160 Characters

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

160 Characters


We live in a texting world. In fact, research from wireless association CTIA's recent "Semi-Annual Wireless Industry Survey," finds that we now text more than we talk on our mobile devices. Globally, people sent 2.2 trillion text messages last year, just below the 2.3 trillion minutes we spend in conversation. Since the average call length is 1.83 minutes, that means on average we send just about two text messages per phone call that we make.

And because of it, a new language has developed. Long gone are apostrophes; capital letters are few; and in some cases entire words have been replaced by single letters (u r for "you are"), and even numbers for commonly used words (2 for "too").

This is not entirely our fault. SMS stands for short message service, a method of communication that sends text between cell phones, or from a PC or handheld to a cell phone. The "short" part refers to the maximum size of the text messages: 160 characters (letters, numbers or symbols in the Latin alphabet) is typical for most U.S. mobile phones.

SMS was designed to deliver short bursts of data such as numerical pages. To avoid overloading the system with more than the standard forward-and-response operation, the inventors of SMS agreed on a 160-character maximum message size. Going over this number results in the recipient receiving your message broken up into several texts messages.

Because of this space limitation -- and to avoid developing carpal tunnel syndrome in our thumbs -- we've compressed our words into a mobile format. In addition to the examples above, other common text abbreviations include B4 (before), 2nite (tonight), eob (end of the business day), BTW (by the way) and TTYL (talk to you later).

You can find hundreds more of these texting acronyms at Netlingo.com. While you won't be familiar with most of the acronyms listed because they are mostly used by teenagers for social communication, you may want to come up with a list of your own acronyms that you can use to speed up mobile communications in your business. You'll find that in some cases, these acronyms are already there, such as POS for point-of-sale, OOS for out-of-stock, and LP for loss prevention.

The key to successful texting shorthand is that the acronyms are understood by everyone who will be reading or sending them. As with any other communication systems, a set of standards should be agreed on so there are no misunderstandings.

When you are texting your customers, however, such as via a mobile marketing program, you want to reduce the amount of texting-shorthand to just those acronyms which everybody knows or are easy to understand, such as "b4" and "asap."

And in a world of multimedia and apps, don't forget the benefit of SMS messaging -- it's the only form of messaging that talks to all mobile platforms.

Happy texting and TTYL!