Sunday, February 03, 2008

PDAs and the Changing Face of Email

The groundswell of personal digital assistant (PDA) usage is rapidly changing the face of email. No longer are users viewing messages on large monitors or subject lines in fields of about 35-40 characters. Monitors have given way to 2” screens; subject lines, to fields of a few words.

Instant messaging and emailing are morphing as users incorporate IMing and texting abbreviations into emails. I’m not recommending that you start using these abbreviations quite yet, but know what they mean when you see them. Some popular abbreviations include @ (at), BFN (bye for now), CID (consider it done), CU (see you), FYI (for your information) HTH (hope this helps), IOW (in other words), L8R (later), NRB date (need reply by date), NRN (no response necessary), PLS (please), THX (thanks), TBA (to be announced), YW (you’re welcome), and many more. Here are some tips to help you communicate more effectively with PDA users.

Subject lines
Many PDAs display only a few words in the subject line. That very valuable real estate will determine whether the intended receiver reads your message. Conventional wisdom has told us to write compelling subject lines. However, with such a limited field of view, it becomes a matter of what to skip, what to abbreviate, and what to start with. Here are a few suggestions:

· Instead of writing, We need to reschedule the March meeting, consider writing March mtg to be rescheduled.
· Instead of writing I’ll see you at 3:00; consider writing CU @ 3.

Calling attention to information
Traditional ways of calling attention to information have included boldface, bullets, tabs, and more. Some of these methods don’t always survive the trip through cyberspace and show up as gobbledygook on PDAs. Here are some options:

· Instead of using bullets, consider using asterisks (**), greater than symbols (>>), hyphens (--), or other ASCII characters.
· Instead of boldface, include some other way to emphasize the text. You may write **Deadline: May 5**. If the bold doesn’t appear, the reader will still see **Deadline: May 5**.
· Instead of tabbing, use the space bar.

If you send an attachment, summarize the essence of the attachment into a brief opening paragraph so the reader can get the gist of the message quickly.

Copying and pasting
If you copy and paste from another format (such as an Excel spreadsheet) the PDA may display the word Insert instead of the file that was pasted. Consider sending the file as an attachment.

On a final note, although brevity is an asset with PDA users, don’t omit common courtesies such as Please and Thank you, even if you do abbreviate them. Also, don’t get sloppy. I learned of a CEO who includes the following disclaimer at the end of his poorly written messages: Forgive errors, I’m writing on a BlackBerry®. Many users find this distasteful.

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