We were supposed to have lunch today, and you didn’t show up. I waited an hour.
If you don’t send me the documents by 5:00 pm today, we will miss the court deadline.
You haven’t replied to my emails.
All of these statements, if delivered in person, might not sound angry. The listener would hear the vocal tone and inflection of the speaker, and accept the message. However, the same statements, if delivered in an email, may leave the reader feeling as if she has been punched in the face.
The problem is that email is a cold medium. When readers receive a short, direct email – or even a longer one – they often think the sender is angry. What is the cost of misinterpreted email tone?
• Hurt feelings
• Damage to the organizational culture
• Unwillingness to respond, leading to work not being done or the wrong work being done.
The solution, of course, is to warm up the tone of your emails. If the tone alienates the reader, you can forget about delivering your message. Once you have upset a person, his ability to absorb information is compromised. So if you want to communicate, think carefully about tone. This Writamin contains four suggestions for warming up the tone of your emails. The tips are taken from Worktalk's email effectiveness trainings.
The right tone for a business email is positive, friendly, and professional. How can you achieve this tone?
Four Steps to a Friendlier Tone:
You know how you feel. How might the other person be feeling? Imagine your reader reading what you have written. How does your reader feel after reading it?
2. Smile when you write.
Just as you should answer the phone with a smile, write your emails with a smile on your face. Research has proven that when people smile, their mood improves. If you find you’re pounding away at the keys with your mouth set grimly, you are probably composing an email whose tone you will regret.
Relax your face. Smile a little. Watch how your tone shifts. Sounds crazy, but it works!
3. Greet the reader and make a friendly comment.
Some people don’t care whether you hope they are having a nice day, but many more readers appreciate a friendly comment at the beginning of an initial email.
A greeting shows your reader that you know this is a human-to-human interaction. Being pleasant adds to the word count in your message, but it also adds to the goodwill factor.
You can write Dear, Hi, Hello, Good morning… whatever suits your situation. Your opening comment can be as simple as Hope you’re having a good day, or Hope you’re enjoying the season, or, better yet, Welcome back from your vacation – a comment that shows you know the reader personally. Just say something nice.
4. Use conversational language.
Write as if you are having a friendly conversation with your reader. Here are a few tools to use:
• Personal pronouns such as you and I/we.
I’d like to learn more about your situation.
This is an attempt to ascertain the facts.
Sorry to bother you at this difficult time…
• Polite, courteous comments
We appreciate having the opportunity to serve you.
It is always a pleasure to see you in our office.
Warming Up the ToneIn the examples above, how could we warm up the tone?
Cold: We were supposed to have lunch today, and you didn’t show up. I waited an hour.
Warm: I had in my calendar that we were supposed to have lunch today. I went to the restaurant and waited a while, but didn’t see you. Is everything okay? Did I get the date right?
Cold: If you don’t send me the documents by 5:00 pm today, we will miss the court deadline.
Warm: Today’s 5:00 pm deadline is particularly important, as if we miss it, we will miss the court deadline and the case will be dismissed. I know I can count on you to get the documents to me in time.
Cold: You haven’t replied to my emails.
Warm: I’ve sent you a few emails and haven’t heard back. Are you alright? If you could just drop me an email letting me know you’ve been receiving them, I’ll know I have the right address.
As you can see, warming up your tone requires you to use more words. As the author of a book called Get to the Point!, I am all for using fewer words. However, when it comes to tone, using more words is often better.
So visualize your reader, smile as you write, greet the reader warmly, and write conversationally. Just wait: You’ll be getting fan letters for your emails!
(c) 2016 Elizabeth Danziger all rights reserved.
Read Writamins on these topics:
Choosing the Right Word
Thoughts on Writing
Writing Within Organizations