It is common for me to get emails asking what a sender meant by including specific text in their email that has been purposely changed to red.
Red is an aggressive color. The term “seeing red” means that someone is mad or so upset that they see red.
When it comes to communicating with the written word, it is safe to assume that when someone changes select text to red, they make a point. But how much of a point?
They could have bolded the text or added emphasis. But the sender didn’t — they changed the text to red.
Red Indicates Importance and/or Anger
If the sender changed certain words or sentences to red in important written communication, how would you perceive that? Most would assume, and correctly so, that the author adds a robust emphasis to those particular terms or sentences.
The same goes for email.
And, when you use red, a known aggressive color, you risk leaving that level of emphasis up to the person on the other side to decide the level of intensity you implied. So plan on them, adding more emphasis than you may have intended.
Any change to standard and customary email settings will cause recipients to pause and wonder about your intent. For example, if certain words or phrases are a different color, yes, one can assume you meant to make a point. Color them red — and that is an essential or aggressive point!
Vocabulary Over Colors
Show those you communicate with that you have a breadth of vocabulary to express what you mean, whether it be anger or simple emphasis, instead of relying on formatting to get your message across.
Here are a handful of my previous articles on the topic of emphasis…
- 2 Steps to Avoid E-mail Misunderstandings
- Quotation Marks and Emphasis
- Are Your E-mails Tone Deaf?
- Does Size Matter? Email & Font Sizes