Writing Your SMS (short message service)
Cutting down those words!

It takes some practice to write a great SMS message. It can feel like you have to squash and strip your message bare in order to fit it into just 136 characters (allowing for the unsubscribe instructions).

This article will take you through an exercise to help you write a short message that includes all the following necessary components:

  1. Identify yourself (as the sender)
  2. Personalise the message
  3. Engage your contact - get their attention
  4. Provide a call to action

In this article we will work through a [semi] real life example to help demonstrate how to tackle this task.

Our [semi] real life example is an organisation called DVD's of Dartmouth who want to let customers know that a particular product they've been talking about with their customers for awhile has finally arrived in store, and they are providing a select set of customers with a chance to purchase at a discounted rate if they act quickly.

So, let's cover off step 1 first - identifying yourself. Obviously, you want your contacts to know who the message is from, so that they know where to take up the offer! One way to do this is just to sign off with the name of your organisation.


- DVD's of Dartmouth


Step 1 was clearly the easiest part! The length of an organisation's name will differ. If you have a very long name, try to use a familiar shortened version of your name, or provide a link to your website instead.

Step 2 is to personalise the message. It's a great idea to include the contact's firstname in the message to help grab their attention. So now our message looks like this:


Hi #firstname#, - DVD's of Dartmouth


Please remember that whilst #firstname# takes up 11 characters, you should check that you have room to hold the longest firstname in your contacts data.

Step 3 - engage your contact. This is where you need to have a brief but catchy message that interests your contact and encourages him / her to read on to the call to action. How about:


Hi #firstname#, At last, the DVD rewinder has arrived in store! DVD's of Dartmouth


This is okay... but I don't feel too caught up in the message. How about you? Perhaps a better option would be:


Hi #firstname#, Woohoo! now you can rewind your DVDs without any hassle! DVD's of Dartmouth


Obviously you need to think about your audience and how they will feel about the words that you use in your message. An older age group about a more serious product may respond better to different words.

Step 4 - now to include the call to action. It needs to be very clear and as simple as possible to ensure that people understand what is required and to ensure that it fits into the characters you have remaining (but we'll look at the message length in a moment).


Hi #firstname#, Woohoo! now you can rewind your DVDs without any hassle! As a long term customer you can purchase a DVD rewinder at 10% off if you reply with your order before Christmas Day. DVD's of Dartmouth


The example call to action shown above is quite clear - it identifies that the offer is not for everyone, says what the offer is and states the deadline. It is also making the most use of the technology and making it very easy for people to respond as soon as they get the message by simply sending a reply to the SMS. Obviously you will want to follow up the replies with a proper order form, but you have their interest registered immediately.

Right... now we have a problem. Too many characters! 172 in fact, so we need to lose at least 36 characters, assuming that all our firstnames are 11 characters or less.

Here's some tips for reducing characters, which are fairly obvious but may help you:

  • Take out unnecessary words and conjunctions - it may not be grammatically ideal, but it will still convey the meaning.
  • Use common SMS abbreviations e.g. "you are" is often written as "ur"
  • Rework your words - you'll be surprised how easy it is to say the same thing with fewer words, especially if you have a tendency to be wordy, like me!

Here's a re-worked version using the above tips, with 1 character to spare! You could probably create something even better.


Hi #firstname#, Woohoo! now u can rewind DVDs without hassle! Long term customers receive 10% off DVD rewinders if u reply with order b4 25/12. DVD's of Dartmouth


We'd love to hear your short message success stories. Feel free to email us and we'll share it with others in our eNudge news.

Heather Maloney
eNudge - the nudge they need!

bulk email and sms service provider hosted in Australia

Looking for a solution to send bulk email and SMS messages to your contacts, which is hosted in Australia and supported by Australians?