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Emailing Effectively

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
• Resentment
• 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:

1. Visualize your reader.
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.
• Empathy 
 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 Tone

In 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:

Emailing Effectively

Writing Well

Choosing the Right Word

Thoughts on Writing

Writing Within Organizations


Bad writing is costly. Good writing builds relationships and productivity. Improve the business writing and email in your organization by offering business writing and email training programs from Worktalk. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information.

Why choose WorkTalk trainings?

  • Taught by a professional writer. +

    These courses are not taught by a general skills trainer who happens to teach writing. Elizabeth Danziger has been published by major publishing houses such as Random House and Harcourt Brace. Her work has appeared in many national magazines. She is an expert writer and editor who brings her knowledge as a resource to participants.
  • Customized. +

    Every Worktalk training is customized to the client's needs. We meet with you, analyze writing samples from your organization, and customize our training to target the specific challenges that employees in your organization face.
  • Energetic and entertaining. +

    With plenty of exercises and opportunities for interaction, the Worktalk trainings move quickly. Subjects that were terrifying in grammar school become fun and interesting in these outstanding programs.
  • Proven results. +

    In trainings all over the country, Ms. Danziger has enabled participants to streamline their organizing process, eliminate persistent errors, and drastically cut their revision time. Clients spend less time on key communications while producing better relationships and results. Sales people get more positive responses from prospects.
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