Good vs. Bad Text Messages

Text message crafting is a strategic process. Because you are limited to 160 characters (including spaces), and because it's so important that your message be understood and engaging, experts have developed best practices.

Here is a checklist of tips that will help you get the most out of your texts.

Offer immediate value. Give the end user the information they want as soon as possible. Before you text, ask yourself, "Why does this matter? Who cares?"
Avoid abbreviations or "textese." Use proper grammar and punctuation when possible.

Just Okay: B4 U go home go 2 the store 4 emergency supplies.

Great: Before you go home, go to the store for emergency supplies.

Use a link shortener to make room for other important information. Two options are or tinyurl. Instructions are found at each site.

Just Okay: Before you go home, go to the store for emergency supplies. Find open stores here:
preparedness/store locations/

Great: Before you go home, go to the store for emergency supplies, like flashlights and batteries. Find open stores here:

Use engaging writing devices to draw the user in. Ask rhetorical questions, invite responses (when possible), and explain how to do something.

Just Okay: Some stores have emergency supplies like batteries and flashlights. Open stores:

Great: On your way home? Stop at a grocery store for emergency supplies like batteries and flashlights. These stores are still open:

You already know that text messages are valuable because they allow you to send customized messages. Even when the information you're trying to share needs to reach a large number of people, you can craft messages that explain it in a way that is meaningful to the end user.

For instance, you might want to share emergency preparedness tips with your audience. Think about who you're trying to reach, why they text, and how you can appeal to them.

It's important to understand how to market to different types of text message users. Refresh your memory on the types of text message users.

Example Messages

Each message below is about stocking up on non-perishable food before an emergency, but the messages are crafted to appeal to on-the-go texters, strategic texters, intimate texters, and security texters, respectively.

On-the-Go Texter
"Stock up on canned goods during your next trip to the grocery store. It saves time and hassle during an emergency."

Strategic Texter
"Plan ahead! Stock up on canned goods before an emergency happens."

Intimate Texter
"Remind your friends and family to stock up on food before disaster strikes. Ask them to remind you!"

Security Texter
"Better safe than sorry! Stock up on canned goods today."

Move ahead to the next topic, Personalization.

Real World Examples

During a flu epidemic situation, Public Health - Seattle & King County (PHSKC) held a mass vaccination clinic. Some children require a second dose of flu vaccine, so PHSKC offered parents the chance to sign up for reminders notifying them that it it was time to follow up. It turns out this wasn't as simple as it sounds. Sometimes, if you're texting to a patient, you may be sending protected health informationAll information related to physical and mental health conditions, provision of health care, and payment for health care that can be connected to a specific person.. Sending PHI via text is a problem because—like any communication channel—it's not 100% secure. So there is a possibility that protected health information could fall into the wrong hands. For example, someone other than the cell phone owner could read the text messages without the phone owner knowing. Do you plan to text patients? For more information, see the page on Messages Containing Protected Health Information.