Posted by: episystechpubs | October 15, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Tone

Good day to you! Following up on my Editor’s Corner article on Tuesday, today’s topic is "tone.” For most professionals, email is the primary form of communication. It is usually less disruptive than a phone call or an instant message. And writing an email allows us to take the time to organize our thoughts carefully and succinctly to be sure that our audience gets all the information we want them to have. However, tone is just as important for texts and instant messages.

But getting your tone just right, when writing, can be challenging. When we are face-to-face with someone, we can use non-verbal cues to set the tone and help deliver our message: we use facial expressions, body language, gestures, and we can modulate our voice. But when writing, we have to rely on our words to convey our meaning and our tone. So, how do we strike just the right tone when writing an email, an instant message, or any professional document? I found these important tips in an online article from Psychology Today:

  • Assess your relationship with the receiver. Adjust your level of writing formality to match the relationship. [dbb – You probably shouldn’t use the same informal tone you use with a colleague if you are emailing your company CEO—even someone as cool as our Dave Foss.]
  • Email is more than just the transmission of information. It is about managing a relationship remotely. Consider leading with a social comment like you would if you were talking face to face. For example, “I hope you enjoyed the long weekend,” or “I’m looking forward to working with you on this project.”
  • If you think there is room for misinterpretation of your message, take the time to craft the email to make sure your message is more likely to be received with your true intention. This might make the email longer. [dbb – This is so important. Please do not assume that your first draft is your final draft, especially if you are worried about being misinterpreted, or if you are aware that you are sometimes misinterpreted. Write and revise. And
    after that, you may want to revise again.]
  • Do not use text speak like "lol" or "BTW" unless you know the person really well. The same goes for using emoticons. [dbb – For a list of texting abbreviations and their meanings, see my recent
    email.]
  • Be careful with cc’s and bcc’s, as different interpretations can be made about what copying people on the email implies. Realize that a person who is blind copied may reply, forgetting that they were a blind copy.
  • Most people know by now that typing in ALL CAPS is the same as screaming at someone.
  • Don’t overuse punctuation!!!! [dbb – And on the other hand, don’t underuse punctuation either. I’ve known many people who
    never use exclamation points, which can sometimes make them seem detached or bored.]
  • If you are not sure about the tone of an email you are sending, have someone else read it and give you feedback before you send it. If no one else is available for a tone check, park the email in your draft folder and come back and re-read it a couple of hours later before sending it. [dbb – This is excellent advice! It is always a good practice when writing an important email to take a break between writing it and sending it. When you re-read it with a fresh perspective, you’ll be able
    to make important adjustments to your wording and your tone. And please feel free to send any emails to your friendly editors for a quick review.]
  • Most importantly, know when to pick up the phone or meet face-to-face to discuss an issue. [dbb – Sometimes there is nothing better than your friendly voice and kind smile.]

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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