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Write Beside Me: Your Tone Is Showing

By Randi Mayes posted 05-21-2012 14:20


Tone is the “body language” of the written word. If you’ve ever sat through a presentation where the speaker looked disinterested – even distracted – you know the importance of the right attitude in communicating. In writing, when you set the right tone, your message will be heard. Commit a tonal faux pas, and you’re sure to make a lasting bad impression on your audience. In fact, most readers will miss your brilliance when your bad manners dominate a message.

A few very basic tips can go a long way in avoiding a tonal misdirection:

  • So . . . if you want to get someone in a boxer’s stance with your first word, try leading with “so.” It generally conveys a challenge. It incites the reader to fire back a quick quip. 
  • Avoid passive-aggressive language. You know the type – harsh words followed (or led) by a half-baked apology. You’ve seem ‘em . . . “I’m sorry, but your explanation is silly.” “That’s a pretty lame example – sorry – just being honest.” “I hate to be the naysayer, but that idea really sucks.”
  • Curt, terse, quick words telegraph disrespect. What you’re counting on to sound “succinct” will likely sound rude. “Get it?”
  • Write unto others as you would have them write unto you. A little kindness goes a long way – be sure you’re minding your tonal P’s and Q’s.

Please remember that ILTA promotes collegial, helpful, professional communication on its e-groups; and we have an official policy that lays out the basic rules for interaction, citing those most egregious of violations that we seek to avoid. But there are numerous minor offenses that are committed simply by posting in haste and/or without a proper observance of tone. Give that message one last check before you hit send.