3 Learn the lingo. Instant messaging is more informal than e-mail, so use acronyms to communicate in shorthand. Examples: "bc" or "b/c" for "be-cause," and "brb" for "be right back." Visit http://www.aim.com/acronyms .adp?aolp= for a more complete list. (Be cautious not to let these shortcuts creep into your regular language.)
3 Get to the point. A quick hail like "Hi" or "You there?" is the best way to avoid wasting time IMing with someone who isn't actually there. After that, keep your messages simple, to the point and know when to say "goodbye."
3 Reread your messages before sending. And spell-check your messages, when appropriate. Check out Spellaroo (www.spellaroo.com), a free download that acts just like Microsoft Word's spell-check.
3 Know when to move the chat to e-mail. If it becomes a substantial issue, best to say, "Let's move this discussion to e-mail" to create a permanent trail. Alternately, copy and paste important dialogs into e-mails, then send to yourself and your chat partner.
3 Don't send confidential or sensitive information. Nor should you use IM to vent or to say things you'd never say via e-mail. Some services allow you to archive entire messages, so be careful what you say. IM is better suited to quick information about project status, meeting times or a person's whereabouts.
3 Check IM program compatibility with either of these two free downloads: Trillian Basic (www.trillian.cc) or Gaim (gaim.sourceforge.net).