Tips for Character Usage in Company Chats

Many businesses are now using chat platforms such as Slack, Who’sOn, or Microsoft Teams to help team members contact each other. These tools are handy in today’s business environment. An environment in which team members might be working in widely different locations but need to communicate efficiently.

A standard computer keyboard is perfectly adequate for most day-to-day usage, but a keyboard necessarily has a limited range of characters directly available. Many professionals need to use a wider range of characters, scientists need to use mathematical symbols, businesspeople and translators need to use letters or words in different languages. 

All chat platforms will allow you to access the characters that you need.

Chat or message platform?

At first glance, you might think that chat and message platforms are identical. They are not. It’s true that they perform overlapping functions – after all, they are both about communication. However, there are differences.

Perhaps the most obvious difference is that chats take place in real-time. This means that a chat demands immediate attention. This isn’t true of messages. The fact that a chat takes place in real-time implies that the members have specific responsibilities. We will look at these in a moment. But first, a word about Unicode.

What is Unicode?

Almost all commonly used browsers will support Unicode. If your browser is one of the few that doesn’t support Unicode, you won’t see the character as entered – but you would be hard-pressed to find a browser that doesn’t support Unicode.

Unicode started in the 1980s when a new standard assigned a unique number – technically called a code point – to every letter in every language plus symbols, emojis, and other characters. The library of available characters has grown over the years. Nowadays, Unicode includes nearly 145,000 different code points. So, if you need to incorporate a Chinese character or mathematical symbol into your text, you will find it on Unicode.

There is another advantage to Unicode; it allows speakers of any language can use their own alphabet on any computer.

Unicode on Slack

Slack is possibly the most popular chat platform, so we will use Slack as an example of how to incorporate a Unicode symbol or character.

To include any one of the thousands of characters in Unicode on Slack, simply hold Ctrl + Shift and type in “u” followed by the hex digits. In other words, the code point for that particular character.

Other platforms have similar processes. None of them are difficult to use.

General Guidelines for Company Chats

It can be extremely irritating when people send part of their idea/sentence, pause, then send the following sentence. You should keep your messages short and relevant and send your ideas in one go. 

It’s a good idea to collect your thoughts before you write anything, make notes, and review your text if it’s hard to follow. A chat is often fast-paced and urgent, it differs from messaging in that it happens in real-time, therefore, you should always be clear.

Using Characters in Company Chats

In a remote company chat, communication is everything. If you use characters the wrong way, it can affect how people interpret data or the way people understand project instructions. What if you get a message from a colleague that reads “We expect to sell <100 units next month” when you’re expecting to sell closer to 200?

You end up wasting time on a frustrating phone call or combing through sales projections only to find out your colleague mixed up their use of < and >. The lesson learned? If you’re planning to use characters in a company chat, use them carefully and intentionally.

5 Tips when Using Characters in Company Chats

  1. Make sure that everyone on your team knows what the characters represent. If not, it’s easy for people to get confused and even offended.
  2. Consider building a library of commonly used characters that all your team members can access.
  3. Don’t overuse special characters. Of course, you will need to use Unicode characters for specific purposes, but you shouldn’t use them simply for effect. Think of people who litter their messages with emojis – it can be distracting in a professional conversation.
  4. Establish clear guidelines about incorporating Unicode characters into your text.
  5. Ensure that all team members know how to use Unicode on your chosen chat platform. It’s not complicated and may save a lot of time in the future. 

Characters with Unicode

Unicode offers a comprehensive library of all the characters that you are ever likely to need. It’s not difficult to access and will prove to be invaluable for anyone who needs to incorporate letters in a different alphabet, mathematical symbols, and the like.

Most chat platforms have some different characters already available (press down on “n” in WhatsApp and you will see “ñ” appear as an alternative). Still, none of these can be as comprehensive as Unicode. 

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