Some wonder if it is just formatting for the sake of formatting. After all, isn’t typing in caps considered shouting online? Well, that could be the case. However, context is everything and needs to be considered before jumping to conclusions.
For example, the headings in this post are larger and bolded. But it’s an article where this type of formatting is expected. Headlines do not contain any implication of emotion by being a headline alone.
Now, if I turned parts of it red, a known aggressive color — what would you think? That I’m making a point, right? Right!?
See what I did there? Didn’t you raise your voice in your head when reading that? To say there was no meaning behind that extra formatting would be ignoring our lying eyes.
I’ve written quite a bit about this. Some have asked if the same applies when not in an email. Is this also considered yelling on forums, groups, and message boards? Should they respond in kind? (No, here’s the post on that!)
So, you didn’t “mean to come off that strongly”?
When the “red bolder” receives responses based on this specific formatting in their communications, they are more often surprised at the reaction. Claiming the increased emphasis was not their intent.
Emphasis was their intent. The amount of which was out of the author’s control to control. That’s what surprises them.
Then, why did they increase the font size, bold the words and turn them red? That’s three formatting actions that the sender specifically took to increase the emphasis of the selected words.
This is where the nuances of communicating online — I call them enuances — comes into play. When making a statement and then modifying the size, color, and weight to stand out from the rest of your message, you willingly leave the perceived level of emphasis to be determined by the other side.
Until after the fact, many do not realize that the level of emphasis can vary based on how well those reading your message know you or not. Or their overall opinion of you based on previous communications.
That is why, before reacting, it is wise to look at the overall tone of the comments made and the conversation as a whole.
My Observation Over Decades
When Internet communication first began, text modification capability was minimal. One significant change one could use to show emphasis or “shout” was typing in all caps. And even with that, folks typed in caps and then were surprised when the other side didn’t appreciate being yelled at.
The intent is intent. Caps are a way to add emphasis by “shouting.” Making certain words bigger, bolder, and red would indicate a strong comment or make a point.
Adding formatting when used selectively can undoubtedly add to the impression one is raising their “voice” or upset. If you ask anyone to read an email with this type of formatting aloud, they will almost always raise their voice when reading larger and bolder text. Then they’ll raise their voice even further when they hit that red text.
The Moral of the Story
Learning how to communicate without formatting is an actual skill and one worth your effort to hone. To communicate with clarity simply by choosing your words carefully without relying on bolding, font size, caps, or colors is the true sign of a skilled communicator.
That’s a skill that will benefit your relationships by avoiding misunderstandings and personal and professional email communications. Words have meaning, and how you type them will amplify that meaning and relay intent.