This topic has probably been written to death, and I'm sure we're all instant message experts by this point, but every once in awhile it's good for a reminder.
With our team here at InetSolution the most used tool in our collaboration toolbox is probably instant message chat. While it's the most frequently used instant messages and chats are probably the easiest place for misunderstandings and miscommunications to occur. IM’s are typically rapid and un-edited messages. To help make IM's be more effective I wanted to put out a couple of points that I keep in mind in hopes to minimize confusion and miscommunication.
1) Re-read before you hit enter – I’m as fast of a typer as the next web-geek, unfortunately my brain works faster than my fingers. I often find that I’ve left out a word, combined two words or some combination of the two in probably half of my messages. Take the extra second to read your sentence before hitting enter.
2) Discuss one thing at a time – It’s very easy to get two or three threads of thought going at any one point. Take a breath, and just pick one thread, answer one question and finish that train of thought, then come back to the other and repeat as needed.
3) Emoticons help – Everyone says to leave these out of “business conversations”. Forget that, I want to know when someone is frustrated, upset or just being a goof. A simple smile, frown or wink helps. Granted you don’t need a wink at the end of every line, so don’t abuse it.
4) Ask if now is a good time – I know the question you have is just burning waiting for a great answer! It’s so easy to send along that simple harmless message. Instead of posting your question to them, simply ask if it’s a good time or when a good time would be. You don’t want to break someone out of their flow.
5) Respect someone’s status – If their status is Busy or DND then don’t bother them, easy. On the other side, use statues, don’t make yourself available all the time, it opens you to more interruptions and distractions.
6) Bonus tip: Tell someone what you’re doing – If a team-mate asks you a question that requires a little leg work, let them know first, then go looking. Nothing’s worse than sending someone a question, waiting 10 minutes before you realize that they didn’t see your question and now you’ve just wasted 10 minutes. Oups!