Creative Keyboarding: Does it make our conversations more personal?

Text based communication remains the most popular means of communication worldwide despite the increase and evolution of technology, with 94% of people in the UK sending text-based messages on a weekly basis while only 87% use voice based communication. Although a text message, Facebook message or a Tweet is a quick and easy way to communicate, they lack the ability to reveal emotion making it hard. to tell how the other person is trying to portray the message (sincerely, sarcastically etc.)

Other forms of communication online are said to be less emotionally limiting but still result in reduced sensations. Reading facial expressions over a webcam, for example, can sometimes be difficult and other senses such as smell and touch still remain absent during this form of communication. These limitations aside, people have come up with ways to get around these communication barriers in text-based messages known as creative keyboarding methods, a concept created by John Suler (2004). These methods try to make text-based conversations more like face-to-face conversations. Emojis, Emoticons and similar icons are a very simple way of doing this and help to convey our emotions to the other person in the conversation. They are seen by some people as an essential tool when trying to accurately communicate a certain “tone of voice” and can allow for any subtle intonations that the sender of the message wants to put across. The smiley is the most popular of all the emoticons, often used to confirm a friendly or happy feeling when your message may be open to interpretation (Suler, 2004).

Another example of creative keyboarding is parenthetical thoughts. These are thoughts or feelings, maybe placed in brackets, which act as a ways of thinking out loud and giving one of the participants of the conversation a look into what the other person is thinking. For example, the statement “Thanks!” can be changed using parentheses for different situations; “Thanks! (So, so happy!)” Or “Thanks! (For nothing!)” In addition to this, the use of punctuation and capital letters can also help to alter the meaning of phrases. For example, “Please could you help me?” could be changed to “PLEASE could you help me?!?!”

Creative keyboarding does help to convey our emotions when using text-based messages but it isn’t the same. People act differently during a face-to-face conversation than they do during computer-mediated communication. We don’t tend to express much emotion when typing to a response to someone online while we are much more likely to show our emotions during a face-to-face conversation. This is probably because there is no need to show emotion because there is no one there next to you, but it just shows how easy it could be to fake emotion and just say what the other person wants to hear without them knowing you are not being entirely truthful. The use of creative keyboarding could be used to draw people into a false sense of security and could even help to convince a person that you are someone completely different.

Written by Rosemary Linay


Suler, J. (2004). The psychology of text relationships. Online counseling: A handbook for mental health professionals, 19–50.–0

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