The Importance of Tone

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“The overall tone of a written message affects the readers just as one’s tone of voice affects the listener in everyday exchanges.”

-Scott Ober in Contemporary Business Communication

Striking the right tone can make or break a piece of writing. By creating a certain tone, we as writers influence how readers perceive our message and even how they respond to it. Crafting the right tone can be challenging – especially when you have bad news, an urgent deadline or need to give feedback – but it’s vital for cultivating an affable work environment and motivated employees. Fortunately, the same tone works well for most business writing.

How can you make sure that your e-mails, reports and other messages all have the appropriate tone? Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Professional writing must always be just that – professional. Avoid excessive use of explanation points and emoticons. Many writers rely on these to convey happiness and excitement, but they can be read easily as insincere. If you want to highlight a detail, write it in a short sentence and bold the text instead of using CAPS. Capital letters are often read as yelling or extremely urgent.

Be confident. You’ve done the work to write this message, so demonstrate your expertise.

Example: (Confident) The research I’ve conducted throughout this year clearly shows that we should alter our current strategy.

(Not Confident) You must agree that my research shows that a change may need to be made.

Be motivating. Inspire others to do their best work by recognizing their skills and leadership.

Example: (Motivating) Thanks for your leadership on this project. Your ability to bring our team together is such an asset in getting things done – and enjoying the process!

(Not Motivating) This project will be challenging so I need you to do your best to keep our team united and engaged.

Stress the benefits for the reader. Convey your interest and dedication to your reader by making them – and their concerns – the subject of your sentences.

Example: (Reader-Orientated) Your request will be processed tomorrow.

(Not Reader-Orientated) I’ll process your request tomorrow.


3 thoughts on “The Importance of Tone

  1. Pingback: My Approach to Email | better writing in business

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