Smart & Connected Life Working From Home 8 Rules for Instant Messaging at Work Start here if you're new to workplace messaging or just need a refresher By Brandon De Hoyos Writer Brandon de Hoyos is former freelance contributor to Lifewire and a self-described IM veteran who covers the latest in messaging trends and videography. our editorial process LinkedIn Brandon De Hoyos Updated July 08, 2019 Hero Images/Getty Images Working From Home The Ultimate Guide to Shopping Online The Ultimate Guide to Parental Controls The Ultimate Guide to Online Learning at Home The Ultimate Guide to Skype Tweet Share Email Instant Messaging (IM) has gained popularity as a way to collaborate at work. However, as with all types of communication, there are rules to follow to maintain courtesy and professionalism. By adhering to these guidelines, you can use messaging productively to do your best work. How to IM at Work Follow these simple rules to have enjoyable, productive, and effective conversations with your co-workers over IM: Mind availability settings. Take a look at the recipient's availability settings before sending an instant message. If their status is set to “away,” “in a meeting,” or unavailable, and your matter is urgent, use another method to contact them. Conversely, always set your availability status to let others know when you’re available. Seek permission to message. Just as you would over the telephone, when initiating an IM conversation, ask whether it’s a good time for the receiver. Start the conversation with something like, “Michael, do you have a minute? I have a question about last month’s finance report.” This script is useful because it asks for permission to continue the conversation and mentions the subject of the query. If the recipient says they’re busy, ask when would be a better time. Keep messages and conversations brief. IM isn’t the place for lengthy descriptions or complex ideas. Keep messages brief and to the point. The conversation itself should be short as well. If your IM session lasts longer than five minutes, suggest a face-to-face meeting or a phone call to delve more deeply into the topic. Use proper English. When sending messages regarding work, keep slang and messaging acronyms to a minimum. Not only is this mode of communication professional, but it also avoids the distraction of explaining slang or abbreviations to someone who may not understand these terms. Use proper English and don’t forget about punctuation and spelling. Consider using an online grammar checker such as Grammarly. Follow office policies. Don’t just download any messaging application to your computer. Find out which applications and platform your company approves, and use these exclusively for work. Get a screen name for work. While your friends might think your personal screen name is cute or funny, you could jeopardize your professional reputation or offend some co-workers if you use it at work. Instead, create a work-friendly alternative. Keep messages business-appropriate. Communications with colleagues, managers, clients, and vendors should always be professional, even when using a casual conversation mode such as IM. Save the political GIFs, the bright orange text, and the funny images for IMing with friends. For work, stick with traditional fonts like Arial or Times New Roman, and use emoticons sparingly. The same goes for your platform profile: use a professional photo and include your work-related contact information only. Be careful what you write. Keep in mind that messages can be stored on a server, or saved by the person you messaged with. Never write anything that could incriminate you later, such as badmouthing a colleague or, worse, the boss.