Tone in writing is just as important as tone in speaking. The tone of the message will affect the reader just as the tone of voice affects the listener.
Your attitude toward the reader and even toward the content of the message will influence the tone of the document. You want the readers to perceive the message as a professional communication meant to either provide information or persuade them to do something.
There are two basic questions to consider when determining the tone of the document.
When answering the questions, take a minute and reflect on how you feel about the content of the document as well as the recipient. Keep your thoughts:
as you set the tone of your communication.
Take the time to think about the purpose of the document.
The tone of your document will convey your confidence (or lack thereof) to your reader, so be sure to use language that will make you sound not only competent, but confident. Your reader will trust you more and be more likely to do what you want if he or she feels you know what you are talking about.
For example: Marcella has accepted a position at another company. She is not quite sure what tone to employ in her letter of resignation. She asks herself what she hopes to accomplish with the letter.
The answer she arrives at is she wants to let her current supervisor know that she appreciates the opportunity to work for the company and she has learned a lot. She does not want to burn any bridges in making this move to a new company. Once she has thought about those things, she is able to write the resignation letter with a professional and grateful tone.
When thinking about your audience, you need to consider how much information you need to include, how to include it, and what level of language you are going to use. All of these things come together to convey the tone of the message.
If you are writing a memo to your team members, letting them know that deadlines have changed, the level of detail and language will be much different than if you are sending an email to a supervisor to update her on the progress of the project.
When writing a business message, the tone should be confident, courteous, and sincere. Language becomes important as well as the level of understanding in the document. Some general guidelines that will help you write professional, competent messages with the appropriate tone are:
Let's examine each of these guidelines.
In order to get your message across with confidence, you need to be prepared. You need to be knowledgeable about the subject and write with confidence without being overbearing.
You do not want your reader to think you are being presumptuous or arrogant; therefore, the goal is to present yourself in a confident manner, showing your competence in the subject matter.
For example: You are writing a memo to your supervisor asking for approval of a proposal:
Politeness in a business message is not enough. You must also be sincere. You want your readers to believe that you actually mean what you say and are not just being courteous because you think you have to be.
You need to be respectful and honest in your communications, even when delivering negative news. Your readers will be more willing to accept the message if they feel they have been treated with respect.
For example: you are writing a note explaining why a request was denied:
Language that singles out specific people or causes someone to feel he or she is not being treated fairly is discriminatory. There are several ways to avoid the use of discriminatory language in a professional business environment.
If your purpose is to persuade your reader, you will want to give him or her some incentive for doing what you ask.
Therefore, it is important to write from the reader's perspective. In other words, use a structure that will answer the question the reader is asking him or herself: "What's in it for me?"
Writing from your perspective is: "I will not be working on your project until next week." Turn it around and let your reader know what is in it for him or her: "I will complete your project by the end of next week."
If there is some kind of reward or other benefit for the readers, tell them. For example, "You will see an increase in productivity in your department once this process is implemented."
The style and structure of your writing must match the reading ability of your audience. If you are explaining a new software program to a group of IT professionals, you will use jargon and technical language that you know they can understand.
On the other hand, using that same technical language and jargon to the end users of the software program will only frustrate them. Technical language needs to be simplified for non-technical readers, but not "dumbed down" to the extent you insult them.
Here is an exaggerated example of using technical language for a common nursery rhyme (from http://spiritofthebeast.deviantart.com/art/MENSA-Nursery-Rhymes-52577345:
While this is an absurd and extreme example, you can see how using technical language in that nursery rhyme would do nothing but confuse the audience: a small child.