When I first opened the email with the above thread, I immediately thought of the Holiday Season. It reminded me of jokes that my mom might forward to me. The bold and colored text was quite effective. Each person used a different color in the thread; as I read the email, I could almost hear 3 separate voices, singing “Oh Tannenbaum…”
We all know the basic rules of online netiquette, the first rule being variations of, Please don’t use ALL CAPS because it is the online equivalent of yelling. We all had to learn this at some point. A lot of people, myself included, started emailing in caps because we were AutoCAD or Excel users. Or maybe it was because our lazy little pinky fingers had not yet learned to use the “Shift” buttons automatically after a period and space. But in every case, someone who had slightly more internet experience would tell us, Dude, don’t do that, don’t use all caps, and we would reply BUT I HATE HAVING TO… and then we would learn. Apple figured this out years ago, labeling some keys on their keyboards in lower case.
So why have these capital letters made such a comeback in Corporate America? I believe there are two reasons, the first being the shear volume of emails sent every day. In order to stick out from the crowd, many people feel the need to use capitol letters and melodramatic words like “urgent, help, needs attention”; I bet you have heard them all. The second reason is the rise of social media, where people often argue using all caps.
The people who send those “URGENT” emails are often the same people who usually don’t read or answer your emails
I will let you marinate on that one for a second. It’s okay, take your time, no caps here…
When you are finished, let’s move off of the subject of the subject line, and move onto the body of the emails. The word body is key here. The body of the email should be treated the same way as the human body. It should be healthy and mindful of its emotions. I myself am guilty of using some very strong words in my emails, but they are just that: just words.
Seeing Red Again
I recently received an email from a coworker that was over 50% red bold text. I felt my heart begin to race when I opened the email. I was panicking before I read the first word. Red is the color of stop signs, brake lights, market losses, sunburn, and worst of all, blood. There are a some positive instances of red, of course. A red sports car can be appealing, or a woman in a red dress might stick out from the crowd at a nightclub. But most of the time, red means something is wrong. Using red, bold fonts makes you sound like Satan.
After I read his email dipped in blood, I wrote my coworker and said that I felt the need to go bury it in my backyard. I begged him to consider using another color in the future. Green may not be as loud as red, but think about how many positive things are associated with the color green: go lights, money, charged batteries, and most importantly, Mother Nature.
Ask yourself, Would I rather receive an email from Mother Nature, or one from Satan?
You will never find me using excessive formatting, all capitol letters, or red text in my emails. I DO sometimes use all caps to emphasize one word in a sentence, although I prefer italics or underlining. I use a lot of punctuation. I use bold when I want a word sentence to stick out. As you can see, this is much more effective than writing an entire paragraph or email using bold font. You are basically wasting ink and/or causing stress.
What I am asking everyone to do, is to simply avoid adding unnecessary melodrama. Please, stop using URGENT or other words in all capital letters, there is no need for it. The only reason you should ever uses the word urgent is if you need something ordered today.
Most importantly, start treating the body of your emails like a body. Keep it healthy and clean. Use underline to emphasize, italics to quote others, bold to call out part numbers, highlight to reference something further down in the thread. If you must use a colored font in an email or document, please try your best to use any other color than red.
MAYBE TRY BROWN NEXT TIME. – P.K.