11 Powerful Online Communication Tips Everyone Should Know About

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Online communication skills have become just as critical in the 21st century as offline communication. Your online communication skills are particularly important if you run any kind of online business (like most of my readers do).

There are a number of subtle, yet critical differences between communicating online (with written words and images) and communicating offline with others face to face. Many people fail at effective online communication, and they can come off as disingenuousawkward, or even rude

The biggest difficulty is that we lack a critical element when communicating online: non-verbal communication.

Using clear and concise language online therefore is extremely important when you consider the way that we spend most of our time today versus 30+ years ago.

Researchers estimate that about 93% of our communication with others consists of non-verbal communication.

That leaves...7% for us to work with! This can be extremely frustrating because we might not even notice how big of an impact non-verbal communication has on the effectiveness of our messages. We don't have facial expressions (with the exception of course of video chat), and we can't show mannerisms easily. All of the nonverbal clues we typically use in communication offline are no longer at our disposal.

Many business workers fail as a result of poor online communication.

This can lead to a lot of...

  • "That's not what I meant!" 
  • "Why does that person think I'm a jerk? I really like them!"
  • "Why did they think I was joking?"
  • "Why did you take me so seriously?!?"

Etc. Etc. 

Personal relationships aside, poor online communication skills can also cause real harm to your overall productivity and effectiveness in business. You'll spend more time and effort clarifying things that weren't expressed properly the first time. This means more emails, unnecessary phone calls, or repeated work when something is done incorrectly. 

It doesn't matter who you are; you need to master the art of proper online communication, and you should do it soon!

So, whether it's personal communication or professional communication you're working to improve, this article will help.

There are many different methods for improving our online communications and digital etiquette. Here are some immediately implementable ways that you can improve your online communication skills.

Online Communication Tip #1 Take Time to Write a Proper Response

A big difference between online communications and in-person communications is that we have time to draft better, more thought out responses. With the exception of video chat like Skype or Zoom, we don't need to answer questions flippantly.

Even if we're taking part in an online chat with instant messages, we have exponentially more time to process our replies.

This is an advantage that we should capitalize on.

This means you can say the right thing, avoid flippant replies, and get your point across more clearly.

If you're in a confrontational conversation, this extra time can be the difference between remedying a situation and escalating it to the next level. 

"Speak when you are angry -- and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Laurence Peters

No one expects instant replies online anymore. Take the extra time to write a good one.

Tip #2 Stop Saying So Much, Start Listening (Reading) More

Epictetus wrote"We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak."

Instead of immediately waxing on with a reply, consider getting more information and a better understanding of what the other person/people are saying.

Ask questions.

Remember, most people struggle to communicate clearly online, so help them out by seeking clarity whenever possible.

Be sure to provide complete answers to questions (especially when working with customers of your company), but don't be unnecessarily wordy. Answer a customer's concern, and wait for their reply.


All caps = Yelling. 

Stop Using All Caps

Avoid using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS unless you really need to make a point!

Avoid using ALL CAPITAL LETTERS unless you really want to make a point!

When I get an email in all caps, I'm immediately turned off. 

You can use them to draw attention to something important; just be careful that it is obviously not trying to convey that you're angry or upset about something.

Tip #4 Avoid Sarcasm 

There are few people in the world who enjoy sarcasm as much as I do. Unfortunately, sarcasm doesn't translate well online, and I get myself in trouble when I forget that.

Unless you're very close with someone, and they understand your sense of humor, most sarcasm will be missed.

Sarcasm Meme

It will be taken seriously and what was supposed to be a joke could cause serious problems.

Ask yourself, "will this person(s) get that this is an attempt at sarcasm?"

Remember, it is perception that matters.

Sarcasm should be reserved for private communication with close friends and fellow business workers, never with customers or people who don't know you well. Sarcasm has no place in effective communication online.

Tip #5 Try and Match Replies in Length and Tone

If someone gives you praise, and it's 6 sentences long, replying with a "thx," makes you look like a jerk.

Long question short answer

Instead, focus on adding some substance to your reply, and actually show you care. Something like, "Thanks! That really means a lot to me to hear that."

Get into the habit of being mindful, and send messages with thorough responses if need be. It goes a long way.

Many online communications can be extremely brief, but be sure to know when that's appropriate and when it isn't.

Tip #6 ...Don't Overuse the Ellipsis...

An ellipsis is the series of periods "..." at an end of a sentence.

These leave an unfinished tone to your writing and can seem condescending.


Adding "..." all over the place makes you seem sarcastic or condecending.

Adding "..." all over the place makes you seem sarcastic or condecending.

While they have their place in communicating online, overusing the ellipsis isn't a good idea.

Don't be that person in the online community that does this...Online Communication Tip #7 Use Videos and Images Frequently

Images and videos can greatly improve your online communication skills. These are especially helpful in one on one online chats, text messages, or Facebook messenger.

Images may include things like:

  • GIFs
  • Emojis
  • Memes
  • Screenshots

It's 2019 and perfectly normal to incorporate these things into your conversations.

Studies even show that they can actually help the person(s) you're talking with remember more of what you said.

When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (Source)

When people hear information, they're likely to remember only 10% of that information three days later. However, if a relevant image is paired with that same information, people retained 65% of the information three days later. (Source)

So, do your readers a favor. Get their attention and teach them something that lasts!

I love GIFs and use them in a lot of private conversations. They aid in clarity, and they can be hilarious...

When necessary, video can be even better. There are a lot of great tools that make this possible.

I love the screen recording software Loom for this.

Loom Recording

Software like Loom (loom.com) makes it easy to share screen recording explainer videos.

Software like Loom (loom.com) makes it easy to share screen recording explainer videos.

Loom has been critical to my own customer support processes.

Tip #8 Speak in the Voice of Your Audience and Keep it Simple

Clarity is king. If you can explain something complex in a simple and easy to understand way, you're doing it right.

So knock it off with the fancy lingo and word of the day injections.

No one has ever complained that a less complicated word was used in place of a less common one.

Use industry, technical jargon as appropriate, but there is no point in distancing yourself from your audience by using complicated words if they aren't necessary.

Tip #9 Sometimes Saying Nothing Is the Best

Be sure that you don't put on a show for thousands of people by arguing with someone excessively.

"Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment."― Benjamin Franklin

If you really have something to be settled, take it to a private chat.

Delete Button

I have always struggled with this, as I love the chance to partake in a war of words with someone I think is "trolling," but that rarely ends well.

Tip #10 [On Social Media] Avoid Long Posts and Wordy Replies

"The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them." - Stephen King

As in quality copywriting, you are best suited to break down long responses into multiple posts or comments. Valuable or not, writing a manifesto as a reply will typically be ignored.

Tip #11 Know When to Individually Engage

One of the unique features of online communication is that social media, chat rooms, and email threads give all of our conversions a large audience.

Sometimes this can be bad. Some conversations should be private and not done in front of other users. For example, if you need to reprimand an employee, don't do it on an e mail thread with the entire company CC'd.

Only send emails to the email accounts that absolutely need to read what you're saying. This applies to social media or any other online chat as well. Know what should be discussed in a personal way with one person and what can be done around multiple people or team members.

Bonus: Just Be Nice!

We've all had emails or messages that we weren't psyched to reply to.

We've all been given questions that could have been answered with a simple Google search, negative feedback, refund requests etc.

It's tempting at times to be short or rude with these people, but why? 

In a two way conversation online, you have nothing to gain by making the other person feel bad.

There's no contest to win by telling them off, but you can win their trust and respect by treating them kindly. 

Try to make the person on the other end feel like you care. 

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