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Business Writing Etiquette Using Slack Chat


Just like any other chatting messages, Slack is a great way you can connect to your colleagues faster and with the least hassle, compared to other messaging platforms like email. However, just because it serves a similar purpose to WhatsApp or Snapchat, doesn’t mean you should treat it just the same.

Slack is special. Unlike other apps that let you do every day and sometimes pointless conversation, Slack offers a transparent platform for your teammates to discuss work projects and other informative topics. Since the messages are able to be viewed by all of your coworkers within your company, including your boss, discretion is advised when using Slack. In other words, you need to have proper etiquette.

For example, Slack is definitely not the right place to gossip one of your colleagues or to show off how cute your cat is. All of the discussion need to be professional, as that’s the main reason why Slack is created in the first place. To better comprehend what we meant, let’s take a look at some ‘todos’ and ‘not todos’ in using the communication tool.

How to Communicate Within a Slack Channel

Now, if you are just added to a new channel or group and it’s the first time you use the app, chances are you don’t really know what to say. Observing as a first step is a wise action. If possible, you can scroll through older messages to see how people communicate with other members within the group. You may be surprised at how different it is to the average chatting apps.

Another thing to note is that you should recognize the members inside the channel. Saying something you might regret when the higher-ups are there to see it is a very bad idea, right? So, don’t go around complaining about how terrible your boss is.

Furthermore, friendliness is okay, but going overboard is not advised. Slack provides a media where you don’t have to be too formal compared to email, but you need to keep the professionalism in place. Be mindful.

Do Not Treat Slack as Email

This is the follow-up to the previous section. Yes, be polite but keep it short. With email, there’s opening and closing part, you don’t usually need these with Slack. While there’s nothing wrong with formality in the workplace, there’s one simple reason why you shouldn’t do so.

Emails are longer, so does the time to write them. Email writing style in Slack will only hinder other people to convey their own messages in the thread since they have to wait for you to type what you want to say.

Unless you are the one who proposes a discussion—an example is when you submit a part of a project and ask for ideas, communicating in one or two sentences at a time is often the right way to go.

Keep Messages Short and Effective

While keeping messages short is the proper way to convey something in Slack, it will also not do anyone good if your message does not contain any purpose. To put it simply, don’t DM someone anybody on Slack the same way you chatting them with other apps, like so:


“How are you?”

“By the way, did you finish the part we talked about yesterday?”

This kind of message will create three notifications to the recipient, with two of them contains no information. Now, it would be better if you just directly state the reason why you reached out to them. Starting with “Hey” or “Good morning!” is fine, but make it the first line of your message instead of as a whole. This way, your coworkers will only get one notification appropriate for a single purpose. Don’t forget that people are busy doing their job so keeping the distractions to a minimum will, for sure, help a lot.

Don’t use Slack to Write Long Messages

Sending fractions of a message consecutively is bad, but there’s another way you can annoy your coworker with texts in Slack. Sending messages that are too long with Slack is also improper.

For these situations, this is where email comes in. Email is a great platform for you that wants to send a detailed and lengthy message. Email will also promote your colleague to reply in a detailed manner just the same, as some directives cannot be conveniently replied with simply “Got it!” or “OK”.

That said, you need to remember that the purpose of Slack is to minimize email use in the workplace. If your request doesn’t incur much details, Slack is comparably the better choice.

Don’t Treat Slack Like Social Media

If you want to post a selfie, relatable memes, or a miniblog about how bad the current government is, there’s already a place for that kind of stuff called Twitter and Instagram. We know that most of your coworkers in a Slack channel are probably your friend, but sharing these irrelevant contents using the platform goes against the etiquette in the workplace.

As mentioned before, Slack is a professional messaging tool. You need to remember that trivial and personal info that doesn’t have any relation to any work-related topics are out of the question.

One last thing, haphazardly use acronyms while conveying your messages—especially if it contains swear words like OMFG—is not a good idea. This one may be obvious but you can’t be too careful. It might surprise you at how often these abbreviations coming out of one’s mouth and fingers, hence you can only feel shame once it’s already too late.

Still, not all acronyms are bad, it goes without saying that you can use normal phrases like ASAP, yet you still can’t be too casual. For other abbreviations like OMFG though, there’s no excuse, some of your coworkers might be okay with it but you can’t surely say so for all of them as a whole. The boss might be there too.

Avoid Personal Discussions in Slack

If you DMs one of your colleagues using Slack, don’t talk about a job posting at another company. Don’t vent your frustration towards your boss, don’t talk about sensitive information like bank details. Seriously, don’t do any of those.

DMs should be a place for private conversations between two people where no one else won’t be able to see. However, can we truly say this is the case, especially for an app aimed at companies’ use like Slack?

An article from The Wall Street Journal mentions that employers can mine their workers’ data generated from activity in the workplace. Furthermore, it’s legal. You can’t do anything about it.

It’s not that your employer might do something to harm you using the gathered information, but it’s safe to say that anyone should keep personal matters to themselves and those who they trust.

Slack offers a way for employees to professionally chat with each other in a more supple manner, but being too comfortable may backfire someday.

Remember Who You’re Talking To

Among your colleagues, there are possibly some that you consider as close friends. With these folks, you can talk much more loosely unlike dealing with the boss. The same can also be said for all coworkers that are not at higher positions than you.

Using acronyms like “OMG” and such is also palpable. Keep in mind, though, that the key here is to pick the right time and place. Make sure that you chat casually only to people that are comfortable when you do so.

All in all, Slack is not that different from the situation in real life. You can be relaxed around your workmates, but not with the CEO of your company. Basically, follow the same guideline you use all these times for face-to-face conversations.

Keep the Channel Positive

Online communication platforms, where you don’t talk with people face-to-face, have enabled people to talk in a way in a different way than normal. Often, it brings more bad than good. Cyberbullying, heated arguments, and the likes are some of the examples of negative interaction that comes with the exponentially increased connectivity.

Well, it’s certainly doubtful that you will mindlessly insult other coworkers through Slack, as you will meet them in person eventually, not to mention it serves as a headache in the workplace. Still, chatting app like Slack makes it easier for employees to show passive-aggressive behavior to others, whether it’s intentional or not. So, the next time a colleague asks you a favor, try to deal with it in a way that won’t hurt anyone feelings.

Use Emojis Thoughtfully

This section might seem contradictory to the previous some of the etiquette we’ve discussed. When used correctly, emojis can be productive rather than a bad thing.

Slack has some practical emojis that can be used appropriately for certain situations. For instance, if you wish to show agreement towards an idea, you can use the thumbs-up emoji without needing any other texts. This is also a great way to prevent flooding your coworkers with notifications. On the other hand, you can use the OK gesture emoji to make people that you understand or working on something.

Of course, it’s also easy to abuse emoji in a bad way. Situations, where you send a bunch of random emojis similar to the ones in other chatting apps, are a no go. This kind of message is undecipherable and it will serve to annoy the other members in a channel. Needless to be said that we need to avoid this especially in a professional environment like Slack app.

Final Words

Slack is a communication tool perfect for making ideas flow flexibly, but you can’t still treat it the same way as other chatting apps. The proper etiquette needs to be taken into account in order to maintain the level of professionalism in the workplace as well as to prevent even the slightest of friction with your colleagues.

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By Michael Faraday

Michael Faraday holds degrees in English education and creative writing. As an educator, Michael specializes in corporate training having worked with IBM, Philip Morris International, and the Danone food company in Paris. He is a published author and is deeply passionate about the written word.

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