Saturday, March 03, 2007


After several months (just over a year, actually) of text messaging on my old Motorola V551, I've finally realized today that I've been miscounting the number of characters I'm able to send. In the 'create message' UI, there's a counter that shows how many more characters I'm able to type before reaching my limit. Good feature, except for some reason it starts counting down from 450 instead of the standard 160 we've all come to know and love (and hate, too, at times), and I don't think I'm able to change it.

Some time ago stuck it in my head that in order to stay below my 160 character limit, I shouldn't let the counter go below 340. This, as you (and I, regrettably) should know, is only 110 characters, restricting my content limit 50 characters short of its maximum length. Simple mistake: subtract the 100, but then subtracted the 60 from 400 instead of 350 (because I like thinking in terms of easy, rounded numbers). But this restriction hasn't really been too burdensome. In fact, it's helped improve my writing in many ways. Just because the space there, doesn't mean you have to use all of up. Why not make wiser use of those 160 units instead of filling it up with bagatelle

I find it gets my cerebellar juices flowing, try to condense my message to accommodate the shorter, making sentences sound better (I'm a bit of a spelling / grammar nut. And an major etymology geek. (I guess I almost qualify as a philologist, no?) So playing with words is fun for me). I often find myself expanding my sentences by cramming more words into them than need be, but I've found that the shorter they are, the better. They're more concise, and much more usable, especially since people don't really "read" text on the web, but rather skim. Less is more. It's amazing how much unnecessary, jargony crap can be taken out. Reading over and revising your text once you're done really helps improve quality, I find. Brushing up on my Elements of Style couldn't hurt, either ;).

Helpful software

Word Counter is a handy little app (essentially TextEdit with a counter, plus a few bonus features), and combined with BluePhoneElite to send SMS messages from my Mac via my cell phone using Bluetooth (almost as if it were like an IM client), I find it to be a godsend, especially when I'm trying to stay below that accursed 160-character limit. One small quirk I have in Word Counter though is that when I change my refresh rate preferences to "-1" (so that the counter updates instantly), it doesn't save my preferences after I've quit the application. But other that that, it's excellent.

*Note: I am aware that this post is this exact opposite of what I've been discussing, but I'm just using this as a place to put down my ideas, and I like getting as much out of my head and onto paper (well, sort of) as possible :).

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