Seeing Red in Email?

Use red text carefully in email.

With every email you send, the recipients are hanging on every word. How words are used or formatted guides the reader on the intended tone the sender wants to relay.

If you think about it, we can’t look the sender in the eye. Or subconsciously make a note of their body language to determine what they may mean.

We. Read. Each. Word.

That is why changing certain words to red may not be a wise decision.

Formatting means what?

What does it mean when you receive an email where the font color for select words or sentences is red? Why red and not another color? Should I use different font colors?

Here are the answers…

  1. The sender is emphasizing those words.
  2. Nothing “wrong” with using red type. Just know it is risky because you leave the level of emphasis up to the other side. More times than not, the other side will over-emphasize.
  3. You can use any font colors you like as long as they don’t interfere with your message or make it more difficult to read.

When senders change specific verbiage within an email to the color red, they are making a point. And a strong point at that!

The use of red to show emphasis is a specific choice by the sender. This effort is to clarify how strongly the sender feels about the topic at hand.

Why red?

Red indicates importance or urgency. This leads to questions like “What did they mean by using red for certain words in their email?” Usually followed by “Were they yelling at me?”

Red has a long history of being an aggressive color. For the ancient Romans, a red flag was a signal for battle. Because of its visibility, stop signs, stop lights, brake lights, and fire equipment are all painted red.

The one exception would be for Valentine’s Day. On this day, red means love. However, the same color is used differently. This is where intent, tone, and words used make the distinction.

You’ve heard the saying that when you are angry, you are “seeing red.” This is why if you want to emphasize without implied urgency or anger, just bold or use another color.

Make Your Point Unemotionally

Red means the sender meant to make a point. They felt the need to add strong emphasis and wanted to make sure those words, in particular, caught your attention.

Yes, you could say that they were using a louder voice. Yelling? You can tell know by which words are emphasized in red. Are you being scolded or dressed down? Is an error being pointed out to you? Changing that verbiage to red could be considered yelling.

Typing in all red caps without a doubt reflects the sender is upset and unmistakably wants you to know that! This is where your discretion comes into play in determining how and when to respond.

So, if you are “seeing red,” know that the sender wanted to make a point to you — and no need to wonder what they meant by doing so. Now it is up to you as to how the conversation continues.

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