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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 computers guarantee has expired so you will have to pay for it to be repaired. Unfortunately your computers guarantee has ended, so I am sorry that you must bear the cost of any repairs.

To help you, I’ve put together a checklist of reasons why your writing style may not be working as effectively as it should.

This checklist also contains my top 10 strategies for improving the business writing style throughout your organisation.

Please send my free checklist

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© Shirley Taylor.
Shirley is a high-energy, high-content speaker who is passionate about motivating individuals to make a real difference in our automated world. With inspiring stories and a fun style, she engages audiences quickly, and encourages them to embrace high-touch as well as high-tech so they can connect with heart.

Shirley has been a trusted member of the professional speaking and training community for many years, and has received several awards for her services in leadership. She served as Asia Professional Speakers Singapore President 2011-12 and as Global Speakers Federation President 2017-18. She has spoken in almost 20 countries all over the world.

Author of 12 books published by international publishers, Shirley has established herself as a leading authority in workplace communication, business writing, and email. Her international bestseller Model Business Letters, Emails & Other Business Documents 7th edition has sold over half a million copies worldwide and been translated into 17 languages.

If you would like Shirley to speak at your next event, visit

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