We have all been in a situation where we need to address someone in order to get what we want. Whether it is asking your parents to let you go on a trip for spring break, borrowing your friends new clothes, applying for an internship, or interviewing for a job, it is key to pay attention to your overall self presentation. This is reflected in your body language, but most importantly also the tone in which you deliver your message. Conveying your tone in face-to-face situations is definitely easier than trying to portray your thoughts in written communication. Therefore, it is very important to analyze how you present and organize your thoughts within your writing. You want to make sure that you are coming across in the way you intended, so your audience will react accordingly.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to ensure you are using the appropriate tone in every written document, from casual emails to business proposals. Follow this guide and you will be set for success in any situation!
To begin you need to think about the three W’s… Why? Who? What?
Why am I writing this document, what is the purpose?
Who am I writing this document to?
What response do I want from my audience?
Clearly understanding the purpose of why you are writing a document is crucial, so you can make sure you set the correct tone for your message. Once you have determined why you are writing the document, you then need to define your audience, so you can alter your message to the specific reader. This is important because you need to use language that your readers will be able to understand and relate to. In Using an Appropriate Tone in Business Writing, it is made clear that using the appropriate tone will prevent you from alienating the reader, you will positively influence the reader’s attitude, and help the reader connect with your message. The overall goal is for your audience to take an action after reading your document, so correctly addressing your reader is key if you want a positive response. For example, if you are applying for a job, you need to research the company and see what language they are using in their job descriptions etc, and match the adjectives they use with the ones you are using in your resume and cover letter. Also make sure you are writing with the appropriate level of difficulty, because you never want to write above or below your reader.
Confidence is Key
No matter if you are writing a quick email, perfecting your cover letter, or preparing a business proposal, your tone needs to be confident. This way you can establish your credibility and be persuasive to your audience. However, be sure that you are not coming across as arrogant and over confident, because this will turn away your reader and make them view you in negative light. Be sure to avoid using complex terminology, and write in a way that is relatable and understandable.
You also want to make sure that you are being sincere and courteous in your writing. Even if you are addressing a negative situation, it is important to remain professional and polite. How to use tone in your writing perfectly lays out which tones are appropriate for common business place writing:
- Awarding a promotion—appreciative, enthusiastic
- Applying for a job position—enthusiastic, confident
- Denying a request—regretful, courteous
- Rejecting a job applicant—thankful, regretful
- Declining a job offer—appreciative, regretful
- Apologizing to a customer for a mistake—humble, appreciative to the person for being a client, confident that the mistake will be remedied
- Apologizing to a customer; unable to correct the mistake—humble, appreciative, regretful that the mistake can not be remedied
- Reprimanding an employee—firm but courteous (address the issue; don’t attack the individual)
A formal tone is pretty much the standard when it comes to business writing. We are all classy professionals; so formal writing is the way to go. Except, be careful to not sound too formal. You want your writing to come across as natural, not overly stuffy and complex. Inside Business makes a valid point that you need to focus on your reader, and the benefits they will get from reading your document. Write as if you were in their shoes, how will you benefit them?
Another rule of thumb is to never use discriminatory language. Treat everyone as equals. Be as gender neutral as possible, avoid using discriminatory and demeaning terms, and don’t be biased. In today’s business world you will come across many different types of people, so it is important to give everyone a fair chance and to treat them with respect.
Remember that your tone is vital in all forms of communication, and even more so in your writing. Make sure you are paying attention to your audience, so you can effectively and appropriately choose the manner in which you address them. Learn how to use different tones for different situations, and you will become a master in workplace written communication!