Tone. Do You Proofread for Email Tone?
April 11, 2011 2 Comments
It’s happened to us all. You click on ‘Send’ and then cringe because at that same moment you see a typo or notice you forgot to add the attachment.
These kinds of mistakes are embarrassing but are unlikely to get you into trouble. What does get you into trouble is when the reader interprets your email tone as bossy, angry or uncaring.
There are many tips & truths I teach in my Effective Business Email Etiquette Workshop but the following two are particularly relevant for this subject:
- Whatever your reader understands and interprets is reality (whether you meant it or not)
- Every interaction creates a personal reaction
The big challenge is that you and I ‘feel’ tone mostly through senses like vocal inflection, hand gestures and facial expressions; senses that do not exist in an email or Instant Messages (IM). When these senses are available they offer our readers valuable insight into what we mean by the words we use.
Without these senses the tone of our email messages often sounds angry / bossy. At best, the one-dimensional nature of email is like a blank painters canvas waiting for the reader to add whatever emotions they are feeling at that moment – such as job stress or impatience. Therefore, frustration caused by demands or inappropriate remarks made from someone unrelated to you (or your email), might find their way into your message – and then impact your relationship.
Example: What are some of the possible interpretations if you emailed the following message to one of your staff:
“I need 10 minutes at the end of our department weekly meeting.”
- This request could easily be interpreted that you only need to speak to that one person – not the whole department
- For an overachiever this message may get them excited because they think you have a new project to share with only them – then disappointed when they find out you don’t
- For someone who feels stressed this message might move them into a sleepless panic because they think you are disappointed and they are going to be reprimanded – or fired. In addition you’ve asked to meet at the end of a department meeting so all of their associates will also know.
The Real Situation:
The real situation is that you’ve just been given a new department goal by the company President and you proudly want to share the good news. But, look at what emotions your seemingly innocent email might present.
Example Solution: Leave less room for interpretation by sending your email in a way that is still brief but considers who you are writing to – perhaps the following:
“I want to introduce the whole team to a new department goal at our weekly department meeting. Please schedule 10 minutes for this at the end of the meeting.”
So yes, proofreading for things like spelling is important but we also need to proofread considering your audiences needs, knowledge and work environment. We have to be responsible for the reactions and responses our email messages may evoke. The beauty is that the reason why is really self-serving:
- If your messages are clear and easily acted on you build your brand
- If your messages evoke negative reactions you hurt your reputation and your ability to reach your employment goals
Happy communication and email writing.
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www.brucemayhewconsulting.com I’d enjoy reading your comments on this post.
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