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Seeing Red in Email?

Red type in email is aggressive.

With every email you send, the recipients hang 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 note their body language to determine what they may mean.

We. Read. Each. Word.

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

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 red is an aggressive color, and 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 reading more challenging.

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 emphasize is a specific choice by the sender. Choosing red, specifically, is an effort to reflect 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. But see how this same color can be used differently? This is where intent, tone, and words used make the distinction.

You’ve heard the saying that you are “seeing red when you are angry.” Suppose 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. Usually, that point is backed with emotion. However, 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 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 raising one’s voice.

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 there is 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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