Tips for formatting messages at work

Dunja Jovanovic

Last updated on: May 31, 2022

Instant messages are becoming more and more prominent in today’s work culture, especially with the rise of remote and hybrid work models

Just as there is an email etiquette and a way to format emails properly, there are some rules you should follow when you’re communicating via team messaging apps, too. 

Even though they’re more informal, they’re certainly not the same as the instant messages you share with your friends and family.

Business communication should be clear, concise, and ideally, skim-friendly. Because of that, formatting messages is one of the work message skills you should have under your belt.

In this article, we’ll go over some tips for formatting messages at work and make written communication even more effective.

Tips for formatting messages at work - cover

Why should you format messages at work?

There are a couple of reasons why it’s a good idea to format your work messages:

  • Easier to read
  • Faster access to important information
  • Easier to get your point across
  • Better reading comprehension

There’s a time and place for everything — if you’re sending a quick, informal message to your team member, formatting it might be a waste of time. 

However, there are some scenarios where spending an extra few minutes on formatting is worth it — such as sending:

  • Important announcements
  • News
  • Meeting summaries
  • Requests 

Why?

Well, people will be able to scan the message quickly and get the most important information — to see if it needs their immediate attention. 

If it doesn’t, they can go back to their tasks without losing much focus, and return to the message once they’re free.

But how to do that?

Let’s get into the tips on how to make the most of format work messages.

How to format messages at work

These are some of our favorite tips for formatting messages on team messaging apps.

Emphasize important phrases and keywords

Does your message contain words or sentences that are particularly important? 

Make them stand out by making them bold.

Bold text typically captures the reader’s attention the fastest, so use it wisely. 

Don’t overemphasize, because if everything’s emphasized, nothing’s really emphasized. 

An example of putting the most important parts of the message in bold on Pumble, a business messaging app
An example of putting the most important parts of the message in bold on Pumble, a business messaging app

Instead, change it up by mixing bold and italics — which is another way to make words or sentences more noticeable. 

The italic text should be used in moderation too. 

Also, keep in mind that italics are a weaker emphasis than bold.

Italics are typically used to highlight:

  • Names of books, blogs, websites, etc.
  • Emphasis words, such as especially, really, above all, or stressing the word not — e.g. “Our company is doing great financially, but that does not mean that we can start spending recklessly. We still need to really do our best to stay within our budget.” (It makes you hear the exact tone of voice while reading it, doesn’t it?)
  • Quotes — but it’s better to use quote blocks for that. 

Quote blocks can also be quite useful to: 

  1. Give a shoutout to someone, or
  2. Be specific about what part of the message you’re responding to.
An example of quoting and responding to a specific part of the message on Pumble, a business messaging app
An example of quoting and responding to a specific part of the message on Pumble, a business messaging app

💡 Pumble Pro Tip

Here’s everything you need to know about formatting messages on Pumble:

Make lists

If you’ve ever read our blog, you may notice that we use bulleted lists. Why?

People get discouraged and bored when they see a huge block of text. So, we use bulleted lists to:

  • Make the content clear and easy to read
  • Make sure no piece of information is overlooked
  • Keep your attention

(Now, see what I did here?)

You may be wondering — what do blog posts and messages on team messaging apps have in common?
Well, readers’ psychology is still the same — big blocks of texts cause disinterest, while formatted texts are far more manageable for our brains to process. 

Keep in mind (y)our target audience, too — it typically consists of busy professionals, often working in fast-paced work environments. They don’t have a lot of time to dig through the fluff to get valuable information.

Numbered lists especially come in clutch when you’re sharing:

  1. Priority tasks
  2. To-do lists, 
  3. “In progress” lists, or 
  4. Any other type of list with your team.

And when a task is done, you can cross it off using strikethrough text. 

That way, you’ll have an overview of everything you’ve accomplished that day or week.

An example of sharing the team’s to-do list on Pumble, a business messaging app
An example of sharing the team’s to-do list on Pumble, a business messaging app

Use emojis (when appropriate)

Instead of bullets, you can use emojis, too. 

According to Statistics on emoji use in internal communication:

  • 73% of survey participants believe that emojis help employees quickly share ideas.
  • 63% believe emojis make the team decision-making process more efficient.
  • 51% believe emojis reduce the need for meetings and calls. 

Additionally, 89% said emojis helped them overcome language barriers.

We recommend using emojis for a couple of reasons:

Reason #1: They make it even easier to scan the message and understand its meaning and the overall tone.

Reason #2: You can use different emojis for different purposes, which will facilitate the effective sharing of information. For example, you can add:

✅ for tasks that are done

🚧 for tasks that are in progress

⏲️ for deadlines

🟡 when the project is on hold

… and so on. 

You can get creative with emojis (but not too creative — emojis should still be connected to the meaning of the message).

An example of making lists using emojis on Pumble, a business messaging app
An example of making lists using emojis on Pumble, a business messaging app

Reason #3: Emojis make the message feel more personal and human. Since working remotely can be lonely, the last thing you need is to feel like you’re working with robots.

An example of using emojis to make work messages more personal on Pumble, a business messaging app
An example of using emojis to make work messages more personal on Pumble, a business messaging app

Of course, make sure you’re not overdoing it, with your use of emojis — keep in mind you’re writing a work message, not a text to your friend or an Instagram caption.

💡 Pumble Pro Tip

If you’re still not sure if you should use emojis in business communication, we have a blog post for you:

Differentiate code from the rest of the message

Programming can be exhausting. 

Staring at codes on the screen for hours can also do some physical harm — to your eyes, for example. 

According to Harvard Health, looking at a computer or smartphone screen can lead to some health conditions, the most prominent ones being dry eyes and eye strain.

But, such conditions are easy to treat and prevent — from remembering to blink (yes, really) to checking if your eyeglass prescription is up to date. Prevention is better than cure, so try to take care of your eyes while they’re still functioning.

So, if you’re working as a developer and use an instant messaging app to share code snippets, logs, and configuration files, do some quick formatting to differentiate the code from the rest of the message. 

It will be less difficult to read, so it will be a little easier on your eyes than normal text.

code formatting

For code snippets, you can:

  1. Use the code button (like on the screenshot above), or 
  2. Type backticks before and after the text you’d like to format.

But, if you need to send longer blocks of code, it’s better to use the code block option. It looks something like this:

code block formatting

Formatting messages like this takes just one click, and it still makes a difference.

Conclusion: Formatting makes a small, but significant difference

To sum up, on Pumble you can:

  • Emphasize parts of the message by making them bold or italic.
  • Use quote blocks to let others know what exactly you’re responding to or highlight a specific sentence.
  • Make bulleted or numbered lists.
  • Differentiate codes from the rest of the text by using code blocks.
  • Use strikethrough text for parts of the message that are outdated or deprecated in some way, but shouldn’t be deleted.

As you can see, formatting is simple and fast — all it takes is pressing a button or two. 

Yet, it’s effective and makes a difference — after all, formatted messages are easier to read and allow you to get the information quicker.

Author: DunjaJovanovic

Dunja Jovanovic is a writer and researcher passionate about communication and psychology, especially in a professional setting. As she's no stranger to working remotely, she likes helping others survive in a virtual work environment and communicate as effectively as possible. When she's not writing, she's probably trying out the communication improvement strategies she stumbled upon during her never-ending research.

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