Getting On Beat When Emailing: Mastering Tone

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?


Signed,

In Hot Water


  

Dear In Hot Water:
After reading your cry for help, I want to reassure you that you are not the only young professional who tends to be a little off beat when it comes to delivering a specific tone while writing. This misrepresentation of that intended tone in writing is by no means a one-man show that you are the star of, as I promise that countless millennials struggle with this task both in and outside of the workplace every.single.day. However, just as you have earned your first job at a big firm as a recent college graduate, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that you are not more than capable of earning the respect of your colleagues through using proper tone in your emails.photo-1414690165279-49ab0a9a7e66

To begin mastering tone I want you actually rewind to when you are driving to work and flipping through the radio stations. Scanning from one station to another, there are the options of listening to channels that play oldies, top hits, country music, rap and hip-hop and everything in between. If you are anything like me, there are some stations that I will automatically skip. Even though there could be a song with lyrics that I could relate to, because it is sang through a certain genre of music I do not even give the music the time of day. However, when I scan across on of my go to stations, I find myself listening to songs strictly because they either have a nice beat or are sang through a certain genre. The most interesting part of this is the idea that two songs from totally different genres could have the same general meaning, but because one of the songs is part of a certain genre, that has a certain tone, I would potentially not listen to do.

This idea that the beat, genre and tone of a song determines whether someone will listen to the lyrics goes to show that you truly can say whatever you want to say, you just have to find the correct way to say it!

And drumroll! To do this, do not be tone deaf in your writing.

In every possible type of writing, whether that is a business memo, email, proposal etc., tone-deaf writing occurs you the following three components are not carefully considered:

  1. Why am I writing this document?
  2. Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand?
  3. What kind of tone should I use?

To catch on to the beat of this,

Why am I writing this document? When asking yourself this, you are thinking about the reasoning behind the message of the writing.
An example of this is my response to your call for help. I am writing this to help you master tone in business writing so that you can better articulate yourself to colleagues and gain respect. So my purpose is to help you master tone/gain respect, therefore vocabulary to describe my tone would be words such as, “hopeful” that you are capable of mastering the skill and “informative.”

Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand? To answer this question, you should be thinking about exactly whom you are writing to. Just like the variety of radio stations each have a somewhat intended audience and deliver a tone to cater towards those people, your writing should do the same!
An example of this is: if when responding to your call to help I wrote in Shakespearian language, I would obviously not be using an effective tone or language. In addition to that, if I worded my tips in an indirect fashion, then it would seem as if I really did not know what I was talking about, creating a tone of confusion.

What kind of tone should I use? The ultimate question! Use the tone that makes you feel as if you are portraying your intended message in the most authentic and appropriate way possible.
An example of this is: considering the language you have decided to use to convey that tone, putting emphasis on elements of the text that do not lead the reader astray, leaving out discriminatory language, and taking into consideration the perspective of the reader.

In Hot Water, do not let those first few emails define you as a person. Consider the tone of your writing and you will not only gain respect from others, but you could also be asked for an encore.

Cheers,

3040 and Beyond, Tessa Snow

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7 thoughts on “Getting On Beat When Emailing: Mastering Tone

  1. Hey Tessa! Your assurance to “In Hot Water” that they are not the only one in this type of situation is beneficial because so many of us encounter the same problems on a daily basis. You let the audience know that although it may seem like a huge problem, they can quickly diverge from their bad luck with the masterization of tone. I had never considered how listening to music in a car could strongly relate to the use of tone in a workplace email so this was particularly intriguing. You are beyond correct when you state that the same information can be evoked through a variety of tones tailored to the correct audience. After the initial introduction, I enjoyed that you clearly stated the root of the problem; being tone deaf. The information provided beyond that was helpful and meticulously written so that the audience would not be confused on how to correct their tone deaf writing. All-in-all your post was to the point but provided a massive amount of information to back up your main points. Good work!

  2. Hey Tessa! First and foremost, I loved the title of you post. It caught my attention and made me want to read more. Your overall structure is clear and concise, leaving little room for confusion or misinterpretation on the part of the reader. I liked how you outlined each of the key factors first then went into detail and described how to apple them in reality. The who, what and why we are writing can sometimes get lost in the scheme of things and thus lessen the effectiveness of the message being communicated.
    Over all, great job! I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

  3. Hi Tessa,

    I really loved the layout and design of your post. It flowed very well and was naturally easy to follow. Additionally, the list you used once you got into the body of your post was very helpful. It really stood out and directed my attention to your important information. Further, making these key phrases bold later on in your post solidified your organization and made it very clear what you were referencing. Lastly, I really liked the analogy you used with music on the radio. This is something that everyone can relate to and is a different approach that I never really considered. Keep up the good work!

    Sincerely,
    Nate Roadman

  4. Hi Tessa. I liked how you reassured “hot water” by letting them know that the issues they are facing are common to all millennials. In the next paragraph, you wrote about imagining how you’re in a car listening to radio and flipping through the stations. This was an interesting and easily understandable way to discuss the importance of tone. Providing real world examples always helps me understand things better so good job doing that! Bringing up how there’s not one perfect tone, but it should be adapted to the situation at hand, was a great thing to talk about. This can be easily misunderstood so thanks for mentioning it. Great post!

  5. Hey Tessa. First off I just wanted to tell you great work on this post. I really like reading about tone because it is something I struggle with in my emails as well. The overall format of the post was creative, keeping my attention the entire time I was reading. Personal connections set the stage and make for an effective message and you did a very good job of doing this. The three questions you discussed “Why am I writing this document? Who am I writing to and what do I want them to understand? What kind of tone should I use?” were excellent and explaining each one was just icing on the cake.

  6. Hey Tessa!
    I thought it was really cool how you incorporated themes from actual music to make points about this topic. Your point about how comparing two different genres of music with different beats and tones can change a listener’s experience was a great way for the writer to wrap their head around how it is the same in writing. You always have such good voice in your writing, and it sounds like you are genuinely trying to help the writer. I also like how your subtitles are in the form of questions, because it helps the reader remember that those are the things they should be asking themselves when they feel stuck. Good job!

  7. Hey Tessa! I really enjoyed your post, and one of the things that I appreciated was how well you took your own advice by using a friendly, clear, an consistent tone throughout your piece. I thought it was very intriguing how you compared the message of an email to the message in the lyrics of the song, and the song genre to the tone of the email. I’d never thought of it in that way, but now it makes a lot more sense! I thought your example was very relatable to all people, and I found your take on the whole matter very refreshing. I totally agree that simply considering why you are writing something and who you are writing it for can help you decide which tone is best to use! Great job all around!!

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