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How many characters can a text message contain?

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SMS 101 Tips, tricks & hacks 5 min read | Amanda Ranville wrote in blog on March 21, 2023

When it comes to text messaging, a little goes a long way. People generally have short attention spans and are checking their mobile phones while on the go. At an increasing rate, it’s essential to get your message across in a succinct yet impactful way.

Sending business SMS and MMS from a text messaging service is a cost-effective way to broadcast to hundreds of customers at once. You can stretch your budget, as each text message may only cost a few cents (otherwise known as an SMS credit).

So how many characters can you fit in a single text message? What counts as a long message or a multi-part message? What about special characters, like Unicode and emojis? We’ll answer all of these questions and more, so keep reading or jump to our infographic.

How long is a standard text message?

The length of a text message without any bells or whistles is 160 characters, including spaces. An SMS message can certainly exceed 160 characters; it will, however, become a ‘multi-part message’.

DID YOU KNOW: By standard message, we refer to content that only contains the Global System for Mobile (GSM) character set. GSM includes Latin letters A to Z, numbers 0 to 9, and a few special characters (such as exclamation marks).

As soon as your text becomes a multi-part message, the character limit changes to 153 characters per part. More data is required to create a sequence of messages, so the count decreases from 160 to 153. Those seven characters get used for invisible headers and footers. You will get charged per part; in other words, one part is one SMS credit.

Regardless of how many parts you send, your recipients will only receive one, albeit long, message. Don’t get concerned about cluttering your contact’s inbox or sending multiple notifications. It is wise, however, to consider how engaging you are being. There is a delicate balance between being concise and informative.

Here is a guideline to follow when composing a standard message or multi-part message:

  • 1 – 160 characters = 1 SMS credit
  • 161 – 306 characters = 2 SMS credits
  • 307 – 459 characters = 3 SMS credits
  • And so on…

The text message body limit is 5000 characters, which creates 33 ‘parts’ in a standard GSM message. In other words, 5000 characters / 153 characters = 33 SMS credits.

TOP TIP: You won’t need to memorise this, as our online portal will automatically display the number of characters and SMS credits you use as you type.

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What length can an SMS with Unicode be?

If a message contains any characters that are not standard GSM, its maximum character length will become 70 characters long. Because Unicode is more complex than the traditional Latin alphabet, each character requires more data to be stored.

DID YOU KNOW: Unicode makes encoding characters excluded from the non-GSM alphabet possible across most technologies, including smartphones. Encoded characters are made up of technical symbols like mathematical signs, brackets, dashes, arrows, and non-Latin letters such as Chinese or Thai.

Like standard messages, once you go beyond 70 characters, they become segmented into multiple parts. Each part can then be up to 67 characters long, as it takes up extra data to create a sequence of messages. Note that as soon as one technical symbol gets added to your message content, it will get deemed a Unicode text message.

Here is a guideline to follow when composing a single or multi-part Unicode (non-GSM) message:

  • 1 – 70 characters = 1 SMS credit
  • 71 – 134 characters = 2 SMS credits
  • 135 – 201 characters = 3 SMS credits
  • And so on…

The maximum number of characters in a Unicode text message is 5000 characters, which is 75 message parts. In other words, 5000 characters / 67 characters = 75 SMS credits.

Can you send emojis in business messages?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words… when it comes to SMS, an emoji is worth two Unicode characters. That’s right, smiley faces will turn your message into a Unicode SMS and take up two characters. Therefore, you may want to keep these short and sweet.

The use of emojis in business communication gives you a little more personality and allows you to show off your fun side. We recommend playing around and testing this to see if emojis work for your audience and use case.

TOP TIP: Reporting and analytics can let you know how your recipients are engaging with your text messages. Download tailored reports from your dashboard and gather insights to finesse future campaigns.

How many SMS credits will you need for your message?

SMS credits are the currency of text messaging. Use this flowchart to figure out how many credits you’ll need for your message.

How many SMS credits do I need

Tips to stay within SMS character limits.

Using SMS for customer communication is a powerful way to engage your audience. Open rates are far higher than e-mail, and, in most cases, the shorter the message length, the better.

Be careful when copy/pasting.

Avoid copying message content directly from a word processor, as it may contain hidden Unicode characters. Instead, copy content from a plain text editor before pasting it into the Hub. Doing this will help to flush out any unwanted Unicode characters.

Use SMS templates.

Setting up SMS templates that can be re-purposed and saving them in our portal is easy. Not only will this help you contain your characters, but your tone-of-voice will also remain consistent regardless of who in your team is sending.

Use Short Trackable Links.

As soon as you type HTTPS:// into your message content, we can automatically turn your URL into a short, trackable link. Not only is this a great way to report on who and when recipients clicked on it, but your otherwise lengthy URL will also become just 22 characters (for example,

RECOMMENDED READING: 8 rules for crafting the perfect SMS marketing copy

In conclusion, whether you choose to send a standard text message, a message containing Unicode or want to add in a few emojis, make each character worth it.

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