Michael Sterling

Mad or Glad? Conveying Emotions in Email

Remember verbal communication? Once upon a time, conversations were held in person and phones were used for talking and not texting. Alright, I admit I text and email as much as anyone. It’s how things get done in our fast-paced world. It’s also how messages are easily misunderstood. Ever wonder what your boss, client or co-worker really meant by what they just sent? It can be tough interpreting emotions in email.


We all rely on those handy emoji when communicating with friends and family to add emotion to our emails and texts. Professional messages are different. Using a winky-face or thumbs-up is bad business.


Without conversational cues, such as body language or tone of voice, a simple sentence can unravel a relationship or kill a deal. Writing “I need to see that report by noon today” could be read that you don’t trust your team member to complete the report accurately and on time when you really just wanted to say “I need to leave the office early – could I review the report beforehand?”


Just like it’s important to think before we speak, it’s also critical to think before we send. There are several simple ways to assess the emotions in your messages.


Conveying Emotions in Email


  • Positive vs. Negative Words. Choose your words wisely. Writing “I hate that the meeting is Thursday” can be seen as complaining. By writing “Meeting on Friday would be better for everyone’s schedule” removes the negative wording.
  • Relationships Matter. Who is the recipient? Sending a written message to your business partner of 20 years is a lot different than sending a message to a prospective client or business acquaintance. Keep in mind the relationship you have with the person you’re addressing. It will help identify the level of formality and proper word selection.
  • Don’t Make Assumptions. Don’t take for granted that you know how a person feels about a subject. Jumping to conclusions without understanding the recipient’s point-of-view is a recipe for disastrous results.
  • Fill in the Blanks. You know what you know. Others do not. Skipping vital details, which you know like the back-of-your-hand, is bound to leave a rift in the communication.
  • Pare Back Punctuation. Cut out unnecessary punctuation!!! What impact is it having on the message????
  • Can ALL CAPS. It’s pretty well known that all CAPS equates screaming. It’s as unprofessional in writing as it is in-person.
  • When in Doubt – Don’t. If you suspect there’s room for misinterpretation – don’t hit send. Clarify your message. Take the added time to make sure your intent is clear.


When needing to communicate a really difficult message – don’t email or text. Faster and easier doesn’t make either method correct or professional.


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