Project Management

5 Ways to Fix Tone in Written Communication

When talking to someone in person, over the phone, or in a video chat, we are pretty good at conveying tone. But as soon as the words are written down the game changes. Hostility can come from seemingly out of nowhere for saying something the wrong way. In a post for the Digital Project Manager, Becky Tornes gives some simple tips to help improve tone in written communication:

  • Read your messages back to yourself.
  • Have someone else read it.
  • Don’t be afraid of the exclamation point.
  • Take a breather if something you are reading is annoying or angering you.
  • Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the pain or offer an apology when warranted.

Own Your Tone

An important way to catch errors, both grammatically and tonally, comes from reading it over again once you’ve finished writing. This gives you a chance to see how you sound to your audience, but it’s not completely foolproof. Having someone else read it is a great way to see how your message might be interpreted too.

When it comes to punctuation, Tornes says the exclamation point is definitely your friend:

Much has been written about the tendency (especially among women) to overuse the exclamation point, but that shouldn’t scare someone away from using them judicially to indicate to the client or teammate where you want their focus and where the emphasis of the message is. I’m not saying every sentence should end with one; I am saying that exclamation points have gotten a bad rap from overuse. But just as it’s hard to read an email in all caps without imagining the person yelling at you, it’s hard to misinterpret the emphasis an exclamation point generates.

Another good step to fixing your tone is to take a step back if something you’re reading is annoying you. Snapping back out of anger can only sour a relationship, and giving it a moment to let yourself cool off allows you see what was said in a different light. With that in mind, also acknowledge when to offer an apology when warranted, or to at least empathize with another person’s position. Knowing when something may be difficult for people can help show that you understand the situation and are doing the best you can to help.

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