“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”
Well In Hot Water let’s take you out of that hot water and hopefully get you back into the good graces of your peers and boss. The first thing that I immediately noticed is how you decided to swear in your letter to 3040 and Beyond. I personally do not have a problem with that at all, but some other people might. So if you are swearing in your emails that you are sending out to your coworkers and boss that could potentially be why you have angered some of them. That is a very easy fix and something little that I immediately noticed. So try to be more conscious about the type of language you are using while writing in the workplace and you will already be on the right track!
Now let’s get down to some more technical stuff that will hopefully help to get you back in everyone’s good graces. Let’s start by having you consider who you are writing to. This can drastically change the tone in which your message will be written in. For example; Say that you are writing a message to your boss. Sit back, think how you want the message to sound while your boss is reading it, and then begin to write. My guess is that you probably want it to sound very professional, concise, and useful if it is your boss that’s going to be the one reading it. Now think about if you were writing something to a coworker who you are good friends with. How does the tone in which you are writing your message change? I’m sure that it is still somewhat professional, but the tone has probably loosened up a bit and does not make you sound so uptight.
One trick that I have used for many years now, especially while writing emails is to read the email out loud to myself once I have finished writing it. This is a great little trick because when you read something outloud to yourself it is much easier to pick up the tone that it is going to be read by the recipient in and allow you to adjust accordingly. Did you use only periods when writing the email? A lot of times using only periods is fine, but sometimes you need an exclamation mark in there to add a little life to the writing! It is easy to sound like a robot, or as I like to call it a “tone drone,” when using only periods as your punctuation so make sure to pay attention to that.
Another way that you could have potentially offended your coworkers is by assuming certain things while writing them. Assuming sounds a bit drastic, but it is making the assumptions such as using “his” instead of “their” and things along those lines. When writing in the workplace make sure that you do not single any one type of person, gender, or position out unless you know for a fact that everyone receiving the email or work has the characteristic that you stated. When you state general characteristics that not all recipients have it is easy to offend someone or make someone feel discluded who does not contain that characteristic.
Tone is so important in workplace writing and it can be easily misinterpreted. That is why it is so important to make a conscious effort while writing in the workplace. It is very easy to offend someone that you work with if you are not considerate to their personal characteristics or needs. So slow down, think out your writing, add some life to it when needed, and I’m sure you’ll be back in good standing with everyone in no time!