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,
Take a deep breath everything will be fine. You are right out of college and already have a job so things are going well at this point. Your issues perhaps are coming from the tone in your writing, it like the tone in someone’s voice can completely change what you intend to say and can rub people the wrong way. As millennials it can be often times difficult to relate and communicate to other generations especially over email when they cannot see the tone you mean to convey.
The definition of tone in writing according to Purdue OWL is the “writer’s attitude toward the reader and the subject of the tone.” This means that if your tone is off in your writing then whomever you are sending emails to may interpret it in a way, you probably did not intended. You want to try and find your voice when you write, and there are some things to keep in mind in order to do so.
Know Your Audience
It is important to know whom your speaking to through your emails. You need to keep in mind that other employees and even your boss will probably be reading it so being formal and to the point is vital. Making sure you do not use improper grammar or misspell anything because in the work place it is something that can bother people and give you a laid back or lazy tone, which as I discussed in an earlier post is a stereotype of millenials. Workplace communication is different from talking to a friend, with a friend you can be informal and use terms such as “lol” and “omg” but in the workplace will only make people have issues with you. These things are not meant to be mean to anyone or hurtful but are something that in the tone of writing can make you sound bad which is obviously not what you want.
Proofreading is Key
Sometime it can be easy to forget that everything you say in an email is taken as it is so being sure that you read over what you are going to send is imperative. When you are working it is easy to quickly write an email and send it off but you always need to be sure you proofread everything you send. When you go back and read through it, reading it out loud will help you understand the tone of what you are saying because that is how the reader will interpret it. Reading something aloud can sometimes sound much different then when it is written so this will be a good check on the tone of the writing. This step may be the most important of them all when determining if your tone is appropriate.
Getting to the Point
Making sure your emphasize the key point of what you are trying to send will help keep your email short and to the point leaving little room for you to use a harsh tone. A long run on sentence is opening your up to using improper tone so making short concise sentences will be polite and much harder to be misunderstood. The excess background information you might add can be the source of the tone in your writing. People also do not want or have time to read long sentences that have unnecessary information in it, so keeping to the point will make it easier to read in turn being more acceptable by whoever is reading.
So to conclude, In Hot Water you need to always be conscious of your tone in writing. Three keys to being sure your tone is appropriate are making sure you know who you are speaking to, always reading what you write out loud to be sure your tone isn’t offensive, and making short concise sentences that don’t have information they do not need to read.