Have you ever seen a family member or friend upset and when you ask what is wrong they reply with the one word response of, “nothing.” Not only have we all been in this situation, sometimes we are even the one denying that anything is wrong. It is easy to tell when someone is mad, sad, annoyed or happy. Aside from clues in body language you can know their emotion through their tone. More often than not a person’s tone will influence your response as well. If you are trying to help someone and they are rude and short in response it is likely that you will no longer what to help them. Tone is often thought to be solely the inflection in your voice and how you say something. But tone can be heard through multiple mediums, even writing. During my internship last summer with a swim wear manufacturer I was given the unfortunate task of contacting a photographer that had taken some swimsuits samples from a photo shoot that were not rightfully hers. Without a phone number available, my only medium of communication to the photographer was email. Within minutes of sending her an email about how the suits were taken and needed to be returned, she blasted me with a message of how outraged she was that we would accuse her of stealing and demanded to be put into contact with the head of my department. My last intention was to make her feel attacked or accused but emails can amplify the meaning of a message when you are not there to accompany it by a soft tone of voice or friendly demeanor. Personality is present in writing thanks to tone but can often be forgotten or even misinterpreted when composing an email or report in the work place. Here are a few ways to keep your tone professional and avoid the mistake I made, without compromising your identity.
Just Be You
The deciding factor of wither or not your audience continues to read is often going to be your tone. Are you relatable? Are you inviting? Are you knowledgeable? The answer should be yes to all of these questions. Connecting your topic to a personal experience brings life to writing and makes readers feel that your information is applicable to their own life. Wordy paragraphs and uncommon vocabulary often turn off readers. Make sure that when writing you stick to language that your audience is comfortable and familiar with, do not try to impress someone with ten-dollar words. If a reader feels that they know the same, if not more about a topic there is no reason for them to continue reading. Do a little extra research on a client or company that way you can drop little bits of knowledge when writing and maintain credibility. Begin by writing your main points and then edit your work depending on who will be reading it. This way you are not stressed about what kind of vocabulary to use and can maintain your one of a kind tone. Writing that is clear and well edited is more useful than writing with big words and overflowing content.
To Whom And What Are You Writing?
Just as with any other piece of writing the first thing to do is identify your audience as well as the purpose of the writing, this will hint at the underlying tone you should have. You must be professional when writing in the workplace but that does not mean your writing has to be plain, adding personality and your own “voice” will make a memorable impression on bosses and co-workers. A review will include more opinionated writing and allow you to include more personal thoughts, a meeting agenda on the other hand is going to have a more professional tone and include facts and to-do lists. Of corse some of your writing will change depending on who is the audience, you are not going to text your friends the way you would write a project proposal, but it is important to keep a rather uniform tone in order to remain authentic. Next identify the purpose of your writing, is it to land a job? Or collaborate with co-workers on a project? No matter what the subject confidence is key. A resume should show how well qualified you are and that you are the number one candidate for the job. look at the companies job listing and website to see what type of adjectives they use when describing the job, this way you can tailor your resume and cover letter to meet their expectations. The reason you are writing should stand front and center, don’t be afraid to list exactly what you need and when you need it, it is possible to be strong without being demanding. You do not want your emails to be so causal that reader wonder if you are just checking in or really need something.
Know When To Tone It Down
Word choice and language can make or break your writing, readers do not want to feel attacked or inferior. Stray away from words such as “always” or “never” they often bring a negative connotation and make you sound like a nag. When a co-worker asks for your help taking on a heavy work load do not respond with “I am always helping you finish your work,” reply with “I am so busy with my own projects sorry! Keeping a calendar of deadlines and a to-do list always helps me stay on top of my work you should give it a try!” This way you not only dodge the extra work, but you also appear helpful by giving them organizational tips. When writing you also want to make sure that you are not toning it down too much, balance is key. Slang terms and contractions can dumb down your writing and make co-workers not take you as seriously. Addressing peers using words like “bro,” “man,”and “girl,” take away from the business setting, your language in business literature should not resemble your text message to friends in any way.
Your choice in tone is almost always going to rely on who your audience is, if your talking to a co-worker you should sound like a peer and not bossy or more important. When writing to a boss or potential employer you are going to want to sound knowledgable, level headed and hard working. Making a few tweaks to your writing allows you to connect with your audience, whom ever they may be and keep them reading.