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Touch Up Your Tone

You alter your tone of voice to convey messages in different ways. Much of what you say is also interpreted through non-verbal clues – eye contact, gestures, inflections of the voice, etc.

This type of ‘reading between the lines’ is not possible with the written word. Therefore it is vitally important to choose your words carefully. You can be firm or friendly, persuasive or conciliatory – it depends on the impression you wish to convey. It is important to try to get the tone right, because using the wrong tone could cause real offence to your reader.

Tone means the emotional context of your message, the degree of formality or informality you use in your writing, and your attitude towards the topic. Good writers in business learn to choose their words carefully!

When writing in business analyse these four important factors and adopt an appropriate tone that reflects them all:

  • your status
  • the status of the reader
  • the content of the message
  • your relationship with the reader

Here are some examples of good and bad tone:

Before After
You failed to send your order to us before the new prices were introduced. Unfortunately your order arrived after the new prices were introduced.
Problems of this type are quite common with this cheaper model. Next time I suggest you spend a bit more money. Problems of this type are far less common with the more advanced model.
This problem would not have happened if you had connected the wires properly in the first place. This problem may be resolved by connecting the wires as shown in the handbook.
Your computer’s guarantee has expired so you will have to pay for it to be repaired. Unfortunately your computer’s guarantee has ended, so I am sorry that you must bear the cost of any repairs.

 

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© 2013 Shirley Taylor.
Shirley Taylor is a recognised leading authority on business writing and communication skills. For almost 30 years she has presented keynotes and training programmes that help people and organisations boost communication skills and develop great relationships both orally and in writing. Shirley is bestselling author of 12 books, including Model Business Letters, Emails and Other Business Documents, which has sold half a million copies worldwide and has been translated into many languages. If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit www.shirleytaylor.com.

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