Conveying a Proper Tone in Your Writing

Tone is a complex and important aspect of ones writing. I have seen first hand when someone’s tone was portrayed incorrectly, and this led to conflict within the workplace. This fall one of my friends was overdue for a meeting to discuss a raise, and was told multiple times that this meeting was supposed to occur, which it never did. When he took initiative and emailed the manager with whom he was suppose to meet, she did not take it well. She thought his tone came across and impatient, unappreciative, and rude. After receiving an anger filled email back he was able to clarify the message, but this shows how important it is to have the proper tone in your writing. Without it relationships and careers can be damaged, and it is more difficult to achieve the goals of your writing. The importance of proper tone is further outlined in the article The Importance of Tone in Business Writing. When going through the writing process it is important to consider why you are writing the document, and the proper tone that accompanies that goal. Outlined in the Purdue OWL article, some more specific factors to remember and consider while developing tone are to be confident, use appropriate emphasis and subordination, use nondiscriminatory language, stress the benefits to the reader, and write at an appropriate level of difficulty. If someone finds they are struggling with their business writing tone, like in the letter below, these suggestions are all strategies that could help improve the writing 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?


In Hot Water

Someone who finds they are in a position like in the letter above should work on improving their tone, and specifically pay attention to these Five Ways to Keep Your Tone in Check When Writing Business Emails. According to this article five things to do are to

improper workplace tone
Example of improper workplace tone

use proper word choice, clear and simple subject lines, pause before sending an email to think about it from the reader’s perspective, avoid emoticons, and be careful with attachments. In addition to that the article Appropriate Tone in Business Writing outlines many different aspects of tone to be considered, and should be consulted by anyone who is struggling to convey the proper tone. One situation mentioned in the article is writing when the subject is negative, which make writing with the proper tone much more difficult. Some suggestions by this article are to step back to calm down and collect yourself, and to ask a friend or colleague to review your writing. Even when the subject is positive, having another set of eyes read over your writing is always a good idea, and can help you to better understand what the reader thinks.

Overall when trying to formulate the proper tone I suggest taking a couple minutes before you begin writing to think about how you want to come across in your writing. Then, once this is determined plan and execute a plan to write with the correct tone, applying all the strategies and suggestions listed in the articles above. Finally, having another person read over your work can help to give you insight to how the writing is portrayed in the mind of the reader. Using the proper tone in business writing can make or break you. Without proper tone you may offend coworkers or customers, which will damage your career. However, with the suggestions from the articles above, anyone can mold their business writing tone into an effective and appropriate one.


3 thoughts on “Conveying a Proper Tone in Your Writing

  1. Zach,
    I like your ideas about how to incorporate tone in the correct manner, whether it be professionally or more socially. I wrote about many of the same tips in my blog, and can agree with much of what you talked about. I think both of our tips can help create greater emails.


  2. You made some very good points about how important our tone and dialogue when we are writing because sometimes we will not even realize how we sound to the other person. You are right we need to make our writing much more professional, and be careful what we put in emails!

  3. Hi Zach,

    Thank you for the thoughtful post on email tone. I think you are definitely correct when you need to take time before you write the email to reflect on who you are writing your email too. It makes the world of a difference in your professional tone if you are aware of who the email is being sent to. It also shows a lot in your person if you are able to write professional emails in a quick manner.

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