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August 22, 2016

Controlling Your Tone in E-mail

Have you ever received an e-mail and felt as if you had been slapped? Most of us have; some of us have responded in a similar way, igniting an e-mail war of words.

Tone is what you hear when you read something, and it creates a feeling in the reader that is either positive or negative. Here are three things to watch for that can affect the tone of your e-mails. tone

  • Pronouns. First person singular pronouns show responsibility; first person plural pronouns communicate accountability, formality, and authority. Second person pronouns are inflammatory and should be avoided as much as possible, especially if you are sending bad news. Third person pronouns are neutral.
  • Sentence length. Generally, short sentences are punchier and may be perceived as rude. Longer sentences soften tone. For example, “See attached” has a harder tone than “I have attached the document you requested.”
  • Positive wording. Using positive wording is better than negative wording since people find it easier to understand, and it has a more pleasing tone. For example, “I will process your claim when I receive the documentation from the doctor” is more positive than, “I can’t process your claim without documentation from the doctor. “

If people have said your tone is harsh or abrupt, review your e-mails with these tips in mind.

Need help being more positively productive with e-mail? Check out my program Writing and Managing E-mail.

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