Mark Powell on the rise of texting as quick and convenient communication between colleagues. But is it wise to use it interculturally? Here are some tips on texting practices to avoid ...

If you thought text messaging was strictly for pimply iPodsters in baggy jeans with their caps turned sideways, the so-called ‘thumb generation’, then think again. According to a study by business consultancy AT Kearney, texting is now catching on fast in the world of commerce.

To reach a colleague who’s out of the office with their mobile switched off, out of range or out of juice, a swift SMS makes sense. Appointment reminders, the latest figures and last-minute changes of plan are all ideally suited to this most laconic of media. But can it ever be an intercultural business tool? Well, there are certain genre features executive texters would do well to avoid:

Disemvowelling: ‘srry cdnt gt 2 mtng - cll bck l8r’ may make perfect sense in context. But there’s a limit to how much you can remove from a message before you’re just left with a mess.

Acronymania: You may get away with BTW, ASAP and FYI. But TAFN, AAMOF and AFAIK are ill-advised when texting those for whom ‘that’s all for now’, ‘as a matter of fact’ and ‘as far as I know’ are already unfamiliar phrases.

Emoticonitis: Be warned. Smileys are for those who’ll never fly business class. And they don’t translate. In Japan they stand to attention (^_^), whereas in Britain they seem to be lying down on the job :-)

Phonophilia: Otherwise known as rebus abbreviation, where the letters and numbers represent syllables: CU, B4, 2B, OIC, BCNU, RUOK? Don’t use these on your Chinese contacts. They play the same game with numerical keys where 98 means ‘good morning’, 548 means ‘are you OK?’ (or ‘RUOK?’) and 5196 means ‘gotta go’. For a linguistically challenged Brit it’s a bit like ordering a meal in a Chinese restaurant.