Stuck in the No Tone Zone

Dear 3040 and Beyond: 

I’m a new grad at a big firm and I think I’ve messed things up with my co-workers. They’ve been acting weird around me and my only office friend says I’ve been offending people in my emails. From my boss to my peers, it looks like I’ve made everyone mad. The thing is, I have no idea what kinds of stuff I could say in email that would piss people off! I’m a nice person and I haven’t had many problems like this before. Can you help? 


In Hot Water

Dear In Hot Water,

I can relate to your problem all too well. Sometimes, when I would text my girlfriend I would be really short and use abbreviations because I was busy. She always thought I was mad or upset at her for something just because of the way she would read my messages, when in reality there was nothing wrong, thats just how I would text. I realized that it is not about what I would say, but rather how I said it. This definitely applies to your situation since everyone you send an email to takes offense to how your saying what needs to be relayed. The tone you use in your email communication is essential in order to be reUnknowngarded as a professional and to maintain and good relationship with your peers.

One of the most important reasons as to why it is essential to use tone in your digital communication is that it adds your own personality to the message. You are writing the message, right? Make it sound like you! According to, they say that “not only does this make your copy more engaging, it allows the consumer to feel emotionally attached to your brand”. Adding your own personal tone to your emails will help the recipient connect and understand your message. Utilize tone to make your emails sound like as if you were speaking directly to them. If you are writing in a dull tone, chances are you are not going to be taken too seriously or will either offend someone (in your case) at the workplace. Add some personality to your message!

As you start to utilize your own personal tone more, different people are going to respond to different tones, so it is important that you can be flexible in the use of your tone. The website makes a good point by saying “your mother will perceive the very same bold and red in an email differently than the same bold and red used in an email to a new acquaintance. Your perceived tone will differ based on how well someone knows you.” The last part of this quote pertains exactly to your situation. You are at a new job where your coworkers do not know you very well, so when you use the wrong tone, or no tone for that matter, people are going to assume a few things: 1) you have no idea what you are talking about, 2) if you come off as rude in your emails that you are probably the same when you are not behind the computer screen, and 3) that you flat out just do not care about the work or your coworkers. Its about branding yourself in the workplace to establish your credibility and so that people look to you as a power player in the office.

My last piece of advice for you is to know your audience. You will be contacting different people for different reasons, whether formal or informal, and so there are different tones for different types of conversations. The people over at state that “analyzing your audience and the purpose of your message is the key to successful business writing. As well as helping you decide what content and how much detail to include, it helps you apply the right tone in your writing”. Being able to channel and apply the right tone in your writing will invoke a very positive response from the recipients of the email. If you want to know more about the various tones and when to use them, you can look here. This is the best advice that I could give anyone on this subject, because I struggled with it myself. I hope you found this helpful!

Best Regards,

William Adams


6 thoughts on “Stuck in the No Tone Zone

  1. I like how right off the bat you had a personal example about your girlfriend. It made it so much more relatable and understandable! I agree that it is essential to keep tone in mind when writing. I also really enjoyed your linked article Printwand. I think making someone emotionally attached to your brand is essential to success. I agree that knowing your audience is super important, because If u address the wrong audience, it can potentially ruin the whole situation. People could easily get offended or confused, which is never good. Your analysis of perceiving tone was also very insightful. Great post!

  2. I have to say right away that I loved your title. The pun was hilarious, and really made me want to read the rest of your article. I also enjoyed the personal anecdote about your girlfriend. It benefited your post by making you seem more personable and also making it seem like we should take advice from you because you have experience in this topic. Your graphic was lighthearted and further kept my interest as I read your blog. In terms of catering to your audience of college age millennials, I thought you did a great job. By ending with the note that you struggle with the subject yourself, you further exemplified how relatable you are to your readers.

  3. Hi William,
    Good job on your blog post! I really enjoyed reading your introduction paragraph, especially since you made it so relatable. I thought that using the story of texting your girlfriend was a very smart choice because almost everyone can easily think of a time when they had communication issues. This story is also a good choice because it makes it even more straightforward in regards to applying this to your business email writing. I also liked your most important reasons for why it is essential to use tone in your digital communication, especially adding personality. Overall, I think that In Hot Water will benefit from your post.

  4. Hey! i liked how your title kept things interesting it drew me to the article. Then you continued with your first paragraph being super relatable so i really like how you did that. It made whoever is reading this article feel like you are on the same level! I liked how you incorporated a personal story in your response here another great way to put yourself on their level! I really learned a lot from this article through your straight forward approach of how to apply your skills to writing emails!

    good job!

  5. Hey William!

    For a blog response about tone, your tone was awful!!! Just joking, that was my trying to use a sarcastic tone… not sure if that was funny, or worked? But in all seriousness, I really enjoyed your response to “In Hot Water” and I think you used a very genuine and sincere tone throughout the piece. I especially enjoyed the way you started the letter back to In Hot water by your initial response of being very understanding and relating to the individual. Not to mention, with technology I definitely think that your example with texting your girlfriend was very relatable for all! The piece of advice that I especially gravitated towards was your note about flexibility in tone. It is great to point out how you can use different tones with different people, and I definitely think that In Hot Water needed to be reminded of this!

    Nice work, and sorry if my joke initially was slightly harsh? Or just not funny at all ha.
    Hope you had a nice week!

    Tessa Snow

  6. I love that you begin with the girlfriend analogy because i’ve totally been there (as the girlfriend) and it’s a humorous introduction. It helps you establish a connection with your reader and really hooks them in. I was really engaged in your post from start to finish. You have a great writing style and utilize some great sources. Your visual was also appropriate, well-placed, and funny which really adds another great element to this post. As far as organization/structure/flow of the post, you could maybe break up your ideas and delineate with bold headings. You could also put the hot water email in a block post to help the visual aspect. I’m just being nit picky though! Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Good work!

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