Achieve the Appropriate Tone in Email


Are your email messages too casual? Or, are they too formal? Are you using the appropriate tone?

Email messages are different from typed letters. You cant be too formal in a letter. In an email, too formal looks silly. Whats the appropriate tone for an email? — slightly more casual than a letter. Yet, theres a fine line between being too relaxed and too stiff.

To some degree, the attitude and culture of your company will dictate the amount of formality necessary. For example, floral shops and hotels wont be as formal as a bank or law firm.

As you compose the message, consider the person who will be reading it. Know your audience.

The job gets easier when youre replying to a message. You can already see the tone of the sender. All you have to do is match that tone.

When in doubt, strive for a tone that is professional, yet conversational. One easy way to achieve a conversational tone is to use contractions (Ill, well, hes, shes).

Also, its acceptable to use pronouns. In conversation, we use the words I, we, you. So, use these in emails. For example, It is suggested . . . sounds very stiff. Instead, try, I suggest . . .

Be careful with the pronoun I. Using too many can be perceived as egotistical. You dont want to appear pompous. If you notice an abundance of Is, try rewriting every other sentence. This will create variety, and that pesky personal pronoun wont be as obvious.

Email is a great form of communicating. Just remember that your old typed-letter writing style should be adapted so your messages dont sound stilted and stiff. On the other hand, email is NOT a license to be sloppy. The most effective email messages find a happy balance. They have a conversational tone.


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