How to Show Emotion in Your Written Business Communications
We know it’s important to convey the right emotion and tone in our business communications - we’ve all had someone get upset because they misread a text or email - but it’s difficult to do because there’s no audible tone or visual body language to help us out.
What can you do?
I want your communications with customers and other employees to go smoothly. That’s why I’m going to show you how to properly show emotion in your written business communications.
There are three main tools you can use:
- More descriptive words and phrases
- The rules of grammar (flexibly)
- And emojis
I’ll give you specific, real-world examples of how you can use each of these tools to communicate clearly, and ensure that everyone knows what you mean to say. Ready?
5 Ways to Communicate Clearly at Work
1. Use more descriptive words.
A great way to eliminate misunderstandings is to be more selective in your word choices. Pick words that accurately align with what's happening and how your personality would communicate those events.
But be pleasant (sarcasm should be off the table).
For instance, it’s common to tell a coworker, “Your presentation was good.” Or maybe it was their “pitch” or “idea.” But that sentence can be read many different ways depending on how the person feels.
They might interpret it to mean you didn’t like it but are being polite, or that you really enjoyed it. Would either be right?
So instead you might say, “Your presentation went well,” which means that it was well received. That’s a small word change that makes a major difference.
How would the person on the other end read it?
It helps to put yourself in the shoes of who you're communicating with. For example, if you have someone coming in for an interview, you can assume they're a little nervous. You can also help them feel at ease with just your word choice.
Take a look at these two confirmation texts:
1. “Jane, Just confirming our 12pm interview Wednesday. Make sure to have your portfolio.”
2. “Hey Jane, I’m looking forward to talking with you on Wednesday. Please make sure to bring your portfolio, and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks! - Sarah”
The main points are the same in both examples, but the second message is much more descriptive. It more accurately shares how Sarah feels about the upcoming interview.
Sarah uses the phrase “looking forward to talking with you,” and finishes it off with an open invitation for Jane to ask any questions (which also implies an open and friendly line of communication).
If you were applying for a job, which message would make you feel better about the company?
2. Pick a synonym instead.
A synonym is a word that has the same basic meaning as another word. But if it’s the same meaning, why bother using a synonym at all?
Because each word conveys a different emotion - they have different contexts that we all understand. Here’s an example.
Each of these words means roughly the same thing:
They all mean that you liked it, but you would naturally use each word in very different ways. For instance, you might say “exceptional” if something stood out, or “interesting” if it made you want to learn more.
It is always important to consider what your word choice will imply. Those implications can help or hurt your communications. For help with any word, you can visit the Thesaurus website.
3. Steer the conversation with emotions.
Most communications are two-way, so knowing how to respond is just as important as the initial message. Specifically, your word choice and punctuation can change the tone of the conversation, or can complement the tone that was already set.
Imagine Anthony gets this message from Tim:
“Hey Anthony, you seemed overworked this morning.”
There’s no offer to help or a suggestion, so it’s an ambiguous message (not one we’d recommend), and the conversation could easily take a positive bend or a negative one. Anthony’s response will be crucial.
He could say:
“No I am fine.”
“Hey Tim, I have some upcoming deadlines but I’m good. Thank you for checking in! 👍”
Anthony is doing fine in both responses, but the first reply is quick. It feels stern and unfriendly. The second reply, however, shows gratitude and feels upbeat. It completely changes the conversation for the better!
4. Mind your grammar (but don’t treat it like law).
As much as people might hate the subject, grammar is a great framework to help make your communications clear. It is not a set of laws that you have to follow lest the Grammar Police hunt you down.
In fact, the best writers tend to treat grammar as a set of guidelines, not rules. Still, grammar and punctuation can make or break a sentence (and your reputation).
If grammar’s not your strong suit, I recommend subscribing to Grammarly’s newsletter and downloading the LearnEnglish Grammar (US ed.) app. There's a lot that goes into grammar, but these are a few highlights to keep in mind:
- Only use commas when you want someone to take a breath (pause) in the middle of a sentence. They’re great for separating ideas and for pointing out transitions, but that’s about it.
- Short paragraphs (two or three sentences) are easier for people to understand than longer paragraphs.
- If you ever have a chance to use a semicolon, just use a period instead.
- Keep the action at the beginning of the sentence. E.g. “John was late for the third time this week,” not “For the third time this week, John was late.”
Remember, grammar is a framework to help others understand what you are trying to say. When you understand how all the pieces fit together, you can create clear communications consistently.
5. Take advantage of emojis.
55% of communication is done through body language. The problem is there’s no body in written communications! So how can you make up that all important 55%, and minimize confusion?
By using emojis.
Some people still view them as unprofessional, but emojis the best communication tool you’ve got, especially when used appropriately. Here’s an example:
“We have tons of client meetings this week.👍”
That sentence by itself is hard to read correctly. Is “tons of client meetings” a good thing or a bad thing? Who knows! But the emoji quickly tells us this person is thankful for lots of client meetings.
Here are some simple do’s and don’ts about using Emojis.
DO use emojis to:
- Convey positive emotions
- Express approval
- Communicate sympathy
DO NOT use emojis to:
- Respond negatively
- Completely replace all your text
So which emojis are okay to use? It all depends on context. For example, these are all email subject lines from brands:
- “Ohhhh, I wanna chat with somebody 🤖” - for an email about chatbots
- “this* blog schedule saves 1 hour per post + boosts traffic by 30% 📈” - for a new article update
- “🎧 Get back in the groove and save 30%” - for a music streaming coupon
- “Elise, Today’s the day 🎉” - for a product launch
Each emoji correlates with the specific purpose of the email. There are lots of personal communication examples in the next section, too.
3 Opportunities to Inject Emotion into Your Business Communications
You should be packing your business communications full of personality. Why?
Because emotions sway opinions, and that's critical to getting people on board with your ideas (and products or services). Here are a few opportunities to do it.
1. Show excitement in your promotions! 😄
Promotions are exciting things! Your customers should feel that. Here are a few examples you can copy that work great for texts, emails, and social media.
“We want to thank you 🙏🏼 for being such a loyal customer by giving you 50% off your next purchase! [coupon included]”
“🌟 Today only! Buy one, get one for the entire store. 😁”
“We would love to see you in our new dress! 😍 Now on sale!” [include image and link to dress]
“Grab this shirt and Tag us in your outfits 🌟”
2. Brighten up your newsletters.
Emojis and power words are great for making your newsletters stand out in people’s inboxes. Just make sure they’re relevant! Here’s an example from Morning Brew, a daily business news email:
In both cases, the headline stands out in the inbox and tells subscribers exactly what they’ll get by opening the message. It brightens up your communications, and increases engagement.
A few other examples:
“Click the link to read about our new heating unit, guaranteed to keep you warm this winter. ❄☕"
“Check out our summer lookbook! 🌞⛱"
“Celebrate with us! 🎉 New [product/hire] alert:"
The power words (in bold) and emojis create more engaging communications that draw people in.
3. Show your thank you’s.
Add that smiley face to the end of your thank you notes, or even just add an exclamation mark. Those little touches trigger happy emotions inside readers, and that builds stronger connections with your brand. Examples:
“Thank you for signing up for our newsletter! 😊"
“Thank you for your business! We’re proud to be working with great people like you.”
“Thank you so much 🙏🏽 for coming out to our event. 😁"
Now that you know more about putting emotion into your communications, you need to take the leap and start. Try to expand your vocabulary with a word of the day (there are plenty of apps for this).
They key is finding a way to professionally communicate with your customers that clearly and politely gets your point across. You can do that through text messages, emails, or even Slack.
Use the tips in this guide to add emotion to your business communications, and make sure people always understand what you mean to say, and how you mean to say it.