scott: I downloaded the files you requested.

Me: Tax.

Scott: Tax?

Me: Autocorrect…

On the Shortcuts screen, I clicked the + button in the upper right, entered a new phrase, e.g. “Thanks!” and a shortcut, e.g., “tx” (without the quotes in either case). Now, whenever I type “tx” my iPhone says “Thanks!”

You can create a number of useful shortcuts, but they have to be at least two characters long. Unfortunately, this means you can’t have your iPhone convert “u” into “you” or “r” into “are.” But I would sometimes type a “k” to represent “OK,” only to have the iPhone auto-correct it to “I,” which was not what I wanted. Solution? I added a shortcut, “kk” to expand to “Okay.” I also have a few other common abbreviations, like “fb” (“FaceBook”), “np” (“No problem”), “ppl” (“people”), and the irreverent “omfg,” (which I would never use with a client).

What shortcuts can you use to make your iPhone typing experience more pleasing and professional?